2012-10-04 / Editorial

100th anniversary of Thorndike Hotel fire


The Thorndike Hotel, pictured at left, before the fire that destroyed it on Oct. 5, 1912. Above, the smoldering remains of the fire. The hotel had been built in 1889 by Patrick Horgan and stood where the BankNewport branch now stands. The Thorndike Hotel, pictured at left, before the fire that destroyed it on Oct. 5, 1912. Above, the smoldering remains of the fire. The hotel had been built in 1889 by Patrick Horgan and stood where the BankNewport branch now stands. Fire destroyed the 250-room Thorndike Hotel on Oct. 5, 1912. It was one of the largest fires in the history of Jamestown. According to information provided by Rosemary Enright of the Jamestown Historical Society, it was the end of summer and the hotel was closing for the winter. The last guests had boarded the ferry for Newport. It was customary for fireworks to send off the guests. Usually the fireworks were set off on the porch or lawn of the Thorndike, but this time someone climbed to the tower to give a grander display and left smoldering debris behind.

Jamestown volunteer firefighters responded with their steam pumper when the alarm sounded about 11 p.m. Soon the blaze was out of control and the firefighters focused their efforts on saving nearby buildings. The huge inferno could be seen across the bay and volunteers came from all over to help – firemen with two steam pumpers from Newport, apprentice seamen from the Navy’s Training Station, soldiers from Fort Wetherill and Fort Greble, sailors from two torpedo boats, and even a contingent of German sailors from the visiting cruiser Victoria Louise.

The fire was prevented from spreading but the hotel had been demolished. No one was killed, thankfully.

Work quickly began on a new Thorndike Hotel that was built in time for the summer season the following year. It was known as the “Tin Palace” for its pressed tin ceilings and walls, a gesture toward fire protection. Perhaps of more interest to guests were the private baths. However, during the Depression there was little demand for hotel rooms. The new Thorndike was demolished in 1938 before the hurricane struck.


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