Asheville, NC Kenilworth Inn fire, Apr 1909

KENILWORTH INN IS DESTROYED BY FIRE

Fashionable Hotel Near Asheville, N. C., Burns to Ground at 2 O'clock in Morning.

Asheville, N. C., April 14 - Roused from their slumbers after 2 o'clock this morning by an alarm of fire, seventy-five guests of the fashionable Kenilworth Inn, three miles from this city, barely had time to don some scanty articles of clothing and make their escape from the burning building. The hotel was completely destroyed, the total loss being estimated at $250,000. The insurance is placed at $75,000.

The fire started in the north end of the building over the boiler room. A strong wind was blowing from the southwest and the flames were quickly fanned to the other end of the frame structure, where the majority of the guests were asleep. Before the fire had been first discovered by two negro boys who were returning from Biltmore, the Vanderbilt place, which is but a short distance from the inn, it had gained good headway and was even then beyond human control. Mrs. A. B. Martin, the leasee, gave first thought to the safety of the guests when she was awakened, and in a short time the alarm had been given in every occupied room in the doomed building.

There was a wild scramble for the exits, but there was nothing bordering on a panic among either men, women or children, in spite of the great confusion at the time. Half an hour later when it was believed that all were out, the roll was called and every person accounted for. It was a motley array, however, some of the women appearing in ball gouwns and others in even more scanty raiment and in varying degrees of negligence. Many of the men wore nothing but their underclothing covered by their overcoats. Almost every describable manner of dress was represented.

Many persons after conquering the first thought of self-preservation that had led to instant and precipitate flight, ventured back into the smoke-filled halls and into their rooms to rescue their trunks and other personal effects which they had abandoned. Some brought forth rocking chairs, wash stands and every manner of articles, which soon littered the lawns.

As the fire kept raging, fanned by the rapidly increasing wind, the heat became so intense that all hope of saving the possessions was abandoned.

Several persons who had re-entered the hotel, not realizing that the fire had reached the south wing, were almost caught. Shouts of friends from the outside were answered by yells for help and heroic efforts of several guests and policemen alone saved the venturesome ones from being cut off from every avenue of escape.

The Asheville fire department rushed out to the scene, but the hotel was doomed before the engines had started from the city, three miles away.

Its efforts were needed, however to save the adjoining residences as the wind was scattering sparks to their roofs. The firemen were successful in preventing the flames from spreading.

The scantily clad guests were taken in at the Battery Park hotel and near-by residences and cared for for the remainder of the night.

The Kenilworth hotel was owned by Senator M. Gazzam, of Philadelphia, and was built about fourteen years ago by the Kenilworth Inn company at a cost of $140,000. George W. Vanderbilt is believed to have been the heaviest stockholder in the company, which was composed largely of northern capitalists. About six years ago Senator Gazzam purchased the property and has leased it several times. It was patronized by northern tourists during the winter and was a favorite meeting place for southern conventions during the summer. The young people's missionary movement, the Southern Christian Endeavor society and the southern students' conference had been booked there for the coming summer.

The Grand Forks Daily Herald, Grand Forks, ND, 15 Apr 1909
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KENILWORTH INN IN RUINS.

Guests Escape from Burning Hotel Near Asheville - Ex-Sen. Gazzam Hurt.

ASHEVILLE, N. C., April 14. - Roused from their slumbers after 2 o'clock this morning by an alarm of fire the seventy-five guests of the fashionable Kenilworth Inn, three miles from this city, barely had time to don some scanty articles of clothing, and make their escape from the burning building. The hotel was completely destroyed, the total loss being estimated at $250,000. The insurance is placed at $75,000.

The fire started in the north end of the building, over the boiler room. A strong wind was blowing from the southwest and the flames were quickly fanned to the other end of the frame structure, where the majority of the guests were asleep. Before the fire had been discovered by two negro boys who were returning from Biltmore, the Vanderbilt place, which is but a short distance from the inn, it had gained a good headway. Mrs. A. B. Martin, the lessee, gave first thought to the safety of the guests when she was awakened.

The Asheville Fire Department rushed out to the scene, but the hotel was doomed before the engines had started from the city, three miles away.

Several firemen received painful burns. Former State Senator Gazzam of Philadelphia, owner of the inn, jumped from the third story while the firemen were breaking open the door of his room. In the descent he barely escaped striking against the stone arch at the front f the building. He is suffering from a concussion of the spine and a broken ankle, and physicians fear there is a fracture at the base of the skull. He is in Biltmore Hospital.

A negro porter was badly hurt by falling from the third floor, the fall being broken, however, by his catching projecting windows and landing on a roof below them.

The Kenilworth Inn was built about fourteen years ago by the Kenilworth Inn Company at a cost of $140,000. George W. Vanderbilt is believed to have been the heaviest stockholder in the company, which was composed largely of Northern capitalists. About six years ago Senator Gazzam purchased the property and has leased it several times. It was patronized by Northern tourists during the Winter and was a favorite meeting place for Southern conventions during the Summer.

The New York Times, New York, NY, 15 Apr 1909