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Ready to roll from Springfield Fire Headquarters on North Fountain Avenue

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



Lagonda House, Springfield, Ohio

A general alarm fire in downtown Springfield destroyed the Lagonda House, one of the city's premier hotels, on Oct. 29, 1895.

The midnight fire apparently started in the hotel wing containing the kitchen and laundry, according to the Springfield Republic-Times newspaper.

There were a few close calls among the guests and firemen but no serious injuries.

News of the fire was widely reported as Springfield was a major industrial city.

The New York Times said:

In a short time the fire had spread to every part of the hotel, and it was with great difficulty that the guests were aroused. There were numerous thrilling escapes. Mrs. Connell and Mrs. Thompson, wife and daughter of the proprietor, escaped by means of a rear stairway just as the ladder fell. ... Another inmate was saved by coming down a Fire Departrment ladder which was hoisted to his window. ... He came down in his night clothes.

Adequate water pressure and calm winds allowed Fire Chief George Follrath and his firefighters to contain the flames and avoid a conflagartion.

Nonetheless, Follrath requested assistance from the Dayton Fire Department. Newspaper reports said the Dayton fire crew made the 24-mile run between cities - by special train - in under 30 minutes.

Desk clerks discovered the flames as they changed shifts, and Box 12 was transmitted for the hotel, which was located at the northwest corner of High and Limestone streets. Someone also called the telephone exchange to report the fire.

The Lagona House had been the site of at least two other fires - and some people considered the 26-year-old hotel a tinder box.

The Ohio Memory web site - - reports:

The Lagonda House was a hotel built in 1869 by the Champion City Hotel Company, which was owned by a group of prominent local citizens ... The lot on which it sat was originally known as Mason Corner, purchased by General Samson Mason from James Lowry in 1822. ... It was officially opened on September 30, 1869 and was managed by L. W. Cooke & Sons. The hotel contained a billiard room, dining room, and bathrooms, as well as a cigar store and a Western Union telegraph office.

The web site, in its discussion of the Lagonda House, told of the prosperity of the 1800s:

The mid-nineteenth century was a time of great expansion for the city of Springfield. In 1868, when building on the Lagonda House was started, 250 new buildings were constructed in the city at a total cost of about $900,000. In 1869, when the Lagonda House was finished, 188 new buildings went up at a cost of over $582,000.

Another major hotel fire broke out at the Arcade Hotel on Feb. 19, 1895, according to Roberds' book. The Arcade Hotel was located at Fountain and Washington streets.

New York Times - Oct. 31, 1895


Lagonda Hotel Destroyed and Many Interests Suffered
A Loss of About $170,000, Only Partly Insured.

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio, Oct. 30. - Springfield was visited at midnight by one of the most disastrous fires in its history.

The Lagonda Hotel Building was entirely consumed as the result. The building occupied half of the principal business block of the city, the hotel fronting on High and Limestone Streets.

The blaze originated in the kitchen of the hotel about 12 o clock and burned about four hours. It spread rapidly in spite of the Fire Department's efforts, and the Dayton Fire Department was called on for assistance.

In a short time the fire had spread to every part of the hotel, and it was with great difficulty that the guests were aroused. There were numerous thrilling escapes. ... wife and daughter of the proprietor, escaped from an upper floor by means of a rear stairway just as the latter fell. They had endeavored to save some personal property. Another inmate was saved by coming down Fire Department ladder. which was hoisted to his window, several stories. He came down in his night clothes. His name could not be learned. Samuel Dodge, a Little Miami Railway employee, and Trainmaster Murphy of the Big Four escaped at the last minute through smoke and flames, and were singed considerably.

After a half hour s battle with the fire fiend, the Springfield Fire Department found that the blaze was getting the best of it, and it telephoned to Dayton and Columbus for assistance. Three hose wagons, 3,000 feet of hose, and twenty firemen were sent from Dayton on a special Big Four train, consisting of an engine, two flat cars, and ... The run of twenty-four miles was made in twenty-two and a half minutes. The Dayton Fire Department aided greatly in preventing the half of the block other than that occupied by the hotel property from being destroyed. The Lagonda Hotel Building was totally destroyed, being gutted from top to bottom. The roof fell in.

The building was a five-story structure, and was the finest hostelry in the city. It was owned by John W. Bookwalter of New-York City, once a citizen of Springfield and a candidate for Governor against ex Gov. Foster when the latter first ran for the office. The loss of the building and contents is estimated at $100,000, partially insured. It was the headquarters of the late Democratic State Convention.

On the street fronts were storerooms which some of the principal stores in the city. The Western Union and Postal Telegraph Companies' offic were situated there and were totally burned out, thus cutting off telegraphic communication and doing about $10,000 damage.

Other losses are: Siegthaler, drug store, stock totally destroyed, $10,000; Marceleict, jewelry store, $20,000; H. T. Harris, cigar store, $2,500; London Clothing Store, $15,000; Heison's furnishings store, $2,500; Craig, store, $2,500. All of the stores carried some insurance, but not enough to cover all the losses.