NASSAU, Bahamas – A hotel that claimed to be a one-time writing headquarters for Ernest Hemingway was destroyed in a fire Friday morning, authorities said.
Authorities said 10 staff members and one guest were in the Compleat Angler Hotel. The hotel's owner Julian Brown helped the guest escape before disappearing in the flames to fight the fire.
He was presumed dead, although the island's small volunteer fire brigade had not found his remains, authorities said.
There were no immediate reports of other casualties.
Located on the island of North Bimini, a fishing center 100 miles off the Florida coast, the hotel was home to a museum dedicated to the novelist — who stayed there in the mid- to late-1930s — and a trove of Hemingway memorabilia. It advertised room No. 1 as the place where Hemingway worked on "To Have and Have Not."
"The whole thing is gone, there is nothing left," said Obie Wilchcombe, a member of parliament for Bimini and the Bahamas minister of tourism, who had flown in from the capital, Nassau, to view the scene. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Bimini Chief Councilor Natasha Bullard-Rolle said among the artifacts lost were books autographed by Hemingway, original photographs and a replica of his fishing boat — assembled to honor the author after his suicide in 1961.
"It's hard, it's a tremendous pain to bear," she said.
Located on the high street of the island's main town, Alice Town, the hotel was built in the early 1930's — when big-game fishing in the Atlantic was at its peak.
The tiny island community was said to be devastated by the destruction of the hotel — one of Bimini's biggest tourist attractions.