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Wedding plans altered by fire at popular lodge

June 27, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Jeff Haber and Kathy Beal originally had planned to marry elsewhere. After seeing pictures of The Mountain Lake Lodge during a bridal show, however, the couple toured the recently renovated log building in Shannondale.

"We looked at it and we loved it," said Haber, 33.

The couple decided to exchange vows there instead. A week ago, the lodge was destroyed by fire.

Haber and Beal changed their plans again, this time not by choice.

They will be married Saturday at The Anvil in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"We're happy with it," Haber said of the latest venue. "It was a good recovery."

Haber said he and Beal, 34, picked the lodge because they liked the mountain in the background and the lake at its edge, along with the lodge's wraparound porches and rustic look.

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All of the wood used in the lodge's construction, including one-ton timbers hewed from nearby land, helped feed the flames, said Special Agent Richard Summerfield, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Kim Obrien, secretary for the arson and explosives division of the state Fire Marshal's Office, said an active investigation was continuing.

Investigators were re-evaluating the scene and waiting for equipment to arrive to assist with debris removal, Obrien said. They also were awaiting test results from material sent to the West Virginia State Police laboratory.

Testing will determine whether an accelerant was present, she said.

A ruling has not been made on whether the fire was intentionally set, she said.

Built in 1956, the lodge was a members-only establishment until Elizabeth Houghton bought it in 2000. She opened its Waterside Restaurant to the public and allowed anybody to become a member.

Nothing was saved in the June 19 blaze. Houghton said a representative from her alarm company called her at home at around 2:50 a.m., saying the lodge's intruder and fire alarms had been activated.

When Houghton arrived, still in her pajamas, flames were shooting through the lodge's windows, she said.

Summerfield previously said if the fire were arson, the case could be prosecuted federally because the blaze affected interstate commerce. Also, investigators are trying to determine whether the blaze constituted a hate crime, he said.

Acts of vandalism have been committed before, Houghton said. Someone burned the lodge's sign, battered a fence with what turned out to be a stolen car and threw gutted fish near the front door, she said.

Around 20 people worked at the lodge, which had around 150 members.

Weddings were held there, along with anniversary celebrations, luncheons, corporate functions, fishing trips and monthly dances for members.

Anyone with information about the fire may call the West Virginia Arson Hotline at 1-800-233-3473. Rewards of up to $2,500 are offered for tips that lead to an arrest and conviction.

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