Multi-alarm fire destroys home of former Rye mayor


A large fire on Sept. 18 destroyed what was once the home of former mayor John Motley Morehead. The electrical fire started in a wall. Contributed photo

A multi-alarm fire last week destroyed the former home of John Motley Morehead, Rye’s mayor from 1925 to 1930. The conflagration at the $3 million mansion located at 4 Magnolia Pl. took hours to extinguish, according to Rye fire officials.
Rye firefighters were called to the home in the hamlet of Milton Point at 10:09 a.m. on Sept. 18, but it was almost noon before they were able to get the main body of the fire under control.

“The fire was on multiple floors, and so there were different spots that were difficult to get to,” said Rye fire Lt. Kurt Tietjen.

Flames burned inside the walls and roof for hours after the majority of the fire was put out, officials said, and firefighters were still seeking out “hotspots” within the historic home for three to four hours after their arrival, Tietjen said.

At the time, the occupants of the house were able to evacuate without injury, officials said. A college-aged girl and her brother, asleep while their parents were out, were woken up by the fire.

Dozens of firefighters assis­ted at the scene, arriving from Rye, Harrison, Port Chester, the Town of Mamaroneck, the Village of Mamaroneck, Purchase and Valhalla, while the West Harrison and Greenwich fire departments stood by to take Rye’s calls, according to officials.

Two firefighters were injured during the blaze, according to Tietjen. A Rye firefighter, whose name was not released, was injured as he pulled down a ceiling in the burning home. He was treated at Greenwich Hospital for leg and upper body injuries. A firefighter from Harrison suffered an ankle injury after he tripped and fell outside of the home.

There was “extensive damage” inside the house, Tietjen said, including heavy smoke, fire and water damage.

“Three quarters of the roof is burnt. Half of the second floor is burnt. A portion of the first floor and a smaller portion of the basement had some fire damage,” Tietjen said.

After the main body of the fire was extinguished, the Westchester County Cause and Origin Team investigated the scene and determiend that the blaze started accidentally. The fire, which began on the first floor, was caused by an issue with electrical wiring within a wall, according to
the team.

The home, which has a basement, two floors and an attic, was built in 1884, according to Deputy City Clerk Diane Moore. According to information from the Rye City Assessor’s office, Moore said, the house is the former mansion of Rye Mayor John Motley Morehead, who ran the city for three terms from 1925 to 1930 and died in 1965.

The Crotty family bought Morehead’s former abode for around $3.2 million in 2001 and had it remodeled in 2003. The house stands on around 1.5 acres and contains seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, according to real estate records.