Buffalo, NY Richmond Hotel Fire, Mar 1887

Buffalo NY Richmond Hotel Fire.jpg Buffalo NY Richmond Hotel Fire ruins.jpg Buffalo NY St James Hall fire.jpg




Buffalo, N.Y., March 21. -- This city was visited by a frightful disaster about 3:30 a.m. Friday, by which it is estimated that twelve persons lost their lives by fire and some twenty were more or less scorched and otherwise injured. At the hour names the dreadful cry of fire rang through the corridors of the Richmond hotel, corner of Main and Eagle streets, and almost before the startled guests realized the purport of the alarm the ready elevator shaft and stairways had carried the flames and smoke to nearly every part of the building. Of course there was a mad rush of frightened people, and many, thank fortune, were successful in reaching the street unhurt, but none with any great portion of their clothes or baggage. At the windows the people in the streets could see unfortunates wildly calling for help, which was slow coming, chiefly because of the presence of the overhead telegraph wires, which made the work of getting up the long ladders extremely difficult.
In the meantime the screams and shrieks of the imprisoned people was appalling, and sickened the stoutest hearts, because of the impossibility of doing more than the firemen were already working like heroes to do. And in many instances they were successful, and as fast as the windows could be reached those in the rooms were taken out and carried down to safety.
One of the most remarkable escapes was achieved without assistence, and the multitude in the street held its breath as the daring man's progress was watched. PRESS WHITTAKER, stepson of MR. STAFFORD, one of the hotel proprietors, roomed in the fifth story and when aroused stepped to the window and looked down a few seconds. Then he deliberately dressed himself and, emerging from the window, stood on the stone capping above the window beneath. From this capping he stepped to the next one along the front of the building and proceeded in this manner to the Hayes truck ladder at the other extremity of the front. The nerve and coolness displayed were remarkable.
The total number of persons in the hotel was 125, of whom seventy eight were guests. ROBERT STAFFORD, SR., proprietor of the hotel with his wife, occupied rooms on the second floor and had a narrow escape. Terror overcame everybody, and even those who escaped in safety were in many cases prostrated by their awful experience. Among the guests were about twenty insurance agents who had come on to adjust the losses of the great fire at MILLER, GRENIER & Co.'s and The Courier office on Tuesday.
The rapidity of the fire cutting off all means of escape led some people to leap for life from the windows. Others got down on fire escapes or on Hayes ladders raised by the fire department. One man, mad with terror, leaped from a third-story window, and was picked up from the stone sidewalk on Main street a mangled and bleeding corpse. Several who succeeded in making their escape were badly injured and burned, and some of these will probably die. Others, more fortunate, escaped with slight injuries. Many of the wounded were taken to Carney's saloon, and afterwards to the hospitals. The fire spread to St. James' hall and that, too, was totally destroyed.
While the fire was in progress a brave rescuing party, consisting of WILLIAM A. CARNEY, JR., assisted by five others, did heroic work, rescuing several persons from the flames. Among the number was NORA SWEENEY, a chambermaid. She was struck by falling glass while standing in a third story window, and had an eye torn out of her head. She fainted away and fell into the fire escape. WILLIAM CARNEY rushed up the escape ladder and bore her safely to the ground. JOHN CARNEY also rescued a lady on the Main street side, and another of the party saved a little girl about 14 years of age, whose name could not be learned. She was badly frightened but not injured.
One of the saddest incidents of the fire is the loss of MARTY OSBORNE, the genial day clerk of the hotel. He occupied a room with MR. CLINTON BIDWELL, who escaped. OSBORNE got up first, but MR. BIDWELL lost him in the confusion, and he was in some way lost. A guest who registered at the hotel Tursday night referred to the missing man: "OSBORNE, you'll manage to get BIDWELL out if there's a fire" "Oh, yes," responded OSBORNE, smilingly.
The narrow escape from a horrible death are numerous. MR. LEWIS S. MORGAN, of Syracuse, readjuster for the Home Insurance company, was awakened about 3:30 o'clock by the electric bell. "I was," he said, "in the third story. I first thought the clerk had awakened the wrong passenger for an early train and turned over in bed. Just then the cry of 'fire' reached my ears. Smoke came in under the door, and I did not try to open it. I went to the window and took a survery of the situation. Just then W. P. LAMB, of Rochester, a Phoenix insurance man, came running around the street corner looking for me. 'Keep cool, old boy,' he shouted, 'we'll save you yet.' The smoke grew denser and the heat intense. Just then the firemen came with ladders, but owing to the telegraph wires they were half an hour getting to my window. I threw out my clothing bag and went down the ladder. Call me for an eye witnesses against over head wires in a city. I say, too, the wires must go."
Col E. J. BASSETT, the veteran readjuster of the AEtna Insurance company of Hartford, well known among insurance men, said: "I arrived at the Richmond at 1:30 in the morning ald left at 8:30. My entertainment was short and hot. I objected to going up high, but the clerk said the third floor was the best he could do. I was awakened by the electric bell, which, by the way, I believe saved my life. At first I thought it the 7 o'clock bell, but jumped out of bed, and, hearing the cry of fire, I realized my position. I threw on some clothes and went into the corridor, where I met with an immense volume of smoke, with the flames not ten feet away, red, roaring -- horrible. The rotunda was a raging funnel. I rushed blindly after other flying forms -- I know not where. We came to a stair case. How I got down I don't remember. I must have cleared it with bare feet at one bound."
WILLARD WELCH, of Albany, readjuster for the city of London Insurance company, had a thrilling escape. He was in the fourth story and was hardly out of bed when the flames entered his room and attacked the bed. He opened the window. Said he: "The fire pursued me, caught my hair. Would I jump? No; that was certain death, but there was no time for reasoning. Anything to escape the fire. I leaned far out of the window. That would not do. Then I shrieked for help, grasped the ledge and hung on for dear life -- hung for an eternity it seemed to me -- until help came." He was saved by the firemen.
MR. M. JOHNSON, the celebrated sprinter of Pittsburg, is another who had a narrow escape. He was awakened by the bell boy pounding upon his door. The room was full of smoke. He says: "I rushed out into the hallway, and oh, my God, what a sight! Men, women, and children acted perfectly wild and did not know which way to go. The women raved like maniacs, and rushed pell mell for the stairway and in every direction. The smoke was almost suffocating. I can't remember how I got out. I think I came down the stairway. I am so confused I can't remember. Oh, it was terrible!"
The firemen performed prodigies of bravery and skill. One was on a ladder, going to the rescue of a girl who was hanging to a window sill. She dropped, and the fireman caught her as she fell pash him, nearly losing his balance in the effort. He saved the girl.
The dead so far as known are:
MARK OSBORNE, day clerk.
An Unknown Man.
An Unknown Woman.
MARY WELCH, a servant, and another girl, also a servant, are reported missing. The condition of the ruins were not such as to allow of search at any time Friday for remains of other unfortunates who no doubt perished. It is believed that from ten to twenty more bodies will be found.
The following is a list of the injured:
EDWARD WHEELAN, Newburg, burned about the hands and feet.
WILLIAM J. MACKAY, Niagara Falls, feet, back and arms burned.
PERRY DAVIS, New York, hands and feet burned.
H. B. SMITH, Syracuse, face, hands and feet burned.
MARY NOLAN, badly burned about the body -- may not recover.
MAGGIE MUBRACH, seriously burned about the body, face and hands.
MR. NICHOLS, very seriously injured.
FANNY HARVEY, seriously burned.
FREDERICK K. MOORE, Cleveland, Ohio, severely injured about the face, hands and feet.
WILLIAM A. HAVEN, Helena, M.T., burned about the hands, feet and face.
EDWIN A. FINCH, Scranton, Pa.
HENRY B. RUMSEY, New York, burns all over the body.
C. M. DUBOIS, Syracuse, severely burned all over the body.
JACOB KOHN, New York, mortally injured.
MAY WHITE, of this city, burned about the face and arms.
CLINTON BIDWELL, burned in face.
NELLIE WELCH, face and hands burned.
MRS. KATE PIERCE, slightly burned.
The Richmond hotel contained 100 rooms. The building was formerly occupied by the Young Men's association library rooms. When the latter removed to their new quarters MESSRS. STAFFORD & Co. purchased the building and made it into a hotel. The St. James hall building was a large structure facing on Eagle street adjoining the hotel, extending to Washington street. It was built over thirty years ago, and was used as a public hall until MR. J. H. BURNETT leased it three years ago for a museum and theatre.
Execrations are heard on all sides against the telegraph wires, and before adjournment Friday the merchants exchange issured a call for a meeting to protest against aerial wires and to demand that they be put under ground at once.
MR. WHITTAKER reports that a large amount of diamonds were in the hotel. B. E. ROBERTSON, of Lambert & Co., had a stock valued at $50,000 deposited in the safe. MR. ADLER had in his room $30,000 worth, and a MR. SMITH had another considerable stock, but the amount was not known. The hotel building and St. James hall were insured for $30,000 which covers the loss to the Library association. STAFFORD & Co.'s loss is $75,000, and their insurance $35,500. FULLER & TOWNSEND, proprietors of the Boston clothing store, estimate their loss at $50,000.

Eau Claire Daily Leader Wisconsin 1887-03-20