Spokane, WA Fire, Jan 1898


Fearful Holocaust in Spokane Falls.

The List of Victims Believed to Have Reached the Appalling Number of Fifty.

SPOKANE, Wash., Jan. 25. – A fire, in which the loss will run up to $400,000 worth of property and at the very least five lives were lost, took place last night.

The Great Eastern block, at the corner of Post street and Riverside avenue, six stories in height and constructed of brick, caught fire about 11:45 p. m. and in three hours were totally demolished.

All of the upper two floors and part of the third floor were used for lodging purposes and at least 150 people were asleep in the building when the fire started. While most of them escaped with only their clothes, it is thought a number perished.

What makes the horror greater is that no one knows who is still imprisoned. As the people were removed from the burning structure or escaped themselves, they sought places of safety. The last out of the upper floors reports forms lying in the hall and women shrieking in the flames. The origin of the fire is supposed to have been in the engine room. Mrs. Stark Oliver, wife of Dr. Stark Oliver, who lived on the second floor, says she heard an explosion shortly before the flames appeared. The boiler of the engine may have exploded and caused the fire to start. There is another theory and that is an explosion among chemicals in the basement store of the photographic supply of John W. Graham & Co.

The Great Eastern block was built in 1890 at a cost of $250,000, and was owned by Lewis Levinki, of San Francisco, who carried but $50,000 worth of insurance. On the ground floor of the structure was the establishments of the John W. Graham Paper company, stationary supplies, and Skerritt & Donnelly, boots and shoes. Both are total losses. Graham carried a stock worth $60,000, 70 per cent covered by insurance. The firm Skerritt & Donnelly had a stock of $75,000, of which $20,000 was covered by insurance. In the offices above there were big losses on law libraries and fixtures, besides probably still larger losses on furniture and household goods.

The fire was a singularly hot one and the fire department was long in getting it under control. Even then the flames rose hundreds of feet in the air as long as two hours after its start. All the hose in the department was brought into use and the stores near by were called upon for all their stocks. Because of the net work of wires surrounding the building it was with the utmost difficulty that the ladders were elevated. While they were going up the people were at the windows, flames and smoke bursting out about them, shrieking. Crowds of people on the streets below shrieked in sympathy with them. MRS. H. H. G. DAVIS, of Nebraska City, Neb., fell or jumped from a fifth story window to the cement pavement below. She died at the Sacred Heart hospital two hours later. A thrilling rescue was that of Robert Masson, his wife and their two-year-old son from the fifth floor on the Post street side.
From a fire escape on the fourth floor, seven feet to one side form their window, firemen threw them a rope, which Masson made fast to his bed and came down by hand over hand, carrying his boy, Mrs. Masson following. As she hung suspended, far above the ground, the crowd watched with breathless interest. When she was grasped by a fireman, a shout for joy went up.

The names of those known to be lost are:
ROSE WILSON, aged 18.
ROSE SMITH, an invalid, aged 20.
Other bodies are supposed to be in the building, which is too hot yet to enter.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel, Fort Wayne, IN 25 Jan 1898