The First Snapp Hotel in Excelsior Springs, burned on January 7, 1912. Following is an account of that early morning:
On January 7, 1912, with temperatures the coldest they had been in many years, 60 guests of the Hotel Snapp narrowly escaped death when the hotel was destroyed by fire. The guests, attired in their night clothes, were forced to climb down ice-coated fire escapes in blasts of 14º below 0º winds.
The fire was discovered at 2:20 a.m. by Clyde Gustine, the night clerk. The cause was thought to have been from a fire which had been maintained throughout the day and evening in the lobby fireplace. The building was steamheated, and the excessive cold had brought the fireplace into use during the past few days. Wood was being burned, and it is thought to have ignited the floor. Another theory is that some trash in the basement became ignited and worked upward to the floor, finding an outlet in the fireplace through which flames could break. With the exception of the fireplace and a small section back of the counter, the floor was of tiling.
Gustine tried to spread the alarm to guests by telephone, but already the flames engulfed the back of the counter. He could only cry in loud tones. With the aid of another employee, Gustine summoned the fire department. At the time the fire department arrived, the hotel could have been saved, however, a frozen hydrant or hose delayed firemen, and soon the fire was out-of-hand.
When the fire was over, the front wall alone remained standing. The frame-work of the four-story structure fell while the firemen were working on other buildings also in danger from the fire. Realizing it was impossible to save the Snapp, firemen concentrated on saving the Royal Hotel which twice caught fire because of the strong winds. The falling bricks narrowly missed the workers and some fell on other buildings. Kansas City firefighters began to prepare to make the trip to Excelsior Springs and aid in the effort to save the hotel, but by the time they had loaded supplies, Excelsior Springs officials had determined the fire to be burning itself out.
The hotel was leased from J.W. Snapp by J.P. Dilley & Son, who had been running the hotel since June 1, 1911. The building was built by J.W. Snapp and F.E. Snapp at a cost in the neighborhood of $125,000. It was four stories in front and five in rear, containing 82 guest rooms. It was of buff brick exterior with framework inside.
Guests included Alderman John P. Titsworth of Kansas City and Mrs. Titsworth. Jason Peters, a former Kansas City newspaperman, and his wife, also escaped the fire. J.B. Cavanaugh of Chicago suffered rheumatism and was lowered by ropes from his third floor room. J.W. Gleed of Topeka and his wife and daughter made their way unharmed down a fire escape. Other Kansas Citians included M.A. O'Leary and wife; John Reynolds, wife and son; Leon Block; J.M. Green; Dr. Walter Jackson; Miss Davis; J.A. Sherman; J.W. Hackett and wife; Dr. L.F. Read; Miss Walker and F.E. Flason. Green and Dr. Jackson were in the fire which destroyed the Elms Hotel a year earlier.
One man, whose name is not known, was caught on the forth floor, refused to leave his room. A friend of his made his way to the room and called for a rope. The rope, however, did not reach completely to the ground and the man still did not want to risk the rope, so his rescuer seized a cane and belabored him about the shoulders until he slid down the rope and jumped. The rescuer followed.
Only one guest, Mrs. Winifred Anthony, 1104 Benton Boulevard, Kansas City, was listed in critical condition. Anthony and her 13-year-old daughter, Geraldine, were occupying rooms on the third floor of the building, which is four stories from the ground floor on the street side. Firemen sought her room, which was removed from a fire escape. At first she refused to leave. A rope was thrown to her room, made fast to the window, and her daughter slid down to safety. The mother followed, but when 30-ft. from the ground she lost hold of the rope. Mattresses had been stacked under the windows, but she fell into electrical lines that altered the path of her fall and she missed them. Her right wrist and right ankle were fractured and doctors believed she had received spinal injuries from the fall. She was taken to the Lindsey sanitarium in Excelsior Springs. Doctors believed that she would be able to recover, but on January 11, she died at the Lindsay sanitarium of a blood clot in the brain. The only outward sign that Mrs. Anthony had hit her head was a slight bruising about the eyes. She was divorced from her husband, who came from Kansas City to take his daughter home. Her father, Mr. H.H. Bidwell, of Springfield, came to claim her body. Mrs. Anthony was 36 years of age.
Not all guests were documented, as the hotel registry was destoryed, however, all guests were believed to have escaped. The clerk put together a list from memory, as the fire raged, in hopes of tracking the guests.
Valuables which were stored inside the hotel safe were salvaged from the ruins.
Return to Snapp/Oaks Hotel main page.
Return to top