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Westfield, MA Van Deusen Inn Fire, Jan 1936

Eight Lives Lost As Fire Destroys New England Inn

Six Burned To Death And Two More Persons Are Missing


Cause Of Fire Undetermined--Seven Others Are Seriously Injured


(International News Service)

WESTFIELD, Mass, Jan. 6--Six persons were burned to death, two more were missing, and seven seriously burned and injured today when fire of undetermined origin destroyed Van Deusen Inn, a 120-year old landmark in the heart of the city.

While police, firemen and volunteers combed the ruins of the four-story brick and wooden structure for other bodies, Mayor Raymond E. Cowing announced he will order an immediate investigation of the $70,000 fire.

The known dead:

Henry Van Deusen, 17, son of the proprietor
George Alexander, 72, the boy's grandfather
Miss Nathalie Jones, 64, a school teacher
Mrs. Minnie Janes, 60, widow of Dr. George Janes

The missing, two of whose bodies were recovered but remained unidentified:
Gilbo Berardino
Mrs. Mary Chamberlain
Miss Grace M. Fickett, a school teacher
Miss Bessie J. Malone, a clerk at the Westfield Savings bank.

The majority of the guests had retired when flames shot out of the basement. The fire spread with such rapidity the occupants were trapped in their rooms. Police, firemen and many men residents made daring rescues over ladders.

Had Scant Chance
The majority of those, who lost their lives, occupied rooms in the rear of the building and had little chance of escape.

Spencer Van Deusen, 42, proprietor of the inn, was in a critical condition at Noble hospital from burns received while attempting to rescue members of his family and a guest. His name was on the danger list.

Others burned:
Mrs. Grace Van Deusen, 40, wife of the proprietor; her daughter, Amoret, 14; Miss Flora Tryon, 76; Miss Mary Sterns, 72; Frank DeCarlo, 19; Mrs. Orsina Atwill, 41. All were at Noble hospital.

State Fire Marshal Stephen J. Garrity despatched[sic] investigators to the scene to launch a second probe into the worst fire in the city's history.

The blaze shot up through the building from the basement with such rapidity that when firemen arrived from surroundings cities and towns in answer to a general alarm, guests at the inn were hanging from windows and their screams could be heard above the roar of the flames. State troopers and a detachment of Red Cross workers was summoned.

Firemen were hurled back at times as they attempted to enter windows and effect rescues. They succeeded in carrying many guests over ladders to safety.

New Castle News, New Castle, PA 6 Jan 1936

article | by Dr. Radut