In 1901 there occurred a disastrous fire on the railroad tracks next to Little Harbor just below the garden. Heavy smoke, blown by the prevailing southwest wind, poured up the hill over the roses for three days. It ruined Walsh’s entire crop. The most serious loss was the complete destruction of the Lillian Nordica, a hybrid tea rose he had created and named for the famous opera singer, Lillian Norton of Martha’s Vineyard. This rose was about to be put on the market for the first time. When Mr. Walsh noticed the leaves on his plants shriveling due to the fire-produced gases (containing carbolic acid, pyridine and sulphur), he went to the railroad officials, pleading with them to stop the fire. It had been deliberately set by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad to burn the Engine House and some small sheds in the Woods Hole railroad yard. The men ignored him. Subsequently, he and Miss Fay sued the Railroad for damages, and settled out of court for a sum of $20,000.
Mr. Walsh’s share of the money enabled him to resume his business and in the following twenty years he became famous, not only in this country, but in England as well, earning in one year Fourth Place in the World for his collection of all types of roses. He was most proud, however, of his rambler roses, which he bred for their hardiness and vigorous climbing habit. Unlike most roses, they are virtually carefree, and to this day they can still be seen in rose gardens and villages of several European countries, as well as all over Woods Hole every July in stands some of which are known to be more than a hundred years old.