Dubuque, IA Devastating Fire At Hotel Canfield, June 1946



Dubuque, Ia. -- (AP) -- The identified dead in the fire at the Hotel Canfield Sunday:
RAY LOUKS, Dover, Ill.
STANLEY D. SCHIPBSKY, Minneapolis, Minn.
MAX FRED BETZLE, Prairie du Chien, Wis.
MRS. THERESA SMITH, hotel resident.
JUDITH MILLER, 5, grand-daughter of MRS. SMITH.
WILLIAM CANFIELD, SR., 75, owner of hotel.
CLARENCE REIFSTECK, 1217 Elm street, Dubuque.
VICTOR ORTOLANI, 25, Woodside, N. Y., or Baldwin, L. I., N. Y.
MRS. FLORENCE L. TAYLOR, Los Angeles, Cal.
BERNARD DOLLARHIDE, Chicago, Greyhound bus driver.

Red Cross List Of Missing.
Dubuque, Ia. -- (AP) -- The American Red Cross Monday listed 11 persons as missing and four others as possibly missing in a revised list issued in connection with Sunday's Canfield hotel fire.
Nine persons previously listed as missing had been located by the Red Cross or by relatives.
The revised list was based on names taken from the water-soaked hotel register which made complete identification illegible in spots, and on names supplied by relatives.
MRS. HELEN TAYLOR INGLES, Popsfield, Mass., daughter of ROBERT TAYLOR.
FRED CLAYDON, Florida (city address unreadable).
JOSEPH KALLOWAY (address illegible).
MISS RIGBY (first name and address illegible).
RAMES (remainder of identification unreadable).
R. BROWN, Rockford, Ill.
J. C. CHANDLER, address obliterated.
LEE CLARK, address obliterated.
NELSON CLARK, address obliterated.
Possibly missing:
JOHN S. WILSON, Winston-Salem, N. C.
L. G. RAWFORD, no address.
V. S. RUH, no address.
DANIEL HAYES, Norwood, Mass.

Dubuque, Ia. -- (UP) -- Firemen bolstered the charred walls of the Canfield hotel Monday, to resume their search for additional victims of the Sunday morning fire which killed 16 persons.
A check of the hotel register partly-burned and water-soaked, revealed that 11 persons still were unaccounted for.
Some of them may have been permanent residents who were away for the weekend or who strayed away during the excitement of the fire.
Red Cross workers said 86 of the guests have been accounted for as safe, but they delayed releasing their names pending a further check of the register.
Thirteen of the dead have been identified. Twenty injured were treated at hospitals.
The search for additional bodies was delayed when four floors in the center of the hotel collapsed.
Firemen were bracing the tottering walls so the search could be resumed without endangering rescue workers.
MRS. WILLIAM CANFIELD, SR., wife of the owner of the hotel, died in a hospital Monday.
She and her husband were rescued from the fire but her husband died en route to the hospital.
Spreads Swiftly.
The fire broke out at 11:30 p.m., CST, Saturday, and spread swiftly throughout the 200-room hotel.
The flames, starting in a closet near the cocktail lounge on the ground floor, shot upward to the floors above.
Panic-stricken guests trapped by the smoke and flames leaned out the windows and screamed as firemen set up ladders and rigged nets.
Fire Capt. HAROLD COSGROVE said 30 persons were rescued when they leaped into nets, and 27 were carried down ladders.
Of those who leaped, however, two were killed when they missed the nets.
Some of those who perished were burned to death and others suffocated in the smoke-filled rooms and corridors.
Many escaped by ripping and knotting bedsheets into makeshift ladders.
About 40 survivors were injured, many suffering broken bones jumping from windows.
Old Section Destroyed.
The flames destroyed the four-story section of the hotel built in 1891.
Damage to a six-story annex built in 1925 was confined mainly to the first floor, although upper story rooms were burned.
Firemen admitted there was a possibility that some of the missing had escaped and had failed to report to authorities, but they feared the worst.
The search for bodies was suspended after the state fire marshal's office declared the four-story section unsafe.
It was believed that crews would finish placing supports in time to permit renewal of the search late Monday.
One of the heroes of the disaster was Patrolman BYRNE O'BRIEN, 200-pound army veteran who returned recently from overseas.
He was credited with saving at least 20 lives.
From Roof To Ground.
Groping through the blinding smoke, he led trapped guests through a fire-hatch to the roof.
Some survivors could not see him but heard his voice and followed its sound as he shouted through the corridors to those who were trapped. Once on the roof O'BRIEN led them down fire escapes.
The flames were discovered by a hotel employe when he opened the door to a small closet in back of the cocktail lounge, which had been closed for the evening and emptied of guests a short time before.
WILLIAM CANFIELD, hotel manager, said the employe ran to him to report the fire.
CANFIELD ran for a fire extinguisher but when he returned the cocktail lounge was ablaze.
He dropped the extinguisher and ran back to the desk.
"It was terrible," he said. "I ran to the clerk at the desk in the lobby and told him to call the fire department and notify the guests that the place was on fire."
Rescues Come First.
The clerk picked up the telephone and told the fire department to "send the works."
WHen the first of nine fire engines that fought the blaze arrived at the hotel, firemen found guests waving pillow cases and screaming to attract their attention.
For almost an hour firemen were forced to devote most of their attention to rescuing the trapped instead of fighting the fire.
An unidentified man leaped from a second-story window to an outstretched net.
His head struck the edge of the net and he was killed in the fall.
An unidentified woman missed the net entirely and was killed when she struck the pavement.
Another man leaped but missed the net and fell into an open manhole. He was injured seriously.
Sees Mother, Daughter Die.
MRS. ROSEMARY MILLER saw her mother, MRS. THERESA SMITH, and her five-year-old daughter, JUDITH, standing at a window of the blazing building.
She said policemen pleaded with the little girl to jump into the net, but JUDITH clung to her grandmother and refused to jump.
MRS. SMITH was afraid to jump with the child.
"Then I saw them sort of fade back into the window. I guess they were overcome from the smoke," she said.
The bodies were recovered a few hours later.
HOWARD HOFFMAN, Sheboygan, Wis., reportedly, jumped from a sixth floor window but survived. He suffered a compound leg fracture, however, and was in critical condition.
One unidentified man descended safely to the second-floor landing of a fire escape but refused to jump when further descent was cut off by flames. He was burned to death.
Rescue Bedridden Woman.
Another man shouted from the sixth-floor landing of a fire escape that his wife was bedridden. Firemen rescued both of them.
Many of the victims, half-dressed, were found sprawled in their rooms, dead from asphyxiation. Some had tried to cover their faces with wet towels.
CANFIELD, the hotel manager, sought to rescue his parents, but could not pry open the door to their room.
Firemen smashed it in and found the father, WILLIAM CANFIELD, SR., 74, unconscious. He died en route to a hospital.
CANFIELD'S mother was sitting in a puddle of water hysterically splashing it on her body, which was burned severely.
She was in critical condition. CANFIELD was burned while trying to open the door.
State Fire Marshal JOHN STROHM at Des Moines, terming it the worst hotel fire in the state's history, sent two investigators here to find the cause.
Of the dead, 11 were trapped in the old section of the hotel. The new section was fireproof.
Fire Precaution Fails.
Dubuque, Ia. -- (U.P.) -- STANLEY E. SCHIBSKY, Minneapolis wrote the management of the Canfield hotel two weeks ago for a reservation and asked for a second-floor room because he feared being trapped in a fire.
He wrote that he had been in hotel fires before, and that he believed a room on the second floor was safer.
Accordingly, he was given a second-floor room, and was occupying it when the Canfield hotel fire broke out.
He died in the flames.

Waterloo Daily Courier Iowa 1946-06-10


Canfield Hotel Fire

I am just beginning to research the Canfield Family. William Canfield, the owner of the hotel, is my grandfather's brother. My grandfather is Walter Canfield, born September 18, 1879. I would greatly appreciate any information you can give me! Thanks!

My uncle, rest his soul, was

My uncle, rest his soul, was a firefighter at the scene of this fire and commented that it was the worst fire he ever fought. Seeing a child perish in this fire weighed heavy on him. Years have passed since this day and my beloved uncle is no longer with us but I can still recall conversations about this fire. Thank you so much for the story on it. Enjoyable reading.

I was told this story by my

I was told this story by my father William G. Canfield III. It was his grandparents that owned the hotel. This was a lot more informative than the story my father told me. Thanks for posting this!

Thanks for the Memory

I truly appreciate a glimpse into my paternal grandfather Harold Cosgrove's life.

you are very welcome

thank you so much for your appreciative comment..
Notes like yours let me know my research is really appreciated
Thank you very much

Canfield Hotel Fire

Thank you for the well-researched article. The hotel was built by my great-grandfather and this has given me more information than I've ever been able to obtain before. Thank you so much!