Williamsburg, VA Lunatic Asylum Fire, June 1885


Williamsburg, Va., June 8. -- At 12 o'clock last night a fire broke out in the right wing of the centre building of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum, and before it could be got under control everything was destroyed. The buildings burned comprised the original ones of the institution and were erected over 100 years ago. There were 200 female patients in the burned buildings, but all of them were rescued. A patient, MRS. JEFFRIES, after being brought out of the building, wandered away and was found this morning drowned in a creek near by. All the female patients were taken to William and Mary College, where they were temporarily cared for. The other wards contained nearly 300 male patients. These wards were quickly emptied and the inmates were turned loose, but did not wanter off, being generally tractable. When it was found that the fire was getting beyond control aid was telegraphed for from Richmond, and a steamer reached here from that city at about 3 o'clock this morning, but the fire had then done its worst. The Richmond firemen, however, went to work and did good service. None of the male wards were burned, they being situated in buildings partially disconnected from those destroyed and a strong wind blowing from them. The fire is believed to have resulted from some trouble with the electric light wires, as it was first discovered where the wires entered the right wing of the building. Four large buildings belonged to the asylum yet remain, and DR. A. MONCURE, the Superintendent, states that by crowding all the patients can be accommodated in them until additional quarters are provided. The records of the institution, which were in the western end of the main building, were gotten out safely before the fire reached them. Much of the furniture was also saved. The total loss will reach $150,000, upon which there is an insurance in local companies of only $30,000. The buildings which escaped the flames are insured for about $25,000 in foreign companies.
The insurance on the burned building is all in the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia.

The New York Times New York 1885-06-09