Hartford, CT Park Central Hotel Collapse and Fire, Feb 1889




HARTFORD, Feb. 18,---Within the annals of Connecticut it is doubtful if there has been such an accident, attended with so many terrible details, as that which occurred in this city to-day. The gloom of the storm is a fitting accompaniment to the horror of the catastrophe. All the city is devoted to no other conversation than that based on the destruction of the Park Central Hotel while it was full of guests, sleeping, as they thought, in security. It is believed that 25 persons lost their lives in the disaster, while besides these, there is in all likelihood quite a score who will bear the marks of their injuries during the remainder of their lives. Then, too, there are many more whose lives will not be nearly long enough to permit them to forget the horror of their awakening in the early morning, before the sunlight had made their surroundings visible so that they could determine the extent of their danger.

Perhaps the most awful circumstance of the disaster was that it came at this time. The hotel, which is at High and Allyn streets, is in the centre of the business part of the city. It was prepared last night to take very few more guests, for its 86 available rooms were nearly all occupied. When the owl train came through at 2:30 o'clock some few of the belated passengers applied for accommodations, but the night clerk was obliged to refuse most of them. Then the house was practically surrendered to the night.

At midnight Amos Risley, the engineer, and Alexander Thuer and Amos Griswold, the firemen, according to a criminally careless custom which had been in vogue at the hotel for some time, banked, or at least it is believed that they banked, the fires for the boilers which ran the dynamo and furnished heat, and then they went home. The night clerk, EDWARD PERRY, whose body is still in the ruins, saw that everything was as usual, and sat lazing in his chair. But he was to be given a direful awakening.

It was at 4:50 o'clock, as nearly as can be now determined, that the guests of the hotel were rolled out of their beds and saw the floors giving away beneath then. They had no time to analyze the helplessness of their positions then; they simply experienced the terrible sensation of sinking into annihilation without a single opportunity of helping themselves. But the floors of the hotel not sooner showed their instability than there came a dull rumble like the rear of distant musketry. Then came a terrible explosion, and crash went the big hotel, with its sleeping inmates, and covered the streets for a space of 50 feet around.

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