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 1912) 

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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