Philadelphia, PA Roof Collapses During Blizzard, Dec 1909


Accumulation of Snow Tears Covering From Walls

Carrying a companion who had fainted from fright when the roof of the building, 3862-66 Lancaster avenue, collapsed under the weight of accumulated snow above the heads of herself and 12 other young women working in the Fairmont Laundry, Bessie Walker, of 3914 Walker street, stumbled down a wooden stairway and out into the street.

There a passerby relieved her of her insensible burden, while all the others stood near, frightened but unharmed. All had had a remarkable escape, for the room in which they had been working when the crash came was already filled with splintered joists and great pieces of debris.

Two men who were in the feed loft of a grain and feed firm occupying the rest of the building only escaped from being crushed by the falling debris by leaping from a window into the street. One of them, James Burns, sprained an ankle. The upper part of the building was completely wrecked and several thousand dollars worth of damage was done.

Girl Faints While Escaping
It was shortly after 9 o’clock yesterday morning that a rumble, that each moment grew greater, frightened the occupants of the building. The walls swayed and the ripping of the roof overhead as it sagged under the tons of snow heaped upon it caused Agnes McCarthy, forewoman of the laundry, to cry out, “run to the street, girls, the roof is falling!”

All the young women but one showed remarkable self-control and this probably saved them from death or injury. They hurried down a stairway to the street amid a shower of plaster from overhead. Mabel Thomas alone was so badly frightened that she screamed and fell to the floor in a faint. Then it was that Miss Walker, displayed her remarkable presence of mind. She picked the unconscious girl up in her arms and carried her downstairs, a cloud of dust and mortar filling her eyes and throat, choking and half blinding her. When she reached the street safely and was relieved of her burden she required medical attention herself.

The police of the Thirty-ninth and Lancaster avenue station were soon on the scene and made a thorough search of the ruined building to assure themselves that no one was pinned under the falling debris. The lower part of the building was filled with tons of snow and a force of workmen had to remove it before the task of clearing away the wreckage could be begun.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 28 Dec 1909