St. Albans, VT Welden House Hotel Fire, Jul 1897
Fire Destroys Welden House
VERMONT'S LARGEST HOTEL IS NOW A PILE OF SMOULDERING RUINS.
Blaze Was Discovered in the Kitchen in the Rear Ell About 11:15 Last Night.
GUESTS HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO REMOVE MOST VALUABLES EFFECTS AND NO ONE WAS HURT.
Insurance, Which About Covers Loss, Is $35,000. That On Hotel Being $30,000, and $5,000 Representing Losses of Guests.
The Welden house was destroyed by fire last night. The loss is hard to estimate, but the insurance involved is in the hotel, the rest carried by persons living in the hotel.
It is a serious blow to St. Albans as it is extremely doubtful if the hotel is rebuilt on anything like its former proportions.
The post-office lost and a large share of the furnishings were saved.
The post-office is now located in the Whiting building on Main street and the Welden National Bank is doing business at the Peoples Trust Company's banking rooms.
The fire was discovered about 11:15 o'clock by persons outside the hotel. Dr. H. DeL Knickerbocker was in his rooms in the Collins building and smelled smoke. He went up Congress street and traced it to the Welden house. He saw that the smoke was coming from the kitchen. Just then Mr. Ford and Mr. Ellis, who were on their way home, came up through they alley way beside Dutcher's drug store. They had noticed the smoke and were looking for the fire. They were unable to open the door leading into the cellar under the kitchen from whence the smoke was coming, but clambered in through an open window. They saw the live coals dropping down the elevator shaft that runs from the cellar to the kitchen, and above the shaft was a mass of flames. While Dr. Knickerbocker ran to pull in an alarm from Box 31, Mr. Ford went through the court into the hotel and gave the alarm there. Several were in the billard[sic] room and they rushed for buckets and the garden hose. The hose proved too short to reach up into the kitchen and was of no use.
When the hose wagon arrived and a stream was gotten into the kitchen, the fire seemed to be around the range and running up the wall in the rear. There was some delay in placing ladders and laying the lines of hose and by the time the fire department got fully at work the flames had escaped from the kitchen part and were eating their way into the west wing.
The fire evidently ran up the partitions for before many minutes the flames had broken through the roof of the west wing. From that time on the fire burned slowly down from the roof, devouring the building story by story. Before 1 o'clock the fire had reached the roof of the east wing and that was slowly consumed. All this time 20 streams of water were pouring into the building, apparently without effect. At four o'clock the fire had eaten down to the first floor and was under control.
In front it burned lower than in the wings on account of the elevator shaft and front stairways. In the wings it did not get much below the second floor.
John Greenway, the proprietor, saved nearly all his goods. He could not this morning estimate his loss, but it is fully covered by insurance.
The other boarders and servants lost small amounts, not covered by insurance.
The Welden National Bank began early to move out and saved everything even to the stationery.
It was a hard fire to fight, but many conditions were favorable. There was little or no wind, the smoke was not dense, it burned slowly and none of the brick walls fell. There same conditions, aided by the work of the firemen, gave the guests of the house plenty of time to escape with most of their belongings. A hundred hands were ready to help and teams were quickly procured to remove goods to a place of safety. The trunks and furniture were moved across the street to the park until it resembled a huge warehouse. From the hotel office, parlors, and dining room most everything was removed.
Little or nothing was taken from the rooms except the personal property of the boarders.
M. M. Reynolds' saved practically everything except a grand piano. His goods were taken to E. W. Hyde's residence. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds' have rooms for the present at M. L. Chandler's.
A. W. Fuller saved most of his goods. His loss is small and is covered by insurance.
Col. and Mrs. E. A. Chittenden were in Rouses Point. Things that he valued most were saved by friends, but such things as clothing and furniture were burned. He had
$1,500 insurance which will cover the loss.
E. D. Nash saved nearly all his goods, and has insurance enough to cover his loss. Mrs. Nash is visiting her son in Willimantic, Conn.
Dr. G. C. Berkely succeeded in saving about all his belongings. His loss is small and covered by insurance. Dr. and Mrs. Berkely found shelter at Dr. Jenne's.
W. P. Davis' goods were mostly saved, except some books, papers, and small things. He had insurance.
Guy Boyce lost considerable furniture and personal effects, with no insurance.
The bank stuff was moved to the People's Trust Company and The Messenger office. The bank's loss is confined to damage to its fixtures and vault; no insurance.
Everything movable was cleaned out of the post office and taken to the Whiting building on North Main street. This morning, the letter boxes and most of the other fixtures were moved so that the office is in good running order. The mail was received and dispatched this a.m. as usual. The government carries no insurance, but the loss is small.
C. R. Fortune, proprietor of the barber shop, moved out his stuff and lost nothing.
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