Fire guts Chevy Chase home of National Debutante Cotillion founder
No one was seriously injured in the fire, which caused approximately $1.5 million in damage
Charles Shoemaker/The Gazette
The house in the 3100 block of Rolling Road belonged to Mary-Stuart Montague Price, founder of the National Debutante Cotillion and Thanksgiving Ball in Washington, D.C. No one was seriously injured in the fire, which caused approximately $1.5 million in damage, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer.
"The firefighters were able to save the most critical materials, and that will help the ball run a little smoother," Price's niece Andi Price Madera said Tuesday as she stood outside the soot-smeared, two-story white house, next to a pile of debris and personal effects.
Madera had been working in Price's home helping her aunt organize the ball for Friday evening when the fire broke out in the basement.
The event is sponsored by members of Congress, senior military officers and foreign ambassadors, and features cadets and midshipmen enrolled at the country's armed forces academies, as well as students at various universities and colleges, who serve as debutante escorts.
The cotillion's seating charts, the most critical documents according to Madera, were retrieved by firefighters from Price's home.
Price was at a hairdresser in Bethesda when the fire broke out at approximately 10:45 a.m. Madera said she was working in the basement along with Suzanne Tallia and Elizabeth Stuart when they heard a loud "pop" noise and saw that Price's cat knocked over a lamp onto the sofa and lit a cushion on fire.
She said she called 9-1-1 as the fire spread up nearby drapes, and the three fled the house to the backyard when the fire engulfed the rest of the house.
"It just spread so fast," said Madera, who suffered cuts to her hands and was treated at the scene.
Madera said when she looked back at the house immediately after exiting, smoke was coming from the basement and first-floor windows. Piringer said firefighters took approximately 20 minutes to put out the fire from the time they arrived on the scene.
Madera said Price had not seen the house after the fire, and that she and others prevented Price from seeing the home when she came back from Bethesda.
"I don't think she has an understanding of the magnitude of the damage at this point," Madera said, standing next to a blackened copy of the program from the 2007 cotillion and ball and a charred portrait of Price's mother.
"I'm happy that my sister was in the hairdresser's in Bethesda when it happened. She could have been killed," said her brother Allen I. "Buddy" Price, also a Chevy Chase resident.
Buddy Price said his family had lived in the house since 1939.
Madera said the people organizing the event had planned to move into the Washington Hilton to finish their work before the fire occurred.
"It's going on," she said. "It still would have gone on."
Lance Swann and Elaine Dapuhin, a married couple who live across the street from Price, said they attended the cotillion and ball when they could with "Studie," as Price was nicknamed.
"We've offered to have her live here," Elaine Dauphin said.
"She's a legend," Lance Swann added.