St. Albans, VT Welden House Hotel Fire, Jul 1897
The fire department, although there was some delay and confusion at first, deserves lots of credit for its night's work. Chief Leslie was at his cottage at the lake when the news of the fire was telephoned him. He made the trip from his cottage to the railroad tracks in 15 minutes. The men were encouraged by his presence and fought the flames at every point. A line of hose on top of the Willett building did good service in keeping the flames in check on the south side. The burning building was surrounded by streams that poured tons of water on the flames, which were checked but not extinguished. Another gang of men was at work with streams on the inside and Chief Leslie was everywhere. His coolness and daring were never displayed to more advantage than last night.
There is no doubt that the fire originated from the range in the kitchen. The cook was away and some of the table girls built up the fire to get some late shoppers. All about the range was saturated with grease and twice in the last three years fire had caught in this same way. Mr. Boyce, the man that about 10 o'clock, as is his custom he made a tour of the various parts of the hotel, and found everything all right. The alarm was rung in at 11:40 and at that time the flames were visible from Main street.
There was only a small coal fire in the range, and there were no lamps in that part of the house that could have exploded.
The hotel was owned by John Greenway, who recently come here fro Syracuse, N. Y., to undertake its management. It is reported to have cost him $25,000 and is listed for $27,000. Mr. Greenway stated this morning that he had at least $27,000 insurance on the hotel and contents, and possibly $30,000.
He could not tell exact amount until the policies were examined. He is also authority for the statement that he will rebuild the hotel if he is assured that the present prohibitory law will not interfere with his business intentions.
The hotel was erected in 1864 by Trasher and Morrison for a stock company. The walls were up to the third story the day of the famous St. Albans raid. Bennett Young, the leader of the raid was upon the staging talking with Mr. Morrison, a short time before the raid began. When the shooting began Mr. Morrison came down from his work and was killed on Main street by a shot that was probably intended for E. D. Fuller who was with Mr. Morrison.
The original cost of the hotel is said to have been $110,000, and the addition of the east wing in 1870 and other improvements brought the cost up to $200,000. It was opened for business 31 years ago today.
The hotel was the largest in the state and in its palmy days a palatial hostelry. It was before the Missisiquoi division of the Central Vermont road was built a great summer resort and filled with city people. It was a common sight in those days, to see five four-in-hand coaches start away from the house in the morning. Business was good and the fame of the hotel spread far and wide.
After several years Lansing Millis and Bradley Barlow bought the hotel from the stock company. Later Mr. Millis bought the house for $50,000. He sold to Mr. Greenway and J. M. Bell, of Swanton.
Some of its landlords have been Thomas Lavender, A. A. Merrifield, W. B. Johnson, J. C. Finch, William Landon, J. C. Raun and Guy Boyce. Mr. Park, of Boston, and Cool and McDonald.
The Congregation church chapel was opened and several women served coffee and sandwiches to the firemen and other workers.
A tin box resembling a cash box was picked up on the park by William Tye.
Water was poured on the fire all the morning and men are still watching the ruins. About 11 o'clock the blaze sprang up so that it was necessary to send for more hose.
Mr. Greenway has opened an office in the court house.
The Vermont Mutual had $3,500 insurance involved in the fire.
The insurance on the house was all placed by New York agents, most of it in Lloyd companies.
Manager Woodbury of the Van Ness house, Burlington, came here today to secure the table girls employed at the hotel.
Some pretty thieving is reported, but nothing extensive.
St. Albans Daily Messenger, St. Albans, VT 17 Jul 1897