Skip to Content

Boston, MA Fire In Artist's Home, May 1935

FIRE IN ARTIST'S HOME KILLS FOUR.

LaVALLE'S CRIPPLED MOTHER AND 14-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER AMONG VICTIMS.

THREE LEAP TO SAFETY.

10-Year-Old Boy and Sisters Out Window; 3 Firemen Are Injured.

Boston, May 7 -- (AP) -- Four persons, including the mother and 14-year-old daughter of JOHN LaVALLE, internationally known portrait painter, were burned to death or killed in leaps as fire swept the artist's home today. Seven other persons were injured.
The dead:
MRS. JOHN LaVALLE, SR., 70, crippled mother of the artist, burned to death in her bed.
ALICE LaVALLE, 14, daughter of JOHN LaVALLE, burned to death. Body found in debris after collapse of fourth floor.
MARY DOLAN, 24, maid in LaVALLE home, killed in leap from fourth floor.
KATHLEEN COSTELLO, 25, killed in fourth floor leap.
The injured:
ELLEN ELAINE, 6, daughter of LaVALLE, slight internal injury, severe burns.
MARY DEAN, 13, daughter of LaVALLE, internal injuries and severe burns.
MARY McLEOD, nurse of MRS. LaVALLE, SR., burns on back, shock, back injuries.
MOLLY O'REILLY, 25, cook, smoke inhalation.
Fireman WILLIAM MAYHURST, severe cuts and bruises.
Lieut. CHARLES O'BRIAN, fractured leg.
Ladderman JOHN MURPHY, smoke inhalation and burns.
The fire occurred in the absence of the socially prominent artist and his second wife, the former VIRGINIA WILSON of Cincinnati, daughter of ROBERT WILSON, tobacco-trade multi-millionaire.
Starting from an undetermined cause, apparently at the bottom of a dumb-waiter shaft in the four story brick residence in the Back Bay district, the fire mushroomed up through the house, trapping the sleeping household on the two upper floors.
JOHN LaVALLE, JR., 10, and his sisters, MARY and ELLEN, fled from the third floor where they had been sleeping, only to be trapped by the upward-rushing flames on the second floor. JOHN leaped from a second floor window onto a soft bit of lawn and was unhurt. His two sisters, suffering from burns caused by the encroaching fire followed his example but were hurt as they fell.
MISSES DOLAN and COSTELLO crept outside their fourth floor windows and clung there desperately while the fire scorched them and choked them with billowing smoke. Bystanders screamed to the pair to maintain their hold, but they at last were forced to drop and were crushed on the pavement below.
Firemen who fought their way into the house found LaVALLE'S aged mother dead in her flaming bed. ALICE apparently died before she had a chance to seek safety. Her body was found beneath debris after the collapse of the fourth floor.
The artist's mother was a sister of the socially prominent MRS. CURTIS GUILD, widow of a former governor of Massachusetts.
LaVALLE is a graduate of Harvard and is widely known in America and Europe as a portrait painter. He married MISS WILSON, daughter of a prominent Cincinnati family, in 1932, after the death of his first wife, mother of his four children.
Damage to the four-story brick home was estimated at $25,000.

Jefferson City Post-Tribune Missouri 1935-05-07



article | by Dr. Radut