Fargo, ND Hotel Earle Fire, Dec 1951

Hotel Remains Front Street Hotel On Corner


Fargo, N. D. (AP) -- One person has perished and reports indicate at least two others are missing in a fire which swept the Earle hotel here this morning. Some 200 guests were driven into 13-degrees below zero weather.
The victim was identified as MRS. J. H. (HANK) SAMPSON. Her body was identified by HENRY WANGERUD, a former policeman who knew her. Her husband is a well-known wrestling matchmaker in the Fargo area.
The missing include W. S. HOOPER, 79, former Fargo postmaster and father of SIDNEY W. HOOPER, managing editor of the Fargo Forum, and MRS. KATHERINE MORTON, a retired crippled school teacher.

Fargo, N. D. (AP) -- Firemen fought unsuccessfully to enter the 135-room Earle hotel here today, three hours after fire gutted the interior and drove some 200 guests into 13-degree below weather.
One fireman was overcome and a crippled retired school teacher was missing, although it is believed she escaped.
First reports indicated only two persons were injured not seriously.
Hotel Manager A. M. MERRITT said a rough estimate would place loss of hotel fixtures at more than $125,000.
Firemen said they believed everyone had been removed from the building but they could not be certain because the flames spread so rapidly.
The missing guest, confined to her room most of the time because of her condition, was identified as MRS. KATHERINE MORTON, about 85.
Being treated for burns at St. John's hospital are MR. and MRS. MARVIN WANGERIN, Garfield, Minn.
The overcome fireman was treated in the YWCA lobby. He was not believed seriously injured.
Another guest included MR. W. S. HOOPER, about 82, retired Fargo postmaster and father of SIDNEY W. HOOPER, managing editor of the Fargo Forum.
The blaze broke out about 7 a.m. All Fargo fire units were called. Unites from Moorhead, Minn., across the river, aided when the fire seemed out of control.
Firemen were handicapped in their efforts to restrict the blaze. Water spewed from six or eight fire trucks froze almost as soon as it fell, converting the old city landmark into an ice palace.
JOHN ERICKSON, night elevator operator at the hotel, said he believed the fire started in Room 330, occupied by the missing school teacher.
"I was off duty and in the lobby when the alarm sounded," ERICKSON said. "The first thing I thought about was the woman in 330. She was crippled and I knew it."
ERICKSON said he dashed up to the third floor, but could not reach the room because of smoke and fire in the hall.
HERMAN SCHULENBERG, assistant fire chief, said the flames were shooting from four windows on the third floor, on the north side above the Waldorf tavern, when the firemen arrived.
The flames spread quickly to the top of the five-story structure. Clouds of smoke billowed out of ice-covered windows. A hail of mist, caused by the fire hoses, filtered down over a wide area.
Most of the guests were forced into the searing cold weather in pajamas and night shirts. Few escaped with more than the clothes on their backs.
Many of the guests were cared for in the Northern Pacific railroad station across the street from the hotel, on Front street in downtown Fargo.
The hotel, more familiarly known as the Old Waldorf, also housed six business firms.

The Brainerd Daily Dispatch Minnesota 1951-12-13