Fire Watch

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During the very brief era that ore and lumber made Hurley one of the larger towns in Wisconsin, its founder and booster John H. Burton built there the finest hotel in the state. “The Hotel With a Thousand Windows” cost $100,000 to build in 1886. The owner advertised the usual Victorian statistics: 100 rooms, a 216-foot promenade veranda, a basement bowling alley, walnut wainscoting, a “reading room with washroom attached.”

The traditional peril of all frame hotels overtook the Bardon—as it was then called—on May 19, 1894, when fire broke out on the fourth floor. As this picture of the event indicates, the Hurley citizenry conducted rescue operations with admirable phlegm, but nobody was more self-possessed that day than young Arnold Alexander, the photographer.

At the first alarm, Arnold, the teenaged son of the proprietor, fetched his camera and set it up on the wooden sidewalk. Aided by his brother Lake, he took this crisp view of the blaze (that’s Lake providing some perspective at the lower right).

The fire was brought under control, and the hotel saved for a perhaps sadder fate. As industry dried up in Hurley, the fine old building was partitioned into a flophouse.

Finally, the fire returned to finish the job; the hotel burned to the ground on February 2, 1947.

Arnold kept up his photography for the rest of his life, but never again found so spectacular a subject as the Bardon Hotel fire.

His relative Frances Roberts sent us the picture.

We continue to ask our readers to send unusual and previously unpublished old photographs to Carla Davidson at American Heritage Publishing Co., 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020. Please send a copy of any irreplaceable material, and do not mail glass negatives. AMERICAN HERITAGE will pay $50.00 for each one that is run.