Peoria, IL Arion Hotel Fire, Nov 1959



Peoria, Ill. (AP) - Four persons were missing today in a second hotel fire within 24 hours in a racially mixed neighborhood near Peoria's downtown district.
While authorities searched the debris of today's fire for the missing persons, the state began a hearing into Sunday's fire.
"I think it could be arson in both cases," said Albert Boulton, the city's chief fire inspector.
He said evidence of a "kerosene-like fluid" was found near the scenes of both fires, which occurred within a six-block area.
Sunday's blaze burned out an apartment hotel being prepared for Negro tenants. No one was injured in that fire. Damage was estimated at $300,000 to $400,000.
Today's fast-spreading fire engulfed the Arion Hotel, which entered to white tenants, and spread to two taverns and two homes before it was brought under control.
The missing included LOUISE SCOTT, Negro, who had been hired as a sitter for the 5-month-old son of a resident of the hotel; two unidentified men and a man named AL COOPER, of Peoria.
At least six persons fled from the three-story brick hotel, including Sarah Hawk, the hotel clerk. Police said she was confused about the number of persons in the hotel at the time of the fire and that the hotel's record books were incomplete.
Walter Parlier, deputy state fire marshal, summoned as witnesses for today's hearing James Reynolds, a white attorney who is one of the owners of the apartment destroyed Sunday.
The three-story building, once used as a hospital, was to be opened Dec. 1 for Negro occupants in the mixed racial area in this central Illinois city of some 115,000 persons.
Fire Chief Ray Miller, whose men responded to an alarm at 4:24 a.m. said "a kerosene-like liquid" had been spilled on the floors. Three steel drums were found. Two of them were partly filled with an inflammable substance. No one was in the building.
The sprinkler system had been shut off, and some of the pipes had been dismantled.
Reynolds told newsmen he had received five anonymous telephone calls Tuesday. He described them as personal threats but said the building was not mentioned. Several windows in the building were broken Wednesday night and paint was tossed on a sign that advertised apartments and rooms for rent, he said.

The Progress-Index Petersburg Virginia 1959-11-23