Mobile, AL Battle House Hotel Fire, Feb 1905

Battle House, at left, 1904; photo from familyoldphotos.com Battle House Rebuilt abt 1908, photo from familyoldphotos.com Battle House, 1940s photo from familyoldphotos.com

1905 - FIRE DESTROYS OLD BATTLE HOUSE

ON THE NIGHT of February 12, 1905, fire destroyed Mobile's famous old Battle House and severely damaged adjacent buildings, causing a loss estimated at $450,000.

The fire was discovered about 10:45 in the evening, by one of the hotel cooks. It had originated in several unoccupied rooms used for storage purposes over the kitchen in the north wing of the hotel, and apparently it had been burning for a considerable time, as it had gained much headway before being discovered.

Prompt alarm through the hotel annunciator system brought every one of the 147 guests out of the hotel safely, and a general alarm brought all of Mobile's firefighting apparatus to the scene. Notwithstanding the Fire Department's promptness in getting 10 leads of hose into the building, the fire, defied all efforts to subdue it. Shortly after midnight the north portion of the roof fell in, cutting off power and communications in the city's downtown section. Within another hour it was apparent that the entire building was doomed; interior floors began falling in, one after another, sending up mountainous showers of sparks and embers. Accordingly, the Fire Department turned its efforts toward protecting adjacent property. Fortunately, a heavy rain helped extinguish sparks falling on nearby rooftops.

At 2 o'clock in the morning, a crowd estimated at 10,000 persons was watching the spectacular blaze, and Mobile's police force had its hands full in managing the surging throng. Their work, under active direction of Chief E. T. Rondeau and Lieut. Davis, was highly praised. Hundreds of volunteer firefighters were stationed in nearby buildings to help prevent spread of the fire.

Although Mobile's firemen stood at their posts in a biting north wind and poured water steadily into the burning building for approximately 20 hours, it was not until the close of the following day that the fire was finally pronounced fully extinguished. Then all that remained of the renowned old hostelry was "a mass of bricks and mortar and twisted iron rods, with the front wall still standing, outlined against the sky like a sentinel, as though keeping ward and watch over the ruins of a stately old pile about which clustered recollections of half a century".

Checkup of the fire toll revealed a loss of approximately $250,000 in the hotel proper and $200,000 in other business firms, some of which were located on the lower floor of the hotel and others in adjacent buildings. The following businesses and offices on the lower floor of the hotel were destroyed: Sutton Bros., druggists; Arthur C. Hall, news dealer and tobacconist; Battle House Bar; Mobile Transfer Co.; John W. Scheible, insurance agent; W. E. Gordon, real estate broker; J. C. Hensch, merchant tailor; J. W. Dolle, shoemaker; E. C. Cahall, fraternal insurance agent; Johnston - Gaillard Coal Co.; W. M. Provost, coal and wood dealer; Fitzhugh & William, grain brokers.

Businesses and offices in adjacent buildings which were destroyed or badly damaged included: L. S. Graham Printing Co., Commercial Hotel, Rosenfield Tailoring Co., Commercial Shaving Saloon, Mobile Coal Co., Central Trades Council Hall (including all the Council's records), Bidgood Stationery Co., Charles Hess, and George Winters.

Three years later the present Battle House was erected on the site of the old building.

Steward of the Battle House at the time of the fire was A. E. Reynolds, who was the father of Albert Reynolds, now in charge of the New Account desk in the bank.

Highlights of 75 years in Mobile, Mobile, Ala.: First National Bank of Mobile, 1940, pages 63-64