Old Orchard, ME Fire, Aug 1907 - Summer Hotels on Fire

Old Orchard, Me., Aug. 15.-Nearly one-half of Old Orchard’s summer hotel section along the shore front was swept by fire tonight, the loss probably amounting to full half a million dollars.

The Hotel Fiske, one of the finest on the beach, values at $50,000, the Hotel Emerson, valued at $75,000 with its furnishings, the Hotel Alberta, the Aldine, the Lawrence house and half a dozen smaller hotels, together with about 50 cottages were destroyed within two hours.

All the buildings are of wooden constructions and the flames, fanned by a southwest breeze found them an easy prey.

The Old Orchard fire department, which consisted only of one small steam fire engine and a hose wagon, was utterly unable to cope with the blaze when it was discovered and the firemen from neighboring cities, Portland, Biddeford and Saco, who responded to calls for assistance were hampered for some time after their arrival on the scene by difficulty with the couplings.

At 10:30 o’clock, in spite of all efforts the fire was still spreading to the eastward and seemed likely to be stopped only when it had exhausted the material on which it could feed in that direction.

The fire was discovered about 8 o’clock in the upper part of the Olympia hotel annex, which was occupied mainly by servants employed in the Hotel Emerson. It was supposed that an upset lamp was the origin of the blaze. When the Old Orchard firemen were called out they found the entire upper stories of the annex n flames and were unable to prevent the spread of the fire to the main portion of the hotel.

Adjoining buildings containing stores located along the board walk beside the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks soon caught fire and from there the flames jumped the tracks and communicated with the Alberta hotel and several other buildings near the shore.

An Area of about 50 acres along the beach was soon blazing. In this area were located some of the most popular hotels, all of which were filled to overflowing with summer guests.

Many valuable summer cottages were also located in this district and these too, were swept by the fire.

Most of the guests managed to save a considerable quantity of their personal effects from the blazing structures, but nearly all the furnishings of the hotels were destroyed.

There was rumor that three children had met death in the Hotel Olympia, but this could not be confirmed and so far as is known at this hour no fatalities have resulted from the fire, though many narrow escaped were reported.

It is believed that the greater part of the loss is covered by insurance.

Seaside Park, an amusement resort, located near the Olympia hotel, was partly destroyed by fire.

Telegraph and telephone circuits were interrupted and the train service of the Boston & Maine, Western division, was greatly delayed, the fire running along both sides of the track for a considerable distance.

The flames, mounting high, presented a beautiful spectacle to residents of other seaside resorts for scores of miles in both directions.

From the Hotel Emerson the fire leaped across the Main avenue leading from the railroad station to the shore, and attacked the Hotel Seashore. This big structure, one of the oldest and best known of the guest houses on the shore was soon enveloped in flames and was totally destroyed.

A considerable gap of vacant land between this and other buildings to the west, however, served to cut off further spread of the conflagration in that direction.

The Boston & Maine Railroad station, which was situated across the railroad tracks from the Hotel Seashore, was blown up by dynamite after the baggage and most of its furnishings had been removed. This action probably saved the Old Orchard house and other buildings on the edge of the campground plateau overlooking the beach.

A sawmill and lumber yard belonging to Chief of Police William F. Mewer, and some coal sheds belonging to the firm of Porter & Victor were burned during the early part of the blaze.

The bowling alleys and restaurant owned by Thomas Cleave, Hogan’s drug store, MacDonald’s drug store and several other stores located along the board walk near the railroad station were also destroyed.

The central office of the New England Telegraph and Telephone Co., and the Postal and Western Union offices were burned. Communication with outside points were cut off for a time, but late tonight the Postal established a temporary office in a cottage at a distance from the fire.

Fire Under Control.

Old Orchard, Me., Aug. 15. – At 11:45 the fire was believed to be under control.

Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME 16 Aug 1907