Aug. 3, 1924: A fire caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt consumes the Hillcrest, a summer hotel on Chebeague Island, and nearby buildings, killing three guests and injuring others.

The fire also burns up a neighboring dance hall and two residences, one of which was being used as a hotel annex, as well as the personal belongings of about 90 guests.

Several women are reported to have fainted, and guests try to enter the burning hotel to fetch their property from their rooms.

Cyril York, who lives on the island in Casco Bay, suffers burns on his hands and his face when he puts out flames on the burning clothing of a man jumping from a second-story window in the annex. The jumping man, John A. Cady Jr., dies of injuries that night in a hospital.

The cigarette butt was thrown under the front steps leading to the hotel’s front door.

The Hillcrest was a popular tourist getaway spot in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its burning is the worst fire in the island’s history. Afterward, a new hotel is built to replace it. Called the Chebeague Island Inn, that hotel still is in business.

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at:


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