Chicago, IL Business District Fire, Nov 1895
COST FIVE LIVES.
IMMENSE BUILDING IN THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S BUSINESS DISTRICT BURNS.
MANY WORKING GIRLS HEMMED IN BY THE FLAMES -- TWO LEAP FROM THE FOURTH STORY.
ONE IS KILLED, THE OTHER MAY DIE -- FIREMEN CARRIED DOWN TO DEATH BY FALLING WALLS.
FOUR OF THEM PERISH -- REMARKABLE ESCAPE OF A YOUNG LADY -- THE LOSS WILL REACH $400,000.
Chicago, Nov. 23. -- A fire, disastrous to life and property, swept through the dry goods and woolen exchange Friday morning, a terrible sequel to the Canal street conflagration Thursday night, which by a curious coincidence were separated only by the river and almost opposite each other. Five firemen, while in the active discharge of their duty, under orders and totally unconscious of danger, were carried through a floor and buried under tons of wreckage from the five floors above. Four of the men lie dead and the fifth was not seriously injured. One girl fell from a window and received injuries from which she died. A dozen other men, women and girls were hurt or overcome by smoke and many were rescued from imminent death. The property loss to the building at 215-217 Van Buren street and 276-278 Franklin street and contents is estimated at $400,000.
The dead are:
PATRICK J. O'DONNELL, lieutenant of engine company No. 2, 2840 Wallace street.
THOMAS J. PRENDERGAST, pipeman, 3023 Butler street.
MARTIN SHERROCK, 2838 Lowe avenue, pipeman.
JOHN DOWNS, pipeman, 2858 Wallace street.
KATE LANDGRAF, 802 North Halsted street, employed in A. Stein & Co.'s garter factory.
Among the injured were:
DANIEL McNALLY, pipeman, 724 31st street, removed from floor wreckage to St. Luke's hospital, sprained leg and bruises.
OLGA KELLER, 515 North Ashland avenue, leg and arm injured.
HARRY O'NEILL, 1029 Van Buren street, arm broken and back injured.
NELLIE TURNER, 209 North Center avenue, fell from fourth-story window and seriously hurt.
JOHN BRUENHEIMER, badly injured by falling from fourth story while assisting girls to escape.
The loss on the building is $100,000, amply covered by insurance. The aggregate loss of the many tenants is placed at $300,000, the heaviest individual loser being STERN & BEIRS, $75,000.
Girls In A Panic.
The fire started at 9:15 o'clock on the fourth floor of the seven-story building, in the garter factory of STEIN & Company, where many girls were at work. They ran screaming and half fainting from fright to the windows on the Van Buren street side of the building. All was excitement and confusion in a moment, and the rapidly increasing crowd of spectators stood gazing upwards at what seemed the impending doom of scores of working girls. Engines, hose carts and ladders came in a gallop to the rescue with brave firemen, who in a twinkling had scrambled up the fire escapes or put the extension ladders in position to bring the panic-stricken people to the ground.
The frantic girls were determined in their half-crazed mental condition to hurl themselves to the stone flagging, but were partly restrained by the shouts of the citizens on the street and the quick work of the firemen. One small extension ladder was run up under where the girls were standing in fear of a double death. A fireman mounted it, but when his feet touched the rungs of the second section either his weight or some defect in the ladder caused it to slip back to its original position, bringing its top four or five feet below the sill of the fourth story window. Either crowded from behind or frenzied by fear NELLIE TURNER, KITTIE LANDGRAF and HARRY O'NEILL made a wild attempt to lower themselves so that they could touch the top rung of the ladder. In doing this the foolhardy ones slipped and fell headlong to the pavement.
CAPT. HERMANSON tried to grasp the dress of KITTIE LANDGRAF as her body flew past him, but failed, and she struck the sidewalk with a sickening sound in sight of thousands. A few seconds elapsed and the same spot where MISS LANDGRAF'S body had struck was covered with the unconscious form of NELLIE TURNER, who had taken the terrible plunge in the effort to save herself. She was saved from death, however, by being momentarily held by three firemen in her descent, thus breaking the force of her fall. Three other girls, who had more presence of mind, succeeded in reaching the ladder by dropping from the window sill.
The flames had now taken possession of the four upper stories of the building, and at a window stood OLGA KELLAR and HARRY O'NEILL, hemmed in on three sides by flame and smoke. The frightened girl stood on the narrow window ledge holding to the sash withone hand. She was almost suffocated by smoke, and had braced herself as if to make the leap of a forlorn hope. "Don't jump; climb down to me," shouted CAPT. HERMANSON from his perch on the upper part of the ladder, but the girl, frantic from terror, did not hear his voice. She was seen to drop, and fortunately her body came within reaching distance of the captain. He seized one of her ankles as her body turned in the air, and the heroic act almost threw him from the swaying ladder. Before he was forced to loosen his hold or be carried down himself two firemen below him seized the girl and carried her down the ladder, amid the plaudits of thousands, who were watching every move in the tragic scene.
O'NEILL, who was still at the window and engaged in the brave task of helping all the imprisoned girls to escape to the best of his ability, was the last one to be rescued. When he tried to crawl from window to ladder he slipped and fell, but his fall was broken by the grasping hands of firemen on the ladder and he fell into a net which had just placed in position. A broken arm and leg constituted his injuries.
Shortly after one o'clock came the second tragedy of the fire. The flames had been practically extinguished and the firemen of engine company No. 2 were ordered to the fourth floor in the rear to put out any incipient blaze that might be found.
The unfortunate men had taken their hose from the fourth to the second floor, and fire being found Capt. FIENE went to the window on the north and was in the act of shouting to PETER HART, the driver of the company, to shut off the water when the fatal crash came. From the top floor came like an avalanche tons of timber, fireproof tiling, merchandise, safes, radiators, fixtures from the different offices and a mass of other stuff on the heads and on all sides of the firemen, who put duty before fear of safety. An immense hole was made in the rear of the second floor from the roof down, great masses of debris hanging on the edges of the opening. A cry of horror arose from civilians and firemen, mingled with the artillery-like roar of the collapse.
Capt. FIENE clung for dear life to the window sill until rescued and then bravely joined the small band of rescuers whom Chief SWENIE sent to the debris. Only one faint voice was heard, that of McNALLY. All the others had probably been killed instantly. After half an hour's work, the men who were in danger every minute of more flooring falling on them, extircated McNALLY, and the others being given up for dead, streams of water were poured on the ruins from all parts on account of fire breaking out and to save the bodies from being burned. All the dead firemen were married and leave large families.
Early in the evening the firemen dug from beneath a pile of charred timbers the body of LIEUT. O'DONNELL, of engine company No. 2. It was horribly mutilated with the exception of the face, which was recognizable. Bones had been broken by the falling debris, and the fire had completed the work of destruction, the flesh being badly burned.
At 10:45 o'clock the body of JOHN DOWN, a pipeman, was recovered and given to a son who was in waiting. The corpse was in a comparatively good condition. It had been in sight of the workmen for over two hours, but it took a long time to get at it.
At 11 o'clock another body was sighted. It lies face down covered by an immense beam and the arms can be seen from either side. Several hours will be required to reach it.
Logansport Reporter Indiana 1895-11-23