Ithaca, NY Cornell University Chapter House Fire, Dec 1906

Before the Fire Ithaca NY Cornell Univ Fire 1907.jpg




Ithaca, N. Y., Dec. 7. -- Seven persons met death this morning in the worst disaster that ever befell Cornell university. Three of the victims were volunteer firemen and four were students. The firemen were all prominent in this city.
They were:
A. S. ROBINSON, attorney.
JOHN RUMSEY, hardware merchant.
ESTY LANDON, salesman.
The students were:
O. L. SCHMAUCH of Hanover, Pa.
G. W. GRELLE of South Orange, N. J.
W. F. NICHOLS of Chicago.
J. M. M'CUTCHEON of Pittsburg.
The cause of the fire is unknown. The money loss is nearly $200,000. The burned building was built by Jennie McGraw Fiske, the benefactress of Cornell, whose will was contested by her husband, Prof. Willard Fiske. Mrs. Fiske died abroad before the building was completed. It was a beautiful structure of sandstone, handsomely decorated and finished within with marble and mahogany. The walls, which were of rubble masonry, collapsed under the flames and high wind, leaving only a heap of ruins.
When the fire department arrived the screams of two men appearing in the windows of the southwest tower, over the main entrance, were heard. For some reason the men hesitated to jump and before they could be reached the tower collapsed and the men were buried beneath the ruins.
The chapter house burned rapidly and the walls cracked apart in all directions. The fire was so hot that the firemen were driven from the southeast side of the building. The injured taken out of the building were in a pitiable condition. They were bleeding from cuts caused by falling bricks and timbers and blackened by smoke. Several of them were badly burned. Many students at first supposed to be missing are being cared for at other fraternity houses.
The fire started at 8:30 in the kitchen in the basement of the chapter house. The flames had gained considerable headway before the student occupants were awakened. As soon as the flames burned in to the basement hall and stairway the halls throughout the house became filled with dense smoke.
In the rooms on the upper floor were twenty-seven students. It was not possible for them to escape by way of the halls and all went to the windows. As the fire approached the rear of the building the students were forced to jump and several were seriously injured in this way. No alarm was turned in until half an hour after the fire had been discovered, and it was half an hour later before the volunteer fire department could get to work. It was a long climb from the lower part of the city to the college grounds and by the time the firemen arrived the interior of the building was almost burned out. They could do nothing but prevent adjoining buildings from taking fire.
RUMSEY, LANDON and ROBERTSON, the Ithaca volunteer firemen, had managed to train a hose on the north side of the house when the wall tottered. There was a cry of alarm and several men standing near managed to get out of the way, but the three men named were caught under the mass of debris and killed.
President Schurman of Cornell university, in a statement given out this afternoon, said:
"Most of the members of the Chi Psi fraternity slept in the third story of the burned building and all except two managed to get out of the building alive. The two who are missing, and who it is assumed have perished in the flames, are W. H. NICHOLS of Chicago and F. W. GRELLE of South Orange, N. J. Although MR. SCHMAUCK of Hanover, Pa., got out of the building, he went back for his roommate, MR. NICHOLS, and in this attempt to rescue his comrade he was so seriously injured that he died later in the infirmary."
"Two other students were seriously injured, namely, J. M. McCUTCHEON of Pittsburg and C. J. POPE of East Orange, N. J. Three other students were slightly injured. They are R. R. POWERS of Atlanta, W. W. GOETZ of Milwaukee and H. M. CURRY, JR., of Pittsburg."
"Beside the death and injury of the above mentioned students, three members of the fire department of the city of Ithaca, namely, A. S. ROBERTSON, JOHN RUMSEY and E. J. LANDON, were instantly killed by the falling of the north wall of the burning building."
"The origin of the fire is unknown."

The Fresno Morning Republican California 1906-12-08