Minneapolis, MN fire, Mar 1911


The Syndicate Block, a City Landmark, Is Destroyed - Two Tenants Are Probably Dead.


One Man Jumps Through Sheet of Flame to Fire Escape - St. Paul Aids in Fighting Fire.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., March 5. - One of the most disastrous fires this city has ever known to-day destroyed the Syndicate Block, on Nicollet Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The total loss is estimated at $1,000,000, and it is possible that two lives were lost, although this has not yet been definitely determined. Twelve persons were rescued from the upper stories of the building while the flames were roaring around them. Some sustained slight injuries, but none was seriously hurt.

The origin of the fire is unknown. The alarm was raised by some passer by, who saw the flames bursting out of the second-story window. Before the firemen arrived the tenants of the building, who were asleep in the upper rooms, began to appear at the windows, calling frantically for aid.

A strong southwest wind was blowing, and in a very few minutes the west half of the building was a roaring furnace. The entire Fire Department of Minneapolis was called out, but it was totally inadequate to check the flames.

Later a call was sent to St. Paul for help, and this was immediately furnished.

The firemen rushed into the building through entrances that were ot already choked with flames, and numerous ladders were hastily extended to aid the people hemmed in by the fire on the second and third floors. On the second floor were Mrs. M. Buck, and Miss E. Buck, proprietors of a lunchroom; Mr. and Mrs.Charles Franson, Elmer Franson, Inga Franson, Miss Etta Parsons, Miss Merile Downend, and Miss Marie Heiler were on the third floor. On the fifth floor were Mrs. Mary Hollister and Miss Treler.

The members of the Franson family, finding all exit by stairways and front windows cut off, made for the fire escape on the alley side of the building. Elmer Franson leaped to the fire escape through a blast of flame, driven by the wind past the window. It was his only means of escape. Holding to the hot irons of the ladder, he helped his mother to climb through the window and step upon the platform beside him. As soon as her hands touched the rails Mrs. Franson uttered a shriek and would have fallen to the ground had not Fireman Caldwell leaped to her rescue from a ladder perched against the New England Building, which adjoins the Syndicate uilding. Caldwell made a leap of fully ten feet and risked a plunge to the pavement, forty feet below, if he missed the fire escape.

Meanwhile Elmer Franson shouted that there were two women in the flames, and that he saw them fall. The firemen made every effort to break into the building at this point, but the heat was too great. All the other members of the Franson family were assisted down the fire escape and the firemen had little difficulty in rescuing the people from the second and fifth floors. Twelve persons in all were saved. The police doubt whether the two persons mentioned by Franson were left in the flames.

During the fire there were several explosions at the west end of the building, raising the heavy stone sidewalks high in the air, and scattering huge pieces of stone about the street. The explosions were attributed to breaking gas pipes. The high wind carried embers from the fire high over the business district, and a number of small fires were started on the roofs of several buildings. Some of these embers fell fourteen squares from the fire, igniting awnings and other destructible material upon which they fell.

The Syndicate Building was a landmark of Minneapolis. It was erected in 1882 by a number of local businessmen. About three years ago it was purchased by the Boston Trust Company. One-third of the west building was accupied by the Model Clothing Company, whose store reached from Nicollet Avenue to the alley on the south, and occupied the entire five stories. One-third of the east building from basement to roof was occupied by the Minneapolis Dry Goods Company. Three floors in the centre of the block were occupied by Young & Quinlan, ladies' tailors; J. B. Hudson & Son, jewelers, and Woolworth's five and ten cent store.

The upper floors in the centre of the building were rented by numerous doctors, several restaurants, and other tenants, about fifty in all. These lost all their property. The loss of the Minneapolis Dry Goods Company is mostly by water and smoke, as that end of the building was untouched by fire.

The largest individual losses are:

Model Clothing Company, $175,000.
Minneapolis Dry Goods Company, $350,000.
J. B. Hudson & Son, $100,000 outside of the safe, which contained merchandise valued at $200,000.
Young & Quinlan, $125,000.
Woolworth & Co., $20,000.
Other tenants (estimated.) $100,000.
Loss on building, $200,000.

The principal losses are covered by insurance.

The fire broke out early in the morning and it was almost noon before it was really under control. For several hours it was feared that the entire business district would be swept by the flames, and it was only by the desperate efforts of the firemen, aided by the St. Paul department, that the loss was not far greater.

The New York Times, New York, NY 6 Mar 1911