Tomahawk, Wisconsin Mitchell Hotel Fire March 6, 1929
The fire, known as the Mitchell Hotel fire, broke out shortly after noon on March 6, 1929, in a cloakroom of the hotel. It ravished 18 buildings in 4 hours. It destroyed a three-story frame building so quickly that only a phonograph was saved. While leveling the hotel, the flames, buffeted by a strong wind, leaped across the street to the East, igniting the Standard Mercantile Building, the town's largest store. Within two hours, the flames engulfed the whole business block East of the hotel on Wisconsin Avenue, spread west of the hotel and crossed Wisconsin Avenue to attack a bakery and four other shops. Proprietors and tenants scurried to safety as flames crackled nearby, spreading so quickly that little could be saved. Most of the population turned out. Schools were dismissed and high school students aided firemen in their efforts. The flames and smoke attracted farmers into town for miles around. A strong wind and snow added to the fire's strength and firemen, "Found their weapons inadequate to check it." Tomahawk firefighters had no engine to increase water pressure for their 12 lines of hose. Help was requested from surrounding communities, but when Merrill firemen arrived, their apparatus was rendered useless by a broken shaft. The Phillips fire department arrived to late. As a last resort, dynamite was used to blow a gap in the path of the fire. But that was unsuccessful. The explosion had the opposite effect, contributing to the spread of the fire. The intense heat from the blaze cracked pavement down to the sewers. This aided firefighters by allowing water to run off instead of collecting in pools. William Addis, the hotel clerk, who discovered the fire ignored his personal safety as he hurried through the corridors of the hotel warning roomers to flee. When he reached the second floor, he found his escape route blocked and jumped thru the window suffering serious injury. Firemen rescued C. H. Grundy, superintendent of the Marinette, Tomahawk and Western Railroad, who was confined to his hotel room by illness. Women telephone operators stuck to their posts despite the approaching flames and smoke. The telephone building was saved. Fire watchers-mostly young boys-devoured most of the stock of doughnuts, rolls, cakes, and cookies in the bakery across form the hotel after the owners fled.
The fire spent itself shortly after 5 PM leaving 10 families homeless who resided above the stores in the flats. Losses estimated were ,000.00. Except for the Mitchell hotel, all the buildings were two-story wooden structures. Merchandise and household effects taken from the burned buildings were piled in the streets adjoining the fire area. There was no special police guard and vandals made off with some items. By March 8, the snowstorm had turned the ruins into a jewel box of grotesquely shaped crystal. Electricity was restored that morning and Orville Grant, owner of the Mitchell Hotel announced plans to rebuild a modern, fireproof-50 room hotel-the present Tomahawk House-on the site.
Taken from the Wausau Daily Herald March 1979