St. Louis, MO Planters' Hotel Fire, Jan 1883
A NEW HORROR.
PARTIAL DESTRUCTION OF THE PLANTERS' HOUSE AT ST. LOUIS.
WILD CONFUSION AMONG THE GUESTS AND SERVANTS -- FRANTIC LEAPS FOR LIFE.
THREE OF THE EMPLOYES ROASTED TO DEATH OR SUFFOCATED BY THE STIFLING SMOKE.
St. Louis, Jan. 15. -- The Planters' house, the oldest hotel in St. Louis and known the world over as a famous hostelrie, was visited by fire at the very same hour that the Newhall house fire was discovered -- 4 o'clock yesterday morning -- a time when guests and help are generally sleeping the soundest. A night watchman was the first to discover the smoke. He rushed to the main entrance on Fourth street and shouted "Fire" with all his might. W. S. JOHNSON, private watchman, was passing at the time, and he ran to the fire alarm box at the hotel corner and brought the firemen to the front. This prompt action prevented what would have otherwise proven to be a disater beyond words.
The alarm had been sounded through the hotel, and people were running out of their rooms and crying for help. The engine from the Seventh street station was the first to arrive, and it immediately turned its hose into the alley running from Chestnut to Pine and behind the Planters' house. Flames and smoke were issuing from the cook house, which is situated near the Chestnut street entrance to the alley. When the fire engines arrived the flames appeared to have gotten under full headway, and there was every prospect for a fierce and disastrous conflagration.
Though so early in the morning a large crowd gathered, as if by magic, and Pine street was almost blockaded within five minutes from the time the alarm was sounded. The scene became rapidly one of indescribable horror. Ladies and little children, men with infants in their arms, and chambermaids, all in their nightclothing, poured out of every doorway, the females shivering with cold and shrieking with horror.
People were running about the streets in the highest state of agitation, declaring that the fire had reached every floor, and that scores of men and women were perishing in the flames. Capt. EVANS, of the salvage corps, WILLIAM HOBBS, a Globe-Democrat reporter, and several firemen, rushed into the hotel and ascended the main hallway. They found that the smoke had already made its way into the rotunda, and the west wall of the rotunda, which had been painted a perfect white, was already becoming black from the intense heat and smoke that was coming through from the cook house. About fifteen chambermaids, in their night dresses, and their hair flowing wildly down their backs, were rushing down the stairway into the rotunda, shrieking to be saved, and uttering such exclamations as "Oh, God, we'll all be burned up." "Oh my God, save us." "Take us out of here." The girls had been sleeping in the upper stories, and making their way through the smoke enveloped corridors, imagined that all hope of escape had been cut off and were so excited that they did not know they had reached the rotunda. The reporter and firemen undertook the task of conducting them to the Fourth street door, but they had to be forced along, and pushed into the street before they could realize that they had escaped death.
The girls rushed diagonally across the street and found refuge in The Globe Democrat office. A large number of lady guests as well as children and gentlemen took shelter in The Globe Democrat building. All of them were clad in their night clothes, but the building was thoroughly heated at that hour and they were at once made comfortable.