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Stratford Springs Fire: January 13, 1918

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▶ Newspaper Article

-from the Wheeling News-Register, Monday, January 14, 1918

Stratford Springs Hotel Burned to Ground

Entailing Loss That Will Reach $150,000

Crossed Wires In Boiler Room Said To Be The Cause

The Stratford Springs Hotel at Woodsdale, one of the most fashionable and popular all year around resorts in this section of the country, burned to the ground last night between eleven and twelve o'clock entailing a loss to the property, furniture, and belongings of the guests estimated at $150,000 with insurance on the hotel amounting to $75,000. Guests losing personal effects were insured.

Every one of the eighty-four rooms of the hotel was occupied by guests, who numbered 125 in all, and despite the fact that the blaze caught quickly and with little warning given, not a mishap was recorded in any shape or form. Guests were compelled to make a hasty exit; those who had already retired being scantily garbed, in night robes with heavier garments that were close at hand. Some emerged from the blazing building swathed in blankets. All the guests were cared for by the kindly disposed residents of the neighborhood and some were sent to Wheeling to be housed for the night.

Fire is Discovered

The fire was first discovered in the northeast corner of the hotel in what was formerly used as the motor room, a compartment where the motor was installed when the hotel generated its own power some years ago. Crossed wires are believed to have been the origin.

Flames Spread Rapidly

The building was built entirely of wood and as a consequence the spread of the flames was very rapid. Fortunately the wind was blowing from the west and the fire was compelled to eat its way westward against the somewhat stiff breeze. This factor is believed to have been sole reason for preventing what might otherwise cause a loss in life, for had the wind been blowing in the opposite direction, the flames would have had a full sweep of the whole length and breadth of the hotel and in view of its inflammable nature would have cut off escape for those in remote parts of the building very quickly.

Calls for Help Sent Out

The flames had gained considerable headway when discovered. Calls were immediately sent out for the fire apparatus from Edgewood and Woodsdale and when the magnitude of the conflagration was seen, a general call was sent to Wheeling. Chief Rose responded with the Eleventh street and Atlantic engine. While en route to the fire over the ice-coated streets, one of the trucks struck a shanty on McCullough street and knocked it over the hill. All the apparatus experienced difficulties in reaching the fire due to the slippery going.Inadequate water pressure for such a mammoth blaze made the playing of water streams on the blaze of little use and chemical streams were left to check the flames as best they could. Four water streams were worked on the fire as long as the pressure lasted, but there were no engine streams due to a lack of fire plugs.

Much Furniture Saved

When it was learned that all the guests and help were out of the hotel, work of salvaging the furniture was immediately started, both guests and Woodsdale residents joining in the rescue work. Among the heavy pieces first saved was a grand piano which was placed on a heavy rug and slid down the front steps and thence down onto the lawn. In this manner other valuable pieces of furniture were taken out of the roaring furnace, among these being a victrola, smaller furniture and many expensive rugs, all being slid down the hill toboggan fashion to the lawn below.

Many of the guests in their haste to make an exit, overlooked footwear and rushed out onto the ice covered ground in their bare feet. They were taken care of however and supplied with needed covering for their extremities.

The fire was very spectacular and illuminated the surrounding country for many miles. This portion of the pike district is made up mostly of the residences of Wheeling business men, who with their families were soon attracted to the scene. Wheeling was apprised of the conflagration shortly after the fire was discovered, but on account of the treacherous condition of the streets, due to the glaze of ice, few automobile owners trusted making the trip.

Aerated Water Plant Saved

The only part of the property saved was the spring house and engine room which stand beyond the west wing of the hotel. It is in this building the mineral waters and ginger ales of the Stratford Magnesia Springs Co. are manufactured. The disaster according to John W. Adams secretary and treasurer of the company, would not affect the conduct of this department.

Erected Ten Years Ago

The Stratford Springs Hotel is a corporation with Mrs. M. F. Jones president and J. W. Adams secretary-treasurer. It was built more than ten years ago and originally leased to Mrs. L. D. C. List, who conducted it four years. It then came into the hands of the present company. It was formerly opened on May 1st 1907 and has been a most popular venue for Wheeling's fashionable functions during that time. As a resort for those seeking rest and quiet, it has gained quite a reputation between the Mississippi and the Atlantic coast and guests came from various parts of that radius. Of recent years it has gained unusual popularity for winter residents, many Wheeling people having taken up quarters there.

May Replace Hotel

Mr. Adams stated that while the property loss was fully covered by insurance, it would require far more under present conditions to replace the hotel than in normal times. He would not hazard an opinion about rebuilding, but intimated it was not unlikely this matter would be discussed just as soon as other matters in connection with the destruction of the hotel were disposed of.

Description of Hotel

The Stratford was beautifully located near the foot of Woodlawn hill and nestled in a perfect bower of trees and shrubbery that made it a beautifully cool and sequestered spot during the sultry days of mid-summer. The hotel was abundantly supplied with sweeping verandahs its whole length and sides, together with roomy sun-parlors admirably adapted for living room purposes during the winter months.

The hotel had 84 bedrooms, a large dining room, three private dining rooms, a spacious ball room, two parlors, a billiard room, large lobby, a writing room and three sun parlors.

Fire Briefs

Mrs. John W. Adams, wife of manager Adams of the hotel, was taken from the burning building with her three weeks old baby, and were rushed to the home of friends nearby, where they were cared for. The child did not seem to suffer any from the sudden change.

One woman walked from the burning building clad in her night clothes, with her bare feet, over the snow and ice to a neighboring home where she was taken in. Many other guests left the building in their bare feet and ran for safety.

Homes of the residents of Woodlawn were thrown open to the guests of the hotel, where many were taken in for the night, with others being brought to the city.

Citizens of Woodlawn responded to the emergency and helped in every way to care for the people from the hotel. Hot coffee was served the firemen, many of the residents aiding in fighting the flames. The Stratford hotel safe and cash register remained on the hotel lawn all night surrounded by furniture piled high.

Among the prominent guests staying at the hotel were:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Alex B. Paxton
  • Mr. and Mrs. R. A. McCabe, Jr.
  • Mr. and Mrs. George Whitaker
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wm. H. Pfarr
  • Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cooke and children
  • Mr. and Mrs. Moscovitz
  • Mrs. Sam Hazlett
  • Mrs. C. J. Milton
  • Miss Minnie Milton
  • Mrs. L. C. Stifel
  • Mrs. Helen Alice Pilcher
  • Miss Zelda Blanchard
  • Mrs. Mina Chambers
  • Mr. R. A. McCabe, Sr.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Therquiel
  • Mr. and Mrs. Geo Maxwell and children
  • Mrs. J. B. McKee
  • Miss Virginia McKee
  • Mrs. Gertrude Holiday
  • Mr. Williams of Pittsburgh
  • Mr. George Bremer
  • Miss Katherine Pfaar
  • Mr. Hinkle of Pittsburgh
  • Miss Morris
  • Mrs. M. M. Alderman

Monster Comet Appears In Sky

A phenomenon believed to be a comet which scientists have predicted for some time, appeared in the heavens shortly before midnight last night and created great curiosity by those who saw it. It was unusually luminous and carried a long tail. It remained in the sky for upwards of three-quarters of an hour. Father Weber, a student of astrology, was questioned on the phenomenon and said he could not account for the ethereal monster. At first it was believed to be a reflection from the Stratford Springs Hotel fire, but was too clearly defined and of such odd shape to countenance that theory.

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