Allentown, PA Lafayette Hotel Fire Jan 1926

The Lafayette Hotel


Allentown, Pa., Jan. 23 - Eleven persons are known to be dead, from five to seven other victims are believed buried in the ruins and fourteen guests were injured, when a fire swept through the five floors of the Lafayette Hotel, a hundred year old structure here, shortly after 2 a.m. today.
Four of the bodies of the dead have been identified. Three were guests and the fourth, MISS ANNA NOVAK, was an employee of the hostelry.
The smoldering ruins were being searched late today for further victims by firemen. Two guests were killed by leaps from their bedroom windows in attempts to escape the flames, and the others were suffocated or burned in their rooms and in the hotel corridors.
Many of the guests, trapped in the 100-year-old structure by the flames, hung from window ledges clad only in night clothing until firemen were able to put up ladders to rescue them. The temperature when the fire broke out was 10 degrees above zero.
All the dead were trapped in their rooms, according to firemen, and were suffocated before they could be rescued.
Robert Fegley, proprietor of the hotel, and Robert Lehman, a night clerk, were on duty when the fire started. The blaze swept up the elevator shaft at the outset, cutting off escape by that quarter from the first.
Lehman tried to fight his way to the upper floors to arouse the guests, but was beaten back by smoke, and aroused the sleepers by means of the hotel fire gong and room telephones.
The fire took hold in the upper stories and half an hour after firemen arrived the roof collapsed, sagging onto the fifth and fourth floors. Firemen expressed belief that the bodies of many of the missing would be found on these floors.
Following the discovery of MISS NOVAK'S body on the third floor, a fireman told of liberating her from her room. When he attempted to lead her to safety, she broke away from him and disappeared down a corridor toward the rear of the hotel, he said.
Many of the guests on the lower floors made ropes of strips of bed clothing and slid to safety to the street, where they were bundled into blankets and hurried in automobiles to homes which had thrown open their doors to them.
When firemen responded to the alarm, their first efforts were directed to the rescue of guests imprisoned in their rooms. Almost every window of the upper floors, firemen said, framed some victim trapped by the flames, calling frantically for help.
Ladders were run up on two sides of the building and many were carried down before collapse of the roof and the flames drove the rescuers back.
A score of persons were on window sills or hanging from ledges when the ladders were first run up, firemen said.
GEORGE HARDING, of Bangor, Me., one of the injured, told of dropping four stories from his window in the rear of the hotel to a porch roof, and falling on a corpse.
He was aroused, he said, by the smoke and forced to the window for air before he could dress. He was forced by the smoke and heat over the sill and hung there, calling for help, until a tongue of flame seared his hand and he was forced to drop. Stunned by his fall, HARDING took stock of himself and found he had landed on a dead man, breaking his fall and saving him from serious injury.
Three bodies were found by firemen, huddled in a corridor on the third floor, crowded back in a niche as if to escape the smoke and heat.
Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and fears were expressed that it would be impossible to positively identify many of them, according to morgue attaches.
Many of the injured are suffering as much from exposure as from burns or fractures, and it was feared pneumonia would follow as a consequence in several cases.