Women Amid Hot Flames
Steele Scrapbook - January 23, 1886



A Most Destructive Fire at Columbus, Ohio. The Metropolitan Opera House Among the Buildings Destroyed—The List of Sufferers So Far as Reported—What They Lost.

COLUMBUS, O., Jan. 23.—Fire started this morning in the large block of buildings at Rich and High streets about 7.30, and before noon the entire block from Rich street to Walnut and from High to Wall had been gutted by the flames. The Metropolitan Opera House building was in the same block. Fire started in that portion occupied by H. C. Godman's leather store, and in a short time the entire building, including the Opera House proper, was in ruins.

There were a number of thrilling and hair-breadth escapes, and with the large force of women employed about the building it is miraculous that the death-roll does not mount up high. The shoe factory of Godman employs about 204 persons; 132 of these were girls, 60 men and 12 boys. The factory occupied three floors. The spectacle of girls going down the fire ladders and escapes with aprons over their heads was one of the thrilling episodes that caused the hearts of men to stand still. The victims were driven out of the building by the fierce flames, and had not even time to get any of their wrappings, the fire spreading so rapidly.

Katie Trott jumped through the window on the first floor and broke both her limbs. Lizzie Ault and Sadie Sauerfrey had a thrilling experience in being saved from the flames. They found the hall full of smoke and flames, through which they had to go, and fire shut off the access to the stairway, and it is reported that Miss Ault sprang through the flames, which her companion jumped through a window on the north side of the building. A woman from the upper floor made her way to the lower part of the factory building and there became prostrated from the smoke and heat.

It is supposed that the fire started in the shoe factory, but Miss Anna Wilbacker's story controverts this, she being a forewoman of the finishing department. She said: "It was about half-past eight o'clock when I heard there was fire in the building. Our room was on the first floor, just above the Gazeete Printing Company, and just in the rear of Zwerner's drug store. About the hour mentioned some of the third floor girls yelled that the building was on fire. They were just coming to work and stopped to give us the alarm, and when I went into the hall the flames were coming up the elevator shaft."

Very soon after the fire began to pour out from the fourth floor of the Opera House block, the great crowd of spectators were horrified by the sight of a woman with a babe in her arms stepping out of a fourth-story window on to the fire escape. She gesticulated wildly for a moment, then turned and disappeared within, evidently giving up in despair of saving herself in so dangerous a manner. Two officers rushed up the stairway through the blinding smoke and flames, and in a few moments were seen again with the woman and child. When the immense crowd saw that they were saved a mighty cheer went up from those who had held their breath. Another woman appeared at the fourth-story window, started to descend by the fire-escape, but being confused and blinded by the smoke, returned inside, to be seen no more.

Mr. Staley, of the firm of Staley & Morton, was overcome by his losses and fainted. When the northeast corner of the block was reached, and flames were pouring forth from the upper windows, a rapid and continued series of explosions, resembling discharge of musketry, was heard. It was supposed to have been occasioned by boxes of cannon crackers stored away in the upper portion of the building.

The Opera House building burned was formerly known as the Cotton Block, having been built during the war by men who had made the money smuggling cotton through. It is a large four-story stone building, one of the handsomest in the city. The Opera House was to have been opened by Modjeska this evening, and the seating capacity of the house had been almost entirely sold. Margaret Mather was to have followed Modjeska Thursday and Friday with big sales.

Snatched Away Under Cover Of Night From Alf

Dreadful Sentiments...