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Historic Strawbridge Home for Boys building destroyed in fire

Fire crews battle a blaze at the historic Strawbridge Home for Boys in Eldersburg Friday night, March 6, 2020.

The historic building that housed the Strawbridge Home for Boys in Eldersburg burned and collapsed Friday evening.

No injuries were reported, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating the fire.

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The first call went out just before 8 p.m., and the fire was visible from miles away. Gamber units saw it as soon as they left the fire station.

The two-story masonry building was well-involved in flames when firefighters arrived. They took a defensive posture and used multiple streams of water to attack the fire. The roof collapsed or was burned away and the second story collapsed into the first, said Gary McGinnis, spokesman for the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department.

It took about 45 minutes to put the fire out, but the scene was still busy with putting out embers and hitting hotspots for hours afterward, McGinnis said. According to a notice of investigation from the state fire marshal, 75 firefighters responded.

Bill Flanagan, also on scene with the Sykesville department, said the structure was caved in all the way to the basement and there were “live embers dropping like a waterfall.”

Though there were lots of sparks, no other structures caught fire, possibly due to the rain that wet the ground, Flanagan said.

According to the fire marshal’s notice, which was released Sunday morning, there were no smoke alarms or sprinklers in the building.

The fire marshal’s office estimated the monetary value of the damage at $500,000 for the building and $10,000 for contents.

The building was vacant when the fire occurred, according to the fire marshal. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 410-836-4844.

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The Strawbridge Home For Boys opened in October 1924. A newspaper account at the time said “Eldersburg was thronged with visitors who attended the dedication.”

A crowd estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 Methodists and their friends from Maryland, southern Pennsylvania and Delaware gathered for the opening ceremonies of the building, which contained 25 rooms. The group sang, “America, the Beautiful,” among other selections.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jacques Kelly contributed to this report.

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