Hartford, CT Park Central Hotel Collapse and Fire, Feb 1889
The corner of the hotel still standing was occupied by the servants and other employes[sic]. They suddenly found one side of their rooms gone, the stairs blown away, and the only means of escape was to jump into the smoking ruins or leap upon the sidewalk on the Allyn-street side. Two or three in their fright did jump and escaped with severe injuries, but the aerial ladder was soon on the spot, and the firemen quickly ran up the life-saving apparatus to the windows of the different stories, and the imprisoned servants were safely rescued.
The southeast corner of the hotel fell soon after the second explosion, carrying with it the guests. The west and south sides of the hotel were blown out bodily, settling down into a level or nearly level mass of broken timbers, stone, brick, and mortar. No part of the house, unless it was the northeast corner, remained more than five feet above the level of the side-walk, so completely was the solid five-story block demolished.
The gray of the morning was gradually lightening and disclosing more and more the extent of the terrible accident. The scores of observers swelled into hundreds and then into thousand. The police force was inadequate for the fire line, and the militia was called out and established a cordon within which none of the curious could pass. Gov. Bulkeley, Mayor Root, Chief of Police Packard, the city officials, prominent citizens of all classes and callings, came to the scene, and either remained awe-stricken or departed trembling and unnerved. Still the firemen worked, but the flames continued to present an impervious barrier to the rescuers, who still heard above all the din his last agony. For four long hours this terrible suspense to the injured and the helpless multitude in the streets was continued. Every possible effort was made to subdue the flames sufficiently to permit the rescuers to get within the fatal boundaries of the wreck, but to no avail. Thus it was not until nearly 9 o'clock that the party of searchers, under Superintendent of the Street Department Lawrence, went to work.
Then it was that the crushed body of J. George Engler, a prescription clerk employed in A. Marwick, Jr., & Co.'s, drug shop, was found and tenderly removed to the sidewalk. From that time on the work was prosecuted with the utmost energy and with much, through far from the wished for success, the guard of militia meanwhile standing like statues, but with their faces expressing their mingled feelings of horror and pity. As a fitting addition to this scene was the rain. The groups upon the great hills of debris were soaked, but they manfully kept at despite all impediments.
By and by some parts of the wreck had been sufficiently cleared away to permit of a cart being driven into what had now become both grave and funeral pyre, and, taking away some more of the ruin, leaving bare perhaps a pitiful pale hand that told of the corpse beneath. The work of recovering the dead from the ruins has been pushed with great vigor, and will be continued through the night. The list of the dead, missing, and injured, as far as can be given, follows:
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