Washington, DC National Theatre Fire, Jan 1873

National Theatre next to Imperial Hotel



Washington, Jan. 28. -- The National Theatre caught fire at 11 o'clock today; shortly before the company was about to commence the rehearsal, the flames, which originated in the flues, being discovered by the carpenter. The alarm was immediately given, and those in the theatre made a rush for their property, hastening also to get away from the building, as the flames almost as soon as discovered, began to spread with very great rapidity. The cause of the fire is said to have been the bursting of a pipe used for heating purposes. The theatre auditorium was some distance back of the street, and all the inner portion was very quickly consumed, though the Fire Department was promptly on hand and actively engaged in pouring streams upon the flames. There was no wind blowing at the time, which luckily saved the surrounding buildings, many of which are old structures, from destruction. The Imperial Hotel, which adjoins the theatre, was only slightly damaged by the fire, two or three rooms in the rear and the upper portion of the building being burned., though the floors and the lower apartments were flooded with water. This building is owned by O. V. MATTISON, of Utica, N.Y. The loss by fire will hardly reach that sustained by MR. SYKES, the present proprietor of the hotel, though $25,000 will probably cover the entire amount. The loss on the theatre, which is owned by WILLIAM H. RAPLEY, is at present estimated at $100,000, upon which there is an insurance of $40,000. Manager SAVILLE lost his entire wardrobe. MRS. SAVILLE, a leading actress at the theatre, also lost heavily in this respect. The theatre is to be rebuilt immediately. The building was the third on this site which has been destroyed by fire, the last time being about fifteen years ago. MRS. JAMES OATES, with her burlesque company, had just commenced an engagement, last night being the first performance. The company saved their wardrobe, music, and instruments, with some slight and comparatively trifling exceptions. The guests at the Imperial Hotel began very hurridly to leave with their baggage when the fire was first seen, and even some of the guests at the Ebbit House, one block back of the theatre, began to arrange for leaving, though the flames did not extend in that direction.
The National Theatre was situated on E street, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets, and closely surrounded by other buildings, so that in case of a high wind there would unavoidably have been an extensive conflagration. By 10 o'clock the fire was completely subdued. A rope was stretched across the street to protect property, and the sufferers were taking a survey of their condition. Some of the scenery of the theatre was piled, torn and broken, upon the snow, and gazing wistfully on were several of the employes, including female members of the theatrical company, several of whom were moved to tears at the evidences of their own loss in connection with the disaster.
The loss of MILLER & JONES will, it now appears, exceed the insurance on their property, which is $12,000; while that of MR. SYKES will probably not be so heavy as at first estimated A heavy force is already at work clearing and repairing the establishment. There are several drinking saloons in immediate proximity to the theatre, the proprietors of which took active means to secure themselves against loss.
This is the second time the National Theatre has been destroyed by fire, the first one being burned March 5, 1845.
The fire at the National Theatre did but little damage to the Imperial Hotel, except by water, business is continued as usual.

The New York Times New York 1873-01-29