Philadelphia, PA Eight-Story Building Fire, Oct 1901
BY WHIRLWIND OF ROARING FIRE EIGHTEEN PERSONS ARE SPEEDED THROUGH GATES OF ETERNITY.
Fearful Holocaust Occurs In Heart of Business Section of Philadelphia.
VICTIMS SLOWLY COOKED IN SIGHT OF THOUSANDS.
Some, Driven to Desperation, Leaped to Pavement To Escape Fire -- The Firemen Believe That Many Bodies Are in the Debris.
Philadelphia, Pa., October 25 -- Eighteen known dead and property loss amounting to upward of $500,000 is the awful result of a fire which occurred today in the business section of the city. Fully a score of injured were treated at various hospitals. Police and firemen are tonight delving into the ruins in search of bodies supposed to have been buried beneath the debris, as it is feared that others besides the known dead may have lost their lives in the flames. The buildings destroyed were the eight-story structure 1219 and 1221 Market street, occupied by HUNT, WILKINSON & Company, upholsterers and furniture dealers, and a three-story building occupied by small merchantmen.
H. A. SPARROW.
CHARLES E. SPARROW.
J. E. ARMSTRONG.
MARTHA BANKS, colored.
MARY MITCHELL, colored.
One Unknown White Woman.
Three Unknown Men.
Never in its history has Philadelphia experienced a fire which spread with such great rapidity.
At 10:25 this morning the blaze broke from the building occupied by HUNT, WILKINSON & Company, and one hour later the horrible sacrifice of life had been made and the immense loss of property had been accomplished.
The orgin of the conflagration is unknown. It is said that an explosion of naphtha or gasoline in the basement was the cause, but this is denied by MR. WILKINSON. Rumor has it also that an elevator constructor at work in the basement permitted the flame of his lantern to communicate with some of the gaseous liquids stored in the basement and that this was the cause of the conflagration.
Died Agonizing Death.
Men and women died a lingering agonizing death in the presence of thousands of spectators who were unable to life a hand to their assistance. The rear of HUNT, WILKINSON & Company's building faces on Commerce street, a small thoroughfare. On the fire escapes at this end of the building two men and one woman were slowly roasted to death, while the horror-stricken throng on the street below turned sick at the sight.
In front, on Market street, a woman, driven to desperation, leaped from a window on the top floor and was dashed to death on the pavement. Firemen claim to have seen men and women unable to reach the windows or fire escapes, burned to death in the interior of the building.
When the fire started more than half of the firm's 100 employees were on the upper five floors, and it was among these that the greatest number were killed or injured. With the possible exception of the engineer, who is missing, all persons on the first three floors got out of the building safely. Most of those killed were at work on the sixth floor, where women were engaged in sewing. It was reported that goods were stored against the windows, which prevented the women from getting out on the fire escapes, but this was positively denied by a member of the firm.
Leaped to Sidewalk.
There were eleven employees and a number of outside workmen on the eighth floor. A ladder reached from this floor to the roof, which would have enabled those on that floor to reach the roof of an adjoining eight-story building, but in the excitement this means of escape was forgotten. Several made the terrible leap to the sidewalk and were crushed, while the others ran the gauntlet of smoke and fire down the rear fire escapes.
As if by common impulses the majority of the employees attempted to reach places of safety by means of the fire escape on the Commerce street entrance of the structure. Many of them, rendered practically insane from fright, leaped to the ground, and others, becoming unconscious from the smoke and intense heat fell to the pavement. When the firemen arrived, Commerce street was filled with these unfortunate victims.
By noon the fire was under control, and at 2 o'clock this afternoon a force of men began clearing away the debris for the purpose of recovering the bodies of the victims.
Firemen claim to have seen men and women, unable to reach the windows or fire escapes, burned to death in the interior ot the building. If this be so, little or nothing remains of these victims, and it is doubtful if any portion of their bodies will be recovered.
The Atlanta Constitution Georgia 1901-10-26