Albany, NY Delavan House Hotel Fire, Dec 1894

Delavan House Union Station, Albany, NY - built on the site of the Delavan House


Delvan [sic] House Destroyed and Several Lives Lost in the Flames


Woman Leaps from Window and is Fearfully Mangled -

Falling Wall Buries a Fireman -

Many Are Badly Burned and Otherwise Injured -

Greater Part of the Guests Lose All their Clothing.

Albany, N. Y., Dec. 31. -- The candidacy of the several men for speaker of the assembly received a startling baptism of fire here last night, for the Delvan House, that famous hostelry known from Maine to California, the center of all big state political events for 40 years, was completely destroyed. Fire is not an uncommon visitor, but fire such as this has seldom been seen. It was 8:30 and the political headquarters of both Mr. Fish and Mr. Maltby were filled with politicians and newspaper men. State Factory Inspector Connolly, who had been in the lobby with a number of people, started to go up the elevator. He remarked that he smelled smoke and suggested an investigation. Before it could be begun there were cries of fire from different parts of the house simultaneously.

The outburst of flames before an alarm could be given to arouse the inmates of the rooms was something appalling. Up the elevator shaft there shot a solid column of flames, up the staircase near this perfect sheet, another column. Fortunately the guest list was not very large, and a majority of those registered were politicians and were down on the second floor. There was rush for the stair in the front and the servants' stairs in the back, where the flames had not yet reached, and in a few minutes there was a tumbling mass of humanity coming down on these few means of egress. Those on the two upper floors could not avail themselves of the exits, for the flames were rushing along the corridors, and people on the street, who had not yet seen the flames, heard a crash of glass and saw figures come tumbling tout the windows.

Within 10 minutes after the first note of an alarm, at least 12 persons were dangling on the insufficient rope fire escapes or hanging on to the window sills.

The depart arrived quickly, but it took some time to get ladders up, and in the meantime some of the people had dropped to the street. On the right side of the building there appeared at the window, surrounded by smoke, a man and a woman. The man had hold of the woman trying to persuade here to wait for help, but she broke away and sprang out. She struck a balcony and rebounded to the street. The man waited for a ladder and was taken down in safety. The woman was his wife and she will probably die. In ex-Speaker Malby's room, which was to the rear of the elevator shaft where the fire first appeared, there was the greatest excitement. About 20 politicians were there, including Congressmen Weaver and Curtis, Senator Kilburn and Mr. Maltby. In getting out Mr. Robbins had his face badly burned.

In Mr. Fish's headquarters there was less hurry because they were near the stairs. All got down safely, but the majority left their baggage. E. A. Manchester of Auburn, postmaster of the assembly, ran toward the baggage-room for his grip, returning he found his way blocked with flames and smoke and rushed back to a window. He smashed it out and slid down the rope fire escape.

Although five stories high, there were no outside fire escapes and the only means left for people in the cut off rooms was to use the rope fire escapes. B. F. Heilman of Brooklyn, was in the third story. He opened his room door as soon as he heard the cry of fire. A burst of flame made him look to the window as the means of escape. In an instant he had but two alternatives - a fiery dearth or a jump. He chose the latter and plunged through the window. When he was picked up from the sidewalk he was found to be badly injured. He will die. His wife who was in the room with him tried the fire escape, but it either broke or else she failed to hold to it, for she too came to the pavement heavily. Her right leg was broken, her left ankle dislocated and she was badly burned about the face and head.

In less than 15 minutes after the fire started the entire structure was wrapped in flames. From the windows of the each of its five stories smoke poured in the volumes and a few minutes later the flames belched forth. In 20 minutes the building resembled a seething crater and it was plain to the thousands of spectators who had gathered that it would be entirely destroyed. Edward Walsh, a reporter, was caught in the hall. Before he could get out he was badly burned and had to be taken to the hospital. Of the 100 or more guests at the hotel not one is known to have saved more than the clothes on their person. The Delavan House was 50 years old and was one of the most famous hotels in the country. The total loss is estimated at $500,000, with an insurance of $300,000. A falling wall buried a fireman, but he was taken out and is not thought to be dangerously hurt. One of the incidents of the fire was the escape of Miss Martin of New York. She was in the fourth story window on the Steuben street side when a ladder was raised. A messenger boy rushed up and broke the window, thus freeing her.

Fort Wayne News, Fort Wayne, IN 31 Dec 1894