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Tassajara 1949 Hotel Fire
Tassajara Fire History - Tassajara History

The Tassajara hotel fire happened on September 9, 1949. There was a two story sandstone hotel, where the zendo and upper garden is now. The fire went on to burn ten of twenty cottages, a shop, and a recreation building. Then it spread up canyon where it was engaged by three hundred firefighters. Forty guests and twenty-two employees were stranded there. Helicopters were on alert to evacuate but it wasn't necessary. Two people were treated for burns The fire was contained in a day. Helen Myers-Terry and Philip Terry (Joan Crawford’s ex-husband, an actor) were the owners then. He was there and I heard some suspected him of arson but that doesn't make sense to me because they only had $10,000 insurance. The remaining building stones were bulldozed into the basement by Bill Lambert. When we first made a garden there back in '67, I remember us digging up one big sandstone block after another. They were used for the deep and wide foundation for the stone walled kitchen we built. - DC

Marilyn (Doyle) McDonald's Tassajara History on the September 1949 Fire.

On September 9, 1949, a fire started in the cabin that was used by Mrs. Myers-Terry as a nursery for the three Myers children. Although there are many versions of the origin of the fire, the truth still remains a mystery. The flames went from the cabin to the treetops and then to the eaves of the hotel which burned for four days. There were forty guests and twenty-two employees present and everyone pitched in to fight the blaze. No one was injured.

The bridges on Tassajara Road and the cabins across from the hotel were all burned in the first hour.  Help, from the convicts at Soledad Prison, came about three a.m.  The road was closed by the fire, and anyone coming to Tassajara had to hike.

Mrs. Quilty-Holohan had only carried ten thousand dollars insurance on Tassajara. Mrs. Myers-Terry had planned to increase that amount at the end of the 1949 season.  It was almost a total loss.

"The water tank burned right away. We had a hose, like you'd use to water the garden, but we couldn't do much with it." - Mr. Mehne

"Someone had rescued a radio and we thought we'd listen to the news. They said there's a bad fire at Tassajara and it's believed all the people have perished. We heard that, and believe me it wasn't very encouraging."  - Mr. Mehne

  Mrs. Quilty-Holohan's platform at the back of the hotel, burning 1949

The hotel, burning 1949

"Mother had medicine she had to take - but I mean you didn't stop to think, I'm gonna' take this and take that. You just pushed it together and ran out. With burning embers falling on you, you weren't gonna’ stand there and debate.  I went back in and brought out one red shoe. Good thing I didn't go again, cause' then the whole building collapsed." Robert Olsen

  The burned hotel 1949

"It took four years to build it.  Four days to burn it. Four hours to totally demolish it with a bulldozer.  The intense heat from the fire caused cracks in the blocks and it had to be demolished. They pushed what remained into the basement and covered it with dirt."

Helen Myers Terry


  "We're standing in what's left of our hotel room." Mr. Mehne

"When things get really bad you either fall apart, or you laugh about it." Helen Myers-Terry

Below - First report of the fire from a teletype printout, September 9, 1949

Got the following off the Worthapedia site

Worthopedia - Tassajara Hot Springs Vintage Forest Fire

1949 FOREST FIRE Vintage TASSAJARA HOT SPRINGS Photo [you can’t see the photo but it’s for sale]

Subject : A number of guests of the Tassajara Hot Springs resort were trapped in the area by a forest fire. they inspect the main building and cabins the following day.

Here's one off the web that sort of fits that description

Folks there are standing where the shops are now.and the hotel cover the upper garden area and zendo.

To see what the hotel looked like before the fire, go to this photo page.