News: Neillsville, Wis. - O’Neill Hotel Destroyed (27 Mar 1912)
Contact: Ann Stevens
Surnames: Wright, Light, Bast, Chapman,
Good, Albright, Hauge, Post, Sellers
----Source: Neillsville Times (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) April 4, 1912
O’Neill Hotel Destroyed (27 Mar
Early last Thursday morning the
O’Neill hotel, one of the landmarks of this city was totally
destroyed by fire. The hotel has not been open this winter;
but the parlor and a bedroom adjoining had been occupied by Mr. and
Mrs. John Wright. About 2:30 o’clock Thursday morning,
Mrs. Wright was awakened and discovered that the hotel was on
fire. Mr. Wright was not at home, having gone to Stevens
Point Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Wright ran out on the front
porch and gave the alarm, which was first responded to by Jack
Light, who is the night clerk at the Merchants, Light ran to
ring the fire bell, and as he left, Edwin Bast, who was going to
work, came and assisted Mrs. Wright in getting out her two children
and a few personal effects. The fire company responded to the
alarm in a few minutes, but by the time they arrived the upper
story was a mass of flames. The stairways were on fire, and there
was absolutely no chance to save the building. An immense
amount of water was poured into the building, but it was of no
avail and the old O’Neill house now stands a mass of
blackened and torn ruins.
The origin of the fire is not known, but
there is a strong tendency to the theory of incendiarism. An
examination was held before Justice Chapman Thursday morning to
attempt to determine the origin, and the testimony of the firemen
showed that when they arrived the entire third floor seemed to have
been burning for some time, and that the black smoke and odor would
indicate that kerosene had been freely used. Mrs. Wright
testified that she was awakened by one of her children and that
immediately after came two sounds as though of falling
timbers. She stepped into the hall and gave the alarm.
Deputy State Fire Marshall Good of Madison arrived Friday and
investigated the fire and also took the testimony of Mrs. Wright,
Fire Chief Harry Albright and Fire Warden Alfred Hauge. Just
what will come of the investigation cannot be determined, for the
destruction of the building was so complete that there cannot be
any trace of incendiarism, if such was the origin.
The property was mortgaged to more than its full value, but there was but $3,000 in insurance. Mr. Post of Fond du Lac holds a first mortgage for $6,300 against the property and E.W. Sellers holds a second mortgage for about $5,000. The value of the lots upon which the hotel stood and the insurance will just about clear the first mortgage. The O’Neill has gone through a varied career in the past few years, and now that it is gone, there is a possibility that that important corner will be re-built with a modern store building, as it is understood that offers for the lots have already been made.
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