Jefferson City, MO Capitol Building Burns, Feb 1911

Capital Building Fire Capitol Building Capitol Building

FLAMES DESTROY MISSOURI CAPITOL.

LIGHTNING STRIKES IT IN A THUNDERSTORM IN JEFFERSON CITY -- LEGISLATORS FIGHT BLAZE.

HELP FROM OTHER TOWNS.

PRISONERS ARE RELEASED FROM STATE PENITENTIARY, ENROLLED AS FIRE FIGHTERS FOR THE TIME BEING.

Special to The New York Times.
Jefferson City, Mo., Feb. 5. -- In a thunderstorm which broke over this place lightning struck the State Capitol, just before 8 o'clock to-night, setting it on fire. The flames spread throughout the structure rapidly, and within a short time it was in ruins.
The Capitol was a frame structure and for years efforts had been made to have it replaced by a modern fireproof building of stone and steel. Motions to have this done were always defeated, and as a result the Legislature to-night is homeless.
Appeals have been sent out to near-by towns for assistance in fighting the fire, which is still burning, and word was received from Sedalia that a special train is being made up to bring fire apparatus and men to this city. From other towns similar word is expected as soon as arrangements can be made in these places for the transportation of men and vehicles.
The members of the Legislature, who were in the city, rushed to the grounds about the old building when it was discovered that it had caught fire.
They threw off their coats and hats and joined the firemen trying to check the flames, which were rapidly eating through the old Capitol. From the penitentiary near by prisoners were liberated to become firemen for the time being, and men in prison uniform mingled with the lawmakers and the regular fire fighting force, assisting in carrying lines of hose and in removing valuable documents and historic relics from the doomed building.
The fire ran swiftly all over the old structure, and presently long tongues of flame were mounting skyward from the roof, half concealed now and then by the bursts of heavy smoke which were carried upward. Sparks flew in all directions, although the heavy rainfall which accompanied the electrical display fortunately was not accompanied by a wind. Had there been breeze enough to scatter embers and sparks for any distance, it is likely that the fire would have been widespread, as the entire fire fighting force of the city was unable to check the flames in the Capitol alone.
In the penitentiary there was great excitement, but, assured that they were in no danger themselves, the prisoners pleaded to be allowed to go out and assist in the fire fighting. It was at their own request that the trusties were allowed to leave the prison grounds and other prisoners were just as anxious to assist.
The storm swept over the city with great rapidity and before the fire had completed its work there was a bright sky overhead and the air slowly was recovering the chill of late Winter, which made the electrical display so unseasonable.
The loss to the building alone is estimated at $1,000,000. The State was unable to induce any company to insure either the building or its contents. Records of great value were burned. The original land grants which it would have been impossible to replace, were saved through the efforts of CORNELIUS ROACH, Secretary of State, attaches of his office, and a host of volunteers.
Other records, including those pertaining to the corporations of the State, are in vaults that may or may not be fireproof. In the vault in the Treasurer's office when the roof crashed in was $20,000 in cash, $500,000 in school bonds, and $100,000 in legislative scrip.
The destruction of the building will force the Legislature now in session, to seek temporary quarters, probably in the Court House and Opera House here. Gov. HADLEY and United States Seanator-elect REED helped to fight the fire.

The New York Times New York 1911-02-06