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July 12, 2014

“Suspicious” fire damages former Napoleon’s building

Because of the circumstances, we can say it is suspicious.
— Warrenton Volunteer Fire Chief Sam Myers
A fire early Saturday morning extensively damaged the historic Warrenton home at 67 Waterloo St., where Napoleon’s restaurant and bar operated for more than two decades.

“Because of the circumstances, we can say it is suspicious,” Warrenton Volunteer Fire Chief Sam Myers said of the blaze’s origin.

Vacant the last four years, the property had neither active electrical nor natural gas service, Chief Myers said.

An inmate at the nearby Fauquier County Adult Detention Center spotted the fire as he started cleaning duties around 4:30 a.m., the chief said. Deputies at the West Lee Street jail quickly confirmed the blaze and called the dispatch center.

Flames shot from second-story windows as the first firefighters arrived, Chief Myers said.

The blaze destroyed much of the historic structure’s roof and severely damaged its frame, according to the chief.

“It’s an old structure, and it’s unstable,” Chief Myers said at 8 a.m. Saturday, as firefighters continued mop-up.

The fire also burned a utility pole, cutting electrical service — which remained out several hours later — to homes along Smith and Diagonal streets.

Warrenton Police Department fire investigators continue working to determine the cause of the blaze.

Firefighters from Warrenton, New Baltimore, Remington and the Warrenton Training Center attacked the fire with hoses from all four sides and the WVFC ladder truck.

Gen. Eppa Hunton, a Civil War officer who later served four terms in U.S. House of Representatives, once lived in the Waterloo Street home.

The 2-1/2-story, Federal-style house dates to the 1830s. The National Register of Historic Places classifies the home and the former slaves’ quarters behind it as contributing structures to the town historic district.

Maxwell Harway purchased the property in the late 1970s. Philip and Alison Harway started Napoleon’s in 1978.

The restaurant and bar business grew quickly. In the early 1980s, Warrenton architect David Norden designed a major addition, which expanded the causal dining and bar area. The new space included two levels of outdoor dining.

Napoleon’s became the most popular nightspot in Warrenton.

The Harways sold the business and real estate to Al Nosrat in 2002. Mr. Nosrat paid $900,000 for the real estate and an undisclosed amount for the restaurant business. He sold to Grand American LLC four years later.

The Fauquier Bank in 2010 foreclosed on Grand American and took possession of the high-profile property in the middle of Warrenton’s historic district.

When efforts to sell the historic property failed, the bank conducted a June 2011 auction. The bank rejected the lone bid of $300,000. TFB had loaned Grand American $1.7 million to buy it in 2006.

H & C Investors LLC paid The Fauquier Bank $300,000 for the 0.57-acre property in December 2011.

The 12,000-square-foot, multi-level building had fallen into serious disrepair — including significant water damage. Weeds grew in the parking lot. Wind and sun left canvas awnings tattered.

In 2013, the Warrenton Architectural Review Board approved demolition of the 1980s addition and blueprints for a new, free-standing restaurant building. But, the remaining structures — the Hunton house and the small brick building behind it — have remained vacant.
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christgirl · July 15, 2014 at 11:54 am
What a shame. I remember working there when my oldest was a toddler. The people worked with there were GREAT. Their concern for other people's safety and well being was hard to find back then, but even more difficult to find. Their food was great too. I would like to know what caused it. That was nice of the person who reported it. How VERY said.
Rene Petty · July 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm
I am truly saddened by the news that the building that once housed such a wonderful establishment has burned. Phil Harway built and maintained an establishment that gave the town of Warrenton and it's residence great memories. I often reminiscence about all the weddings, graduations, Christmas parties, reunions etc, that we catered to during the years that I was affiliated with Napoleon's. Always wishing that someone could restore what once was a Landmark to Warrenton. I have always spoke affectionately of Napoleon's and the people that made up our wonderful team. If this was in fact a malicious act, may the person or persons responsible be found and held accountable for their wrong doing.
Pharway · July 12, 2014 at 5:58 pm
As the original owner of Napoleon's, a restaurant that became a local institution due to the great support we received during our 23+ years of ownership, I am heartbroken.

The memories for all of us who worked at and therefore were Napoleon's and the memories that the tens of thousands of customers have due to their experiences at Napoleon's remain. They will always remain in our hearts and in our minds as they have defined us in many ways.

For the Town of Warrenton, which has now lost a significant part of its history, I am truly saddened. If in fact this was a deliberate act, I can only hope that those responsible are apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Owner of Napoleon's from its founding in 1978 until 2002. PHILIP HARAWY
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