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St. Louis, Missouri

Empire Hotel Fire

February 9, 1902

DEATH IN FLAMES

VICTIMS CAUGHT IN LODGING HOUSE FIRE TRAP.

ST. LOUIS HOTEL HORROR

ELEVEN LIVES LOST IN EARLY MORNING DISASTER.

APPALLING CASUALTY LIST


GUESTS CUT OFF FROM ESCAPAE BY FLAME AND SMOKE.

Fire Spreads SO Rapidly That Those Who Discovered It First Had No Time to Warn Others – Small Property Loss.

ST. LOUIS, Mo., Feb. 9.
– An early morning fire which destroyed the Empire hotel, a large three-story lodging house at 2700 and 2702 Olive street, occupied by men exclusively, caused the death of eleven persons, ten men and one woman, and dangerously injured eight others.

Ten or more who had narrow escapes from death in the fire were more or less injured by being frost bitten.

It is estimated that there were between thirty-five and forty persons in the building last night, and it is believed all have been accounted for.

The financial loss is nominal. It is thought that $30,000 will cover the damage to building and contents which were totally destroyed.

The Dead.
MORRIS YALL, senior member of the firm Yall, Clark & Cowen, manufacturers of fine cut glass, burned to a crisp.
TOBE DAVIS,
suffocated.
JOHN C. LUEDERS,
father of Deputy City Marshall Leo Lueders, skull fractured in jumping from the third story window.
GEORGE THOMPSON,
switchman, burned to death.
SARAH HARRIS,
colored, chambermaid, burned.
B. E. WOODLEY,
employe [sic] of Hamilton-Brown Shoe company, burned.
J. A. MCMULLEN,
carpenter, burned.
S. T. COREY,
telegraph operator.
VANCE MARLIN,
civil engineer of Indianapolis, Ind., burned.
A. J. ALLEN,
of Sedalia, Mo., stonemason, burned.
UNKNOWN MAN, who died at the city hospital from burns.

The Injured.
Harry Cline, a medical student of Marion, Ill, hands badly burned, and ankles sprained.
Walter Johnson,
employe [sic] of Hamilton-Brown Shoe company, hands burned, both legs broken and injured internally.
Henry Robinson,
colored, night porter, badly burned.
George Lane,
medical student of Rich Hill, Mo., ankle sprained in jumping from second story window.
------- Sturgeon,
dental student of Nashville, Ill., ankle sprained in jumping from second story window.
J. J. Lally,
manager Empire hotel, back badly sprained while escaping from building.
Con Ryan,
burned about face.
About ten or twelve others were less seriously injured, being bruised, burned or suffering from exposure.

Many Narrow Escapes.
The fire started about 3:30 a. m. when but a few persons were abroad, and gained considerable headway before it was discovered. There was considerable delay in turning in an alarm, and when the engines finally reached the scene the whole front of the building was in flames and the interior was a seething furnace. By that time all who escaped death had left the building by jumping from the windows or climbing down ropes made of bed clothes. A few escaped from the ground floor through the front door. Some of the escapes were very narrow.

Almost everybody who got out suffered some injury or was frost bitten. The guests barely had time to get out when aroused, the flames had spread so rapidly. Some saved clothing, which they carried in their hands, but others were not so fortunate, losing everything. After some delay nearby houses were opened to the unfortunates and they were given shelter from the biting cold weather.

It was one of the coldest nights of the winter, the ground being covered with ice and snow and everyone suffered from exposure.

The suffering ones were put under the care of physicians. Harry Cline, Walter Johnson, Henry Robinson and an unknown man, who died later, were taken to the city hospital. Robinson recovered enough to be taken home. The others named will be laid up for some time.

Search for Bodies.
After a short fight the firemen got the flames under control and assisted by the police, made a search of the ruins. The first body found was that of JOHN C. LUEDERS, who was killed by jumping from the third story. His head was crushed in. The body of Lueders and those of the others found later were taken to the morgue, where friends and relatives later identified them.

SARAH HARRIS was found on the first floor. Her body had been burned. The remains of the other victims were found in their rooms, where they were suffocated or burned.

J. J. Lally, who managed the house for his brother-in-law, J. W. Gillman, had rooms on the first floor. He stated there were four rooms on the first floor, nine on the second, and seven on the third. If all the guests occupied their rooms, thirty-six persons including the colored porter and chambermaid were in the building when it burned. Lally said he had no means of knowing just how many persons were in the house at the time the fire broke out.

Fire Spreads Quickly.
Some of them were in the habit of staying out late and it is possible all were not there then. He was awakened by hearing Con Ryan, one of the roomers, crying fire. Lally said he grabbed his clothing and money and hurried into the hall, which was ablaze, and without stopping to dress, stepped out through the front door. Both stairways were on fire and he barely had time to get out, being scorched and spraining his back. Lane, Ryan and a man named Nicely escaped the same way. The only way for the others who got out alive was through the windows, the burning stairways cutting off their escape that way. Some jumped and sustained injuries more or less serious, while others who took time to improvise ropes from their bed clothing got down safely.

R. A. Woolsey, a medical student, whose home is in Galesburg, Ill., had a room on the second floor. Finding the regular exits cut off, he slid to the ground safely with the aid of two sheets tied together.

Harry Cline of Marion, Ill., who is a student in the medical department of Washington university, had a narrow escape from death. He roomed on the second floor with Harry Thompson of Nashville, Ill., a student at the same college. Cline was aroused by cries of fire. He awakened Thompson and together they attempted to escape through the hall. They found the stairway on fire and the hall filled with smoke and flames which drove them to the window in their room. Thompson jumped first and hurt his ankle but before Cline could get out the flames burned him terribly about the hands with which he shielded his face. He is now at the hospital suffering from burns and a badly sprained ankle. Both lost everything.

William Clark and Abraham Cowen, partners of Morris Yall, who was burned to death, escaped uninjured. They formerly lived in Chicago.

Among the others who got out unscathed were James McMahon and Joseph J. Hart of Corning, N. Y., and F. M. Niesley of Chicago.

Unaccounted For.
Tonight most of the guests have been accounted in the list of dead, injured and escaped. Among those unaccounted for is A. Goldberg, an unknown stranger, who came in late and went to bed without registering, two students whose names are not known, and F. P. Contrand. It is not believed there are any more bodies in the ruins, which have been carefully searched. For that reason it is thought those named will turn up.

Nobody seems to know just how or where the fire started. It is believed that it started on the first floor or in the cellar, where there is a steam heating plant.

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE 10 Feb 1902

       

The dead

MORRIS YALL, senior member of the firm, Yall, Clark & Cowen, manufacturers of fine cut glass, formerly of Chicago, burned to a crisp.
TOBE DAVIS,
man about town, suffocated.
JOHN C. LEUDERS,
father of Deputy City Marshal Leuders; skull fractured in jumping from third story window.
SARAH HARRIS,
colored, chambermaid, burned.
B. F. WOODLEY,
employee Hamilton Brown Shoe Company, burned.
J. A. McMULLEN,
carpenter.
S. T. COREY,
telegraph operator, Merchants’ Terminal Association.
VANCE MARLIN,
civil engineer, Indianapolis, burned.
A. J. ALLEN,
Sedalia, Mo., stone mason, burned.
UNKNOWN MAN, died at city hospital from burns.

The injured: Harry Cline, medical student from Marion, Ills., hands badly burned and ankle sprained. Walter Johnson, employee Hamilton Brown Shoe Company, hands burned, both legs broken and injured internally. Henry Robinson, negro night porter, badly burned. George Lane, medical student of Rich Hill, Mo., ankle sprained in jumping from second story window. ------ Sturgeon, dental student, back sprained in jumping from second story window. Harry Thompson, medical student, Nashville, Ills., ankle sprained in jumping from second story window. J. J. Lally, manager Empire hotel, back badly sprained while escaping from building. About ten persons, more or less, are suffering from burns or exposure.

The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA 10 Feb 1902

Articles transcribed by Jenni Lanham.  Thank you, Jenni!

       

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