Chicago, IL Coliseum Collapse, Aug 1899

An immense crowd gathered around the place and despite the efforts of the police, who were close at hand, they swarmed over the mass of wreckage, making desperate but ill- directed efforts to drag out the dead and to save the wounded. it was only with the greatest difficulty that the police were finally able to drive back the crowd and give the firemen and uninjured workmen a chance to rescue the injured.
That more men were not killed and injured was almost a miracle. Fully fifty men were at work in the space covered by the arches as they fell. A number of the men fell into small excavations, of which there are many in the ground beneath the steel works, and although some were battered up by the fall these were saved from the great masses of steel that crashed down over them. Several of them were standing under the arches when they commenced to fall, and, running to the side walls, by great good fortune happened to stand in the space left vacant by the curve of the arches away from the side walls. Had the arches fallen to either side the loss of life must have been much heavier, but they fell through to the south on a parallel to the side of the building and none of them save the two southern arches fell at all outside of the space to be occupied by the building. The direct cause of the accident is not known. One theory which received some support is that a shifting of the sand beneath the foundation caused the collapse of the first arch, which brought all the others to the ground. A story which cannot be substantiated is that a number of workmen were using a pulley on the north arch while they were taking down some scaffolding that had been erected around it. They caused the arch to sway and finally it swayed too far and fell out.
"I cannot say what caused the accident," said Superintendent Johnson. "I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the results of our weeks of work destroyed in a minute."
The work of rebuilding will commence at once and it is expected that today's accident will delay the opening of the building not over one month. The financial loss will not fall upon the Coliseum Company, which is erecting the structure. The only loser will be the Pittsburg Bridge Company. The company's loss is estimated at $25,000. The Coliseum will lose indirectly financially through inability to arrange for attractions during the coming winter season. The unfinished building occupied the ground on the east side of Wabash Avenue between Fourteenth and Sixteenth Streets, on which Libby Prison formerly stood. The structure was 304 feet long by 172 feet wide and when completed would have been 85 feet high. It was designed for the accommodation of large conventions, expositions, circuses, football games and other affairs of great public attraction.
A singluar fatality has attended all buildings in Chicago called "coliseum." The first to be erected stood off Sixty-third Street and like the present Coliseum it collapsed while being built in the fall of 1894. The side walls of the building had been erected and eleven steel arches had been put in place. It was desirable that it should be speedily finished and the work was pushed night and day. It was the custom of the contractor to allow his men time for lunch between 11:30 and midnight. During this half hour, while all the men were absent, all the arches fell to the ground, injuring nobody, but causing a property loss of about $30,000. The building was rebuilt and the last Democratic National Convention was held within its walls. The second Coliseum was totally destroyed by fire on the night of December 24, 1897, and was never rebuilt. The accident today brought the third Coliseum down, which will be rebuilt at once.

The San Francisco Call California 1899-08-29