It was just after midnight on July 11, 1994 when the night watchman, Mario Papas, from the Travelodge Hotel (now the Clarion Hotel) noticed smoke pouring from the Curtiss Mansion and immediately called for help. Within a very short time, 20 fire units were on the scene, and by 2:30 a.m. the fire was out.
Unfortunately, that fire was only the first of three fires that threatened the Mansion with total extinction. The second was in April 1997 and the last was in March 1999. For years, fingers were pointed at developers and their realtors, but the best professional investigators who examined the smoke patterns officially declared that all three fires were arsons. Aside from the patterns, teen vandalism had been a persistent problem along with property neglect.
But the question – who set the fires? – still remains unanswered. If you grew up in Miami Springs, were born between 1975 and 1980 and are a visitor to the restored Curtiss Mansion, you might be asked where you were on the night of July11, 1994. No one has confessed to date and the statute of limitations has run its course, so it is now one of the Mansion mysteries that may or may not be answered someday.
If Mr. Papas had not been so alert and decisive in his actions, there would probably not be a Curtiss Mansion today. Although it is 21 years late, many thanks, Mario Papas… wherever you might be! You are a hero, sir, and we all grateful for your vigilance and actions.