Fire & Ice
Fourth Street South between Hennepin and Nicollet was a mass of ice on February 7, 1902 after a fire destroyed the Vendome Hotel. The alarm was sounded at 1:30 am.
There were 120 guests at the Vendome at the time of the fire, including Mr. and Mrs. George D. Dayton (founder of Dayton’s Department Store in 1903). Most guests exited by fire escapes, but fourth floor guests had to be rescued by fire truck extension ladders. At first, it was reported that no lives were lost, however, the body of one hotel guest was found in the ruins of the hotel several days later.
The Vendome Hotel was rebuilt—complete with fire sprinklers—and served Minneapolis guests for many decades. The building was demolished in 1959 to make way for the Gateway Center Renewal Project. During demolition, the Vendome caught fire again when a workman’s torch ignited combustible liquid. All of the work crew escaped the three-alarm blaze.
Today, Xcel Energy stands on the site where the Vendome Hotel was located. Minneapolis Central Library is just across the street.
Photos are from the Bromley Photo Collection. View more History of Minneapolis Historic Photos.
Thanksgiving Day Fire Aftermath, November 25-26, 1982, Part II
Thanksgiving Day Fire Aftermath, November 25-26, 1982, Part I
Thanksgiving Day Fire, November 25-26, 1982, Part I
These images are from the Special Collections slide collection. On November 25, 1982 two juveniles started a fire with an acetylene torch in the partial demolished Donaldson’s department store building in downtown Minneapolis. The fire quickly got out of control and spread to the nearby Northwestern National Bank Building. The IDS Center and J.C. Penney were also attached to the old Donaldson’s building by skyway but firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading.
The Northwestern Bank building (built in 1930) and Donaldson’s were totally destroyed. Donaldson’s had already moved to the nearby City Center but the Northwestern National Bank building had to be imploded and was replaced by the Caesar Pelli-designed Norwest Center (now the Wells Fargo Center) in 1988.
At the peak of the fire 85% of the Minneapolis Fire Department was fighting it and damages were estimated at $220-240 million in 2013 dollars, about same amount for all the previous 15-20 years of damages in the city.
The Weatherball, which was atop the Northwestern Bank Building, was salvaged and stored at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds before it was scrapped in 2000.
The old Donaldson’s block was replaced by Gaviidae shopping center, also designed by Caesar Pelli.
Fire at Majestic Hotel, March 16, 1949
The fire was caused by an electrical short and also destroyed adjoining buildings like the Bridgeman Ice Cream Store. The positive outcome of the fire was a clearer view of the Hennepin Avenue side of Block E. The fire caused a loss of $483,500.14 or $4,749,712 in 2013 dollars.
Fire at Storkland, March 14, 1950
Storkland was located at 2600 Hennepin Avenue. Storkland specialized in children’s furniture and toys. The cause of the fire was undetermined.
Fire at Legion Club, March 11, 1949
The Legion Club was housed in old Fire Station 26 at 722 22nd Street East. The fire occured at 2:04 A.M. and was caused by smoker’s carelessness. These photos were donated to the library by the fire department in June of 1952.
Doctors Memorial (Eitel) Hospital Fire, December 23, 1956 (Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)
At 3 a.m. on December 23rd, 1956 “a gaily decorated Christmas tree ‘exploded’ at Doctors Memorial Hospital…setting off a flash fire that left [eight] dead. The fire lasted only 10 minutes…”- Minneapolis Tribune, December 24, 1956
There would have been more casualties if it hadn’t been for heroic staff such as the nurses on duty at the nursery, Cecilia Janick and Barbara Brassil. The nurses put water soaked diapers on the faces of babies and closed the nursery door and opened the windows to keep fresh air in the room until firefighters could arrive. The nurses and firefighters carried the babies out of the hospital and across the street to an apartment and put them on a bed.
Other city hospitals were banned from having lit trees the rest of that Christmas season. They were also asked to take the trees down as soon as possible after Christmas. University Hospital had over 80 trees that season while St. Mary’s had none.
The Minneapolis fire chief later attributed the seven deaths due to asphyxiation to be caused by open fire doors within the hospital. One death was an incubator baby, 13 day old son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rassmussen, who died after he had to be moved from the incubator due to the fire.
"Other nurses on duty at the time of the fire, all of whom were praised highly by police and firemen, were: Mrs. Rose Carlson, 2304 Butler Place, relief night supervisor; Mrs. Beatrice Visger, 102 E. Nineteenth Street; Mrs. Lorraine Loomis, 6677 Olson Memorial Highway; Mrs. Helen Condry, 32 Spruce Place; and Shirley Gardner, 1365 Willow Street." - Minneapolis Star, December 24, 1956
Fleischmann Malting Fire, March 22, 1938
Fleischmann Malting’s elevator was located at 1001 Delaware Street SE in Minneapolis. On the afternoon of Tuesday March 22, 1938 an explosion in the dust bin blew the roof off and killed two men. Railroad tracks hampered the operation of the fire trucks and it took several hours to get the fire under control. The elevator caught fire quickly as it was made of wood encased in sheet metal.
The next day the firemen recovered the bodies of Lloyd Currier, age 20 of 3616 41st Avenue South and David Sherper the weighmaster at the plant of 4825 Park Avenue. The loss was reported at $150,000 or 2.4 million in today’s dollars.