San Francisco, CA Baldwin Hotel Block Destroyed, Nov 1898

Baldwin Hotel Circa 1875 Fighting The BLaze





San Francisco, Cal., Nov. 22. -- At 3:25 this morning the Baldwin hotel caught fire and has been entirely destroyed. There were 800 people, guests and employes, in the hotel when the fire broke out and a number of people are thought to have lost their lives. A. J. WHITE is one of the victims, but before he gave up his life the gallant fellow saved the lives of three women. The fire is said to have started in the kitchen, located in the basement on the Ellis street side.

An Earlier Account.
San Francisco, Cal., Nov. 23. -- 4 a.m. -- The Baldwin hotel on the corner of Market and Powell streets, is in flames and seems to be doomed to destruction. The fire alarm was turned in at 3:15 a.m. and since then a general alarm has been sounded. The hotel is owned by millionaire E. J. BALDWIN and cost with furnishings $1,500,000. It is of brick but the interior construction is wooden and high mansard roof with tower on corner afford fuel for flames.
The fire is supposed to have started in the Baldwin theater, which is in the hotel building. The flames extended rapidly towards the roof and burst through windows of upper stories. The guests were panic stricken, and many jumped from windows and a number of them have been taken to the receiving hospital but thus far no fatalities have been recorded.
The fire is still spreading to the height of the building, making it difficult for the firemen to do effective work in extinguishing the flames. There are many chamber maids employed in the hotel, nearly all of whom sleep on the top floor, where the fire is raging fiercest. Fears are enterained that some of them have been burned to death. The firemen are making efforts to get them with ladders but so far without success. The Baldwin hotel is conly second to the Palace among the great caravanaries of this city and is furnished in elegant style. The first floor is partly occupied by stores and the basement by a fashionable cafe. The Baldwin theater, now under lease to GOTTLOB MARX & Company, is a leading plane of amusement on the Pacific coast.
The play "Secret Service" produced by WM. GILLETTE and his eastern company, was played there last night and it was some time after the performance that the fire broke out. All the scenery and property of the place are doubtless lost. Smoke was first seen issuing from the roof of the hotel by several young men who were standing on the sidewalk across Powell street. They rushed into the office of the hotel and with the aid of the Baldwin hotel employes went through the corridors giving the alram. The house was full of guests, it being a popular stopping place of racing men and other strangers who are now visiting the city in large numbers. Most of the people in the building are believed to have escaped.
While the roof was in flames a man was seen endeavoring to escape from an upper window, attired only in his night shirt. To those below on the sidewalk he seemed to fall backwards into the raging flames as he suddenly disappeared. His identity is unknown. Those connected with the hotel are convinced that several of the employes perished in the flames but on account of the great excitement prevailing the names of those who are missing cannot be ascertained.
One man, named MORRIS, was taken to the receiving hospital, having been injured in his attempt to escape. The whole interior of the hotel and the theater is now a raging furnace. The hotel above the third floor is certainly a loss. It may be possible to save some of the merchandise from the stores on the ground floor and possibly a portion of the furniture and fixtures of the building. Thousands of people crowd the streets in the vicinity and the guests of the establishment are making frantic efforts to get their personal property to places of safety.
The entire city is illuminated by the fire, which is one of the largest ever known here. At present it appears that the loss will be in the neighborhood of $1,000,000.
Later -- The MR. MORRIS taken to the receiving hospital from the Baldwin hotel is dead. He recently returned from the Klondike and was not well known in this city. The patrol wagon has just been called to take another man said to be either dead or in a dying condition to the hospital. At 4:50 a.m. the Ellis street wall of the hotel appears to be swaying slightly outward and fears are entertained that it will fall if the flames are not soon gotten under control. As the street is a narrow one and the wall very lofty its fall would mean much damage to the Golden Eagle lodging house and Golden West hotel and other buildings. The losses on Powell street are the Baldwin theater and several lodging houses. The Baldwin hotel is leased and managed by STONE & Co., who recently refurnished it at great expense. The building is understood to be mortgaged by its owner, E. J. BALDWIN, for several hundred thousand dollars.
The stores on the ground floor are as follows: MOSE GNUSL & Co., cigars; WEIL & Co., gent's furnishings; J. J. GROOM & Co., hats; BALDWIN clothing house; SCHREIBER & Co., candy; BALDWIN Jewelry company; BALDWIN Millinery establishment; GRANT & Co's pharmacy; BACIGALUPI photograph parlors; and BEGAN'S groot is in the basement. On the first floor is a fashionable restaurant and grill room conducted by the managers of the hotel.
At 5:50 this morning the fire is still beyond control, though it appears probable that it will be confined to the hotel building. There is a report current that eight servant girls who slept on the top floor have been burned to death but this has not yet been confirmed. Shortly after the flames broke out two women were seen at a window of the cupola on the northwest corner of the building. Several gentlemen on the street volunteered to go to their rescue but it is said were prevented by the police from doing so. Soon after that, two other women were seen in one of the upper story windows and they have not been accounted for.
The members of the "Secret Service" company are all accounted for. It does not appear that the loss of life will be as great as was at first feared owing to the timely warning given to the guests, but at this hour it is impossible to state definitely either as to number of victims or their names.
10 a.m. -- The Baldwin hotel is still burning but the fire is under control. The number of lives lost is not yet known. Only two are definietly known. A. J. WHITE and LOUIS MEYER, a cigar dealer of Skaguay. MEYER dropper ded from heart disease caused by the excitement. He was a guest of the hotel. The hotel is a complete loss.
The deat of WHITE was most dramatic. Three women appeared on the cornice of the fifth floor on the Market street side of the hotel. The firemen could not reach them with ladders and they stood helpless screaming with terror. Suddenly WHITE came out of a window carrying a small rope. WIth this he lowered the women into the arms of the firemen who were waiting at the windows on the next floor. Then he started down the rope hand over hand. Half way down the rope parted and the man who had just saved three lives, was dashed to the pavement 100 feet below.
The Baldwin hotel has been known and dreaded for years by firemen and insurance people as the worst kind of a fire trap. It has been stated often that there were no fire walls in it except those between the theatre and that no insurance company would write a risk on the building except for a small amount and a heavy premium. Its cost including ground and furniture was $3,000,000.
"LUCKY" BALDWIN had a narrow escape from perishing with his fire trap. Amid all the din he slept peacefully and his room was broken into and he was dragged from his bed. H. I. KOWALSKY, a well known attorney was also dragged unconscious from his bed. He will recover.
It is now thought that A. J. WHITE and MEYER were the only people to lose their lives. All the other guests are thought to have escaped and all the employes have been accounted for.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern Wisconsin 1898-11-23