Janesville, WI Hyatt House Destroyed, Jan 1867

Janesville WI Hyatt House Fire 1-12-1867.jpg







Our city was the scene this morning of the most disastrous fire that ever visited it. Soon after 3 o'clock the Hyatt House was discovered to be on fire in the kitchen. The flames spread with surprising rapidity, so much so that it was with the utmost difficulty that the occupants of the building escaped, nearly all of them with nothing on save their night clothes; and a young woman named MAGGIE EMERSON, an employee in the house, less fortunate than the others, was cut off from retreat and perished in the flames. She was last seen at a window in the fifth story, where she called for help; but no help could reach her. Soon after her entreaty for assistance, two garments were thrown out of a window, it was supposed by her.
Quite a number of the inmates of the hotel made their escape by crawling out on their hands and knees, while others nearly suffocated with smoke, threw themselves with frantic energy against a partition, which separated the hotel from the building occupied as offices, and tore it down, thus effecting their escape dwont the stairway farthest removed from the fire. One man let himself down to the balcony from an upper story by tying the bed clothing together. It is truly wonderful that no more lives were lost, when the extent of the building is considered, and the quick work which the flames made is taken into account.
The Hyatt House was built in 1856 and 1857 by MR. A. HYALL SMITH, the citizens contributing liberally toward the enterprise. It cost not far from $130,000. The property was now owned by MR. O. B. MATTESON, and is believed to be insured for $15,000.
The hotel was kept by SOL. HUTSON, by whom it was furnished, save some $6,000 worth, which belonged to MRS. A. H. SMITH, and on which there was no insurance. MR. HUTSON had an insurance of $2,000 with Dimock & Lawrence on furniture and piano, and $25,000 with Whataker, on stock. JOHN HUTSON had an insurance of $500 on furniture and wearing apparel with Dimock & Lawrence. All the above insurance is a total loss. The loss of MR. H. beyond his insurance is estimated by him at something like $5,000.
E. L. WRIGHT, who occupied one of the stores, for the sale of music, musical instruments and sewing machines, removed the most of his stock, but in a somewhat damaged condition. His loss he estimates at from $500 to $1,000. No insurance.
G. G. CAMPBELL, flour and food store lost $2,100. Insured $1,000 with H. Hart.
N. GRISWOLD & Co., loose $2,000; insurance $1,500 with Dimock & Lawrence.
V. JOUANEAULT, fancy goods and toys, lost $6,000; insurance $2,000.
The library and furniture of MR. A. A. JACKSON in the second story was almost entirely saved, by the strenuous exertions of the citizens, to whom MR. J. wishes to return thanks.
WILLIAMS & SALE were not so fortunate, for although the bulk of the library and fixtures were removed, they suffered damage to the extent of about $800.



Hyatt House Fire

The Hyatt House, the most luxurious hotel building ever erected in the city of Janesville, was completed and opened for business May 7th, 1857. It occupied the former site of the old Stevens House Hotel, which burned in 1853, at the northeast corner of Milwaukee and Franklin Streets. The five story brick hotel was built by its name sake, A. Hyatt Smith, at the cost of $140,000. Everything about the structure was substantial and imposing with the dining hall being so large that between four and five hundred guests could be seated at one time. This hotel had become quite famous and had become a tremendous asset to the city of Janesville. Its destruction was a great loss.

The fire was described as "a grand a sight as is often witnessed." The air was said to have been very still and the flames and smoke shot upward hundreds of feet in one vast sheet, bursting out of the windows and doors. It was most fortunate that there were no strong winds. As it was the freight depot caught fire twice during the blaze and all the buildings in the immediate vicinity were blistered by the fires intense heat. The fire was thought to have started in the kitchen after a fire had built in the cook stove and from there it spread at an alarming rate. Noted as the grandest building ever to grace Janesville's downtown, the Hyatt House was destroyed by fire on January 12th, 1867.

Information from "History of the Janesville Fire Department: 1852-1988"

Wisconsin fires 1867

This is a woodcut published in Harpers Weekly from a photo by Janesville wis. photographer J.F. Barks.