Milwaukee, WI Plankinton House Hotel Fire, Dec 1883

Plankinton House, Milwaukee, WI 1883



MILWAUKEE, Wis., Dec. 17.---At 6 o'clock this evening, just a moment before the supper hour, a fire was discovered in the dry-room at the Plankinton House, and as soon as the alarm was given the wildest excitement prevailed. The fact that the Newhall House was burned less than a year ago, (Jan. 10 last,) by which fire 100 people were roasted to death, tended to make the people more panicky, and for the time being Milwaukeeans supposed pretty much the same kind of a tragedy was about to be enacted. There were between 300 and 400 guests in the house, the only hotel of any pretense in the town at present.

As soon as the news spread that the hotel was in flames, the guests became panic-stricken and began leaving the house in all possible haste. People rolled down the stairways and out into the street in whatever they happened to have on, and as many ladies were making their toilets for supper numbers left the building in very slight attire. The fire originated in the drying-room, and such headway was gained before it was discovered that the entire basement was filled with suffocating smoke as soon as the doors of this department were broken open. Seven girls were prostrated and were carried out as if dead. Mary Quinlan, who barely escaped from the Newhall House, was seriously injured, perhaps fatally. The volumes of smoke overpowered the firemen, and five were suffocated and had to be carried out. All of them revived after an hour or so.

The fire got into the walls and made rapid progress upward. The tile flooring in the diningroom had to be torn up, and everything in the handsome apartment was demolished before the flames were extinguished. The fire raged so fiercely that it is generally believed that the basement was filled with gas from broken pipes. The damage will amount to between $12,000 and $15,000. The most of this is from water. The fire was confined to a very small space outside of the dining-room, or the damage would have been very great. The hotel's escape from destruction was very narrow.

When the news spread over the town that the elegant hotel was on fire thousands of people rushed to the scene, fully expecting to see a re-enactment of the frightful Newhall calamity. There was a snow-storm in progress at the time and the scene was peculiarly picturesque. Twenty-five or 30 New-York people were in the hotel at the time of the fire.

The New York Times, New York, NY 18 Dec 1883