Fire Island, NY Point O' Woods Hotel Fire, Sept 1909


The Gerard House Catches Fire While Guests Are at Supper.

POINT O' WOODS, FIRE ISLAND, N. Y., Sept. 13.---People living along the Great South Bay came out to-night to watch through the twilight a great blaze which destroyed the Gerard House, the best-known and oldest hotel on the island, and for half an hour, long enough to burn the hotel to ashes, it lighted up the sky.

All the guests escaped, though there were no firemen or fire apparatus with which to fight the fire. The building, which was built of wood, was valued at $15,000. Late to-night the cottagers and the life-saving crew which is stationed near by were fighting to keep the fire, which ran through the underbrush on sedge and live oak, from the 150-odd cottages scattered about.

The number of guests in the hotel---some 300 at the height of the season---had dwindled to fifty-odd. All, at 6:15 P.M., were dining in the big dining room, when there came screams from the laundry in the rear, and then cries of "Fire!" and smoke.

All the diners stampeded for the door headlong, and, employes[sic] rushed to the laundry, only to be instantly beaten back by a burst of fire. Others tried to enter at the rear, the ocean side, but in five minutes, the flames were running over the whole wall.

Manager Smith W. Conklin sent a man running for Capt. Charles Baker of the Life Saving Corps, two squares away. He with his twelve men and all the buckets they could lay hands on, had already started for the blaze.

By this time the flames were bursting from every window and door, and the from every window and door, and the cottagers, some of 120 of them, had hur-from every window and door, and the cottagers, some 120 of them, had hurried to the blazing structure bringing pails, buckets, and dippers, as they realized that the underbrush and live oak all about could lead the fire to any of the 150 cottages.

Even the women and children took a hand, and through Capt. Baker and the guests and help of the Bay View House, a quarter of a mile away, formed a double bucket line from the Great South Bay, a couple of hundred yards off, they could do little so intense was the heat. One of the bungalows caught fire, and half of it was destroyed, the brush catching, the fire traveled southward in the underbrush toward the cottages.

At the end of thirty-five minutes only ashes remained of the hotel. The guests, who had lost everything but the clothes they had on, obtained quarters at the Bay View House. An overheated stove in the laundry where ironing was going on, started the fire.

The New York Times, New York, NY 14 Sept 1909