Philadelphia, PA Grand Central Theatre Fire, Apr 1892 - Seven Dead or Missing




PHILADELPHIA, April 28.---The destruction of the Grand Central Theatre by fire last night proves to have been far more terrible in its results than was anticipated. Six members of the "Devil's Auction" company lost their lives. Samuel Wallace, a boy of fifteen is missing, nearly threescore people are in the hospital suffering from burns, and the loss to property is $1,000,000. Of the men and boys in the hospital seven are in such a serious condition that their recovery is doubtful. All were members of the audience. Besides those who were seriously enough hurt to remain in the hospitals, fifty others were treated for minor injuries.

The unfortunate members of the company who lost their lives were:

THOMAS LORELLA, dancer and grotesque artist.
FLORA LORELLA, his wife, coryphe.
VINCENTCINA CHITTERN, premier danseuse, one of the Chittern Sisters, Italian dancers.
FANCHON CONYERS, juvenile character, resident of Chicago.
SARAH COLDMAN, coryphe, resident of Chicago.
WILLIAM L. BROOKS, leading man, resident of Philadelphia.

The injured in the hospitals, who are likely to die, are suffering from burns about the face and head and from having inhaled the flames. They are:

HARRY McCLOSKEY, sixteen years old.
JAMES PIGEON, fourteen years old.
AMER HINCHLIFFE, sixteen years old.
RAND PATTERSON, sixteen years old.
ALBERT CRUMBACK, sixteen years old.
THOMAS ATCHISON, thirty-seven years old.
RALPH FRAZER, sixteen years old.

In addition to the serious condition of those named, it is feared that many will lost their eyesight, as their burns are mostly about the face.

At the time the fire broke out there were about seventy people in all behind the curtain. The dressing rooms were beneath the stair in the rear of the theatre. Two stairways, one upon the right, and the other upon the left of the basement, led directly to doors that admitted to alleyways in the rear of the theatre.

All the members of the company were in the dressing rooms when the alarm of fire sounded. All those who sought safety by the left stairway reached the street unhurt. At this time the left side of the stage was still untouched by the fire, but the right was already a mass of flames. The canvas grease and paint of the scenery was like so much oil before the advance of the fire, and great volumes of heavy, stifling smoke were rolling over and underneath the stage.

It is Manager Yale's belief that the unfortunate men and women who lost their lives ran toward the stairway that led up into the fire. Finding their escape cut off, they probably became confused and, blinded and in the passageway beneath the stage.

Thomas Lorella, the gymnast met his death in a heroic attempt to save the life of his wife. When the fire broke out he easily made his escape from the dressing room and reached the street in safety. He supposed that his wife had preceded him and was safe. Not finding her in the street he returned to the alleyway leading into the rear of the theatre. It was filled with smoke and the flames were beginning to break out of the roof of the theatre. Turning to a friend he said: "I'll see if she is safe if it costs me my life."