Syracuse, NY Mowry Hotel Fire, Feb 1907


Over Seventy People Forced to Flee for Their Lives from Mowry at Night.


Loss Is in Excess of $200,000----Firemen Invade Blazing Structure and Rouse Sleeping Occupants, Who Escape to Street Half Clad.

Flames which broke out at 12:30 o'clock yesterday morning destroyed through the building with such rapidity that in less than two hours only the front walls were left standing.

The fire was the worst Syracuse has had in several years, endangering several adjacent buildings and imperiling the lives of over seventy occupants of the hotel at South Salina and West Onondaga streets.

While many reports were at once circulated that lives had been lost in the burning building, nearly every occupant of the hotel has been accounted for. Several were injured, including guests of the hotel, firemen and others, but none seriously. The register was burned, so that the hotel management had no accurate list of guests.

Many hazardous rescues of guests of the hotel were made before the eyes of thousands of people who quickly gathered attracted by the unusually spectacular appearance of the fire.

The entire loss, as estimated by firemen, insurance men and property holders, will exceed $200,000, partly covered by insurance. George M. Barnes, owner of the Mowery Building, put his loss at $75,000. Occupants had heavy loss and owners of adjacent structures had considerable

Sleep Heedless of Danger.

When the fire broke out there were over seventy guests and employes[sic] of the hotel asleep, and within five minutes the fire had gained such headway that it was believed that the loss of life would be large. Quick and effective work on the part of firemen and policemen, re-enforced by volunteers, many of whom risked their lives, served to prevent the apparently certain big death list.

When the first of the firemen arrived many of the guests were asleep in their rooms, and were only aroused after their doors were smashed in by the axes of firemen and the clubs of policemen. Then there was bedlam in the corridors as women and children rushed from their rooms trying to find a way to escape from the menacing death.

Struggle Through Dark Halls.

Women and children screamed while men cursed. They struggled through the halls, which were pitch dark, the lighting power having given out, and to the stairs, where some fell and were fallen over by others eager to reach a place of safety.

Some of the occupants were picked up from the floors of the halls and the stairs and assisted to the street. Others were dragged from their beds and hurried to the stairs and sent on their way to safety. One every landing there was some one to direct them.

All the time the flames were roaring through the building and clouds of smoke were filling the halls. Some of those who staggered through the corridors were overcome by the smoke and would have fallen unheeded if rescuers had not been near at hand.

In the meantime extension ladders and short ladders had been raised to the windows on the outside of the building, and firemen and others were engaged in taking men, women and children from the windows.

Every time a person was rescued a cheer went up from the crowds in the street. Many were taken down the ladders when flames were shooting out of the windows and endangering the lives of both the rescuers and their burdens.

Slides Down Rope.

One of the first to leave the burning building from the windows was Giles Clifford. He was awakened by the cry of fire, and quickly donning some of his clothing, threw out a rope fire escape from his window on the fourth floor on the Onondaga street side. In view of several thousand people he slid to the rope. He had come from next to the top floor, the street floor not being numbered.

He told Chief Engineer John P. Quigley that there were a man and a woman in the room next to his. An extension ladder was quickly run up the floor and a fireman mounted it, finding the man and woman in a window. He took the woman in his arms and started down the ladder, followed by the man. The rescued proved to be M. H. Hencle and his mother.