St Albans, VT Boarding House Fire, Sept 1898


Alarm of Fire Sends Sixty Persons Flying to the Street in Their Night Clothing.


One Woman Manages to Save a Bath Sponge and Another a Tumbler and Four Tooth Brushes---Parrot and Poodle Rescued.

Tenants in the boarding house of Mrs. Ella De Forest Williams, known as the St. Albans, at 5 and 7 East Thirty-first Street, were routed out of their beds shortly before 2 o'clock yesterday morning by a fire which started in the basement of No. 7.

Mrs. Williams occupies a room in the basement, and she was aroused from her sleep by the crackling of flames and the smell of smoke. She hurriedly left her bed and looking out into the hallway saw a volume of smoke and a sheet of flame issuing from the linen closet on the same floor.

Dressed only in her night clothing and screaming "Fire!" she ran through the hallway and out into the street, where her cries were heard by a policeman, who turned in an alarm at the nearest fire box. Several of the servants, who also slept in the basement floor, were awakened by their mistress's cries and added their screams to hers as they ran through the halls alarming the boarders.

In a twinkling the establishment was in an uproar, and when the firemen had reached the scene they found the entire household of sixty persons shivering in their nightclothing on the sidewalk in front of the building.

Mrs. Williams asked one of the firemen to go into the house and get some clothing for the women to put on. He did so, and after rummaging about in the vacated rooms, brought down a supply of wearing apparel, which was distributed among the frightened women. One of the latter, in her flight for safety, had brought with her a large bath sponge, the first thing she had laid her hands on, while another saved a tumbler and four toothbrushes.

Mrs. Williams had scarcely composed herself after the first excitement when she bethought herself of her parrot and poodle, and she begged a policeman to go into the flames, if need be, and secure them for her. One of the bluecoats volunteered his services, and soon emerged with the cage containing the parrot in one hand and the poodle under his arm. The parrot amused the onlookers by calling "Extra! Police! Fire!" with all its might.

It took the firemen but a short time to put out the flames, which were confined wholly to the basement floor and the back parlor, and caused damage estimated at $500. When the excitement was over, the tenants returned to their apartments.

The New York Times, New York, NY 12 Sept 1898