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New York, NY Plaza Hotel Fire, Jan 1902

PLAZA SUITE IN FLAMES Excitement, but No Panic in the Big Hotel—

Fire-Proof Construction and the Work of Firemen Prevent Much Destruction.

Patrons of the Plaza Hotel had a lively quarter of an hour, starting at 3:20 o'clock P. M. yesterday, when a fire, which suddenly assumed serious proportions, was discovered on the seventh floor in a suite facing Central Park, which is occupied by Ernest Staples and his family. Mr. Staples was conversing with a friend in his room when he saw the smoke, and at once notified Clerk Herbert Hodgdon, who sounded an alarm.

As a pungent blue smoke filled the upper halls the firemen rushed upstairs dragging their hose, and were met on each landing by frightened guests drawn from their rooms by the noise. There was no panic, however, for the elevators kept running continuously, and the persons upstairs, of whom there were about 300, mostly women, were all carried down without difficulty, and when they reached the office they were assured that there was little danger.

The room where the fire started was filled with light furniture and inflammable draperies, and was soon in flames.

They poured from it into the hall, licked up the woodwork and doors and jambs for a distance of 50 feet along the corridor, and the deluge of water at first seemed only to increase their fury. Hose was also dragged up the facade, and additional streams were turned into the Staples suite. The fire subsided suddenly, and then it was realized how well the construction of the hotel had stood the test. The fire had worked no wholesale destruction, even in the other rooms of the suite, though that in which it started was completely burned out. There were about three Inches of water on the seventh floor, and the firemen, after the last spark had disappeared, ripped out the undamaged woodwork for a considerable distance along the hall, and also pulled out the plaster of Mr. Staples's walls and chopped up the flooring in places, to make sure that no lurking embers would cause another scare at a later hour.

The fire caused great excitement In the street, for an enormous crowd quickly gathered, and the windows of the Hotels Savoy and Netherland, across the square, were filled with people. The street car line in Fifty-ninth Street was blocked in both directions, the passengers generally alighting to swell the throng of spectators.

While Acting Chief of Battalion Edward F. Ryan was driving out of his quarters at Lexington Avenue and Fiftieth Street to go to the fire, his horse bolted toward Second Avenue. Chief Ryan tried to swing the animal around, but he made too short a turn, and was thrown upon his head, receiving a fracture of the skull. His assistant picked him up and drove him to the residence of Dr. Ramsdells, the Fire Department Surgeon, who dressed his injuries, after which he was driven to his home at 33G East Fifty-fifth Street. Internal injuries were discovered later, and his condition is serious.

The damage at the hotel is estimated at $20,000, half by water and half by the fire, the cause of which is unknown.

The New York Times, New York, NY 18 Jan 1902

article | by Dr. Radut