Seattle, WA West Street House Hotel Fire, Oct 1894
MANY BURNED IN A HOTEL
NEARLY A SCORE OF DEAD IN THE RUINS AT SEATTLE.
Most of the Bodies So Charred as to be Unrecognizable-Thrilling Scenes as Guests, Awakened Shortly After Midnight, Leaped from the Windows---Pathetic Groups of Dead---List of Transient Guests, Some of Whom Perished.
SEATTLE, Washington, Oct. 27.----A fire which resulted in the death of at least sixteen persons and the injury of three more started in the West Street House, at Columbia and West Streets, at about 1 A. M. At 3 A. M. the fire was under control, and an investigation of the ruins was made.
Nearly all the dead were so badly burned as to be unrecognizable.
The Indentified Dead.
By shreds of clothing the following have been identified as among the dead:
ANDERSON, C. WILSON.
BOLTMAN, F. W.
HUFFMAN, Mrs. J. W., and two daughters.
OTTESEN, Mrs. ANDREW.
SORBY, M. C.
The injured are as follows:
ANDERSON, C. B., hand burned, body badly bruised.
GLASS, D. B., leg broken and back injured.
HAVLIN, Edward, badly injured about the head and neck by jumping.
The Transient Guests.
The following is a list of the transient guests, as shown by the register, which was saved:
BELLMAN, C. L.
CHASE, ALLEN D.
CLARK, J. F.
COFFERY, W. P.
DEDRICKSON, M. G., Port Blakeley.
GIBB, C. L.
HUSEMAN, Mrs. J. W.
KINGSTON, JOHN, Seattle.
LAWSON, M. J.
McDONALD, D., Seattle.
MOON, GEORGE J.
PETER, CHARLES A.
SCHMITT, REDMOND T. SIMONSON, R. D.
SMITH, Mrs. J., and friend.
JOHNSON, C. D.
There were also about twenty permanent boarders in the hotel.
The flames were so rapid that the occupants of the building were taken by surprise, and there was a wild panic, men and women jumping from the windows in their night clothing.
An explosion was heard in the kitchen in the rear part of the second story by S. F. Butler, a son of the proprietor, and immediately the flames began to spread through the dry inner timber of the corrugated-iron building, which was one of a range of two-story structures owned by J. N. Coleman on the east side of West Street.
Butler raised a cry of fire, which aroused the guests, with whom the house was crowded, and a rust for life followed. The flames were already roaring through the long, narrow halls. Finding exit by the stairways cut off, the people began to drop from windows on both sides of the building, the flames closely following them. W. C. P. Lewis, who was in Room A at the corner, dropped twenty feet to the ground and escaped unhurt. Joseph A. May, who was in room 64, tied the sheets together and used them as a rope to let himself down. D. B. Glass jumped out of a window, but not until his hair was burned. He struck on his back on the ground. He was picked up and carried to the passenger station, and, with two other injured persons, was taken to a hospital.
One man, whose identity is not known, was caught in the rush of the flames near the top of the West Street stairway, and sank down overcome with the smoke and heat. The firemen fought to keep the flames away from his body, but were driven back.
It was only after the Fire Department had got well to work that the full seriousness of the affair began to be suspected. There was some unaccountable delay in getting the water on, owing to the slowness of the fire boat getting up steam. When at last the pressure did come, the fire was raging furiously, and all that could be done was to confine the flames to the block where they started.
The first dead man was taken out from a room over the Hill Syrup Company's store, and was found with one leg in his trousers and his shoes half laced. The body was discovered with the head covered with the bedclothes under the bed. It was so badly burned as to be unrecognizable, as were all the other bodies.
Policeman E. E. Bryant had discovered the flames soon after they burst forth and he turned in an alarm, which brought the Fire Department. The officer then assisted in saving the people who appeared at the windows.
He found Mrs. Susan Allen and her two-year-old child at the window on the West Street side, the woman crying for some one to save the child. Bryant shouted to her to drop the child. She did so, and he caught it in his arms. Depositing it on the ground, he snatched a plank and set it against the window. The woman slid down the plank, landing without injury.
H. F. Butler, the proprietor of the hotel, was in bed when the fire was discovered, and narrowly escaped. His son, S. F. Butler, was night clerk. He says that the fire undoubtedly originated from a kerosene lamp in the kitchen, on the upper floor, near the rear wall.
The saddest sight in the ruins was in an inside room off the passageway which led to West Street. There, calmly lying in a charred and blackened bed, was evidently an entire family. The father lay on one side, the wife next to him, and their child beside her.
Crouched in a corner of a small inside room were two charred bodies, the first that of a man in the attitude of one fighting an impending danger, and immediately behind him, on bended knees, and clutching his wrist, the skeleton of a woman.
The New York Times, New York, NY 28 Oct 1894