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After the Storm: 1913

Washington, D.C. "Storm damage. Between 1913 and 1918." Somewhere under all this rubble, I suspect, is a narrative waiting to be unearthed by a Shorpy history detective. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C. "Storm damage. Between 1913 and 1918." Somewhere under all this rubble, I suspect, is a narrative waiting to be unearthed by a Shorpy history detective. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Crushed where he stood

The collapse took place at Seventh and L across from where the Convention Center now stands. More excellent coverage can be found here.

Mr. Fealy's life was crushed out where he stood.

A pathetic incident was ... that the young clergyman ... who had rushed to the scene in an automobile in order to give aid to the injured, found that his own father ... was among the killed."

And the posthumous rose delivery to the ailing wife -- whoa.

Policeman Jack

Love the moniker. Such an informal way to refer to an officer. I wonder if this was his beat?

Craigslist 1.0

Curb Alert: One lightly used leather settee, somewhat dusty but easily cleaned. Located at corner of 7th & L. Also two men's overcoats, doing some cleaning and they must go too. Come and get it!

Looks like a bomb hit it!

This photo looks like it could just as easily have been taking in London during The Blitz, or any of innumerable other cities subjected to aerial bombardment or artillery shelling in the last century.

Incoming toilet, indeed

Tut, you gave me the laugh of my day, turning a gloomy disaster (mine) into an incoming toilet. I'm still laughing.

Great Reporting

That's a great piece of reporting! Not only are the facts presented clearly and in detail but it is exciting to read...I felt like I was on the scene. By comparison, today's news reporting is dull and uninformative.

Note to Self

When fleeing a collapsing building, don't pause to lock the door.

What a story! I'm glad the two Katherines and the other injured people pulled through.

Death & Ruin

Washington Post, July 31 1913

Death and Ruin Spread Swiftly
By Lightning, Wind and Hail

The wind wrecked a three-story brick office building occupied by the B.F. Saul Company, real estate brokers, at Seventh and L streets northwest, and nineteen persons were carried down in the crash. W.E. Hilton, vice president of the real estate company, and Thos. B. Fealey, 65 years old, a tinner, were taken from the ruins dead. Half a dozen were taken to hospitals seriously injured and half a dozen more were treated for slight injuries. Last night the police were still digging in the ruins in the fear that other bodies might be recovered.
Some of the injured:

  • Thomas E. Allen, 35 years old, secretary of the real estate firm; perhaps fatally hurt: In Emergency Hospital.
  • Miss Catherine McMahon, 23 years old, cashier of the real estate firm, of 1111 Rhode Island avenue northwest: in Casualty Hospital, suffering from internal injuries; is likely to die.
  • Miss Catherine Breen, 25 years old, bookkeeper in the real estate office, of 435 Sixth street northwest; in Casualty Hospital, suffering from shock, contusions, and perhaps internal injuries; condition serious.
  • Mrs. Ida Coplan, 35 years old, of 2017 Ninth street northwest, and her daughter Sadie, 12 years old; rescued from debris of real estate office and taken to Casualty Hospital: slightly injured.
  • J. Wriley Jacobs, 28 years old, clerk in real estate office; pinned in debris, injured about legs and body; taken home.
  • Miss Nellie E. Desmond, 22 years old, bookkeeper in real estate office; suffering from Shock.
  • Albert J. Drury, 19 years old, 605 Florida avenue northwest; Edward H. Boblitz, 21 years old, 134 Barry place northwest; Harold Robinson, 18 years old, and Roy Humphrey, 18 years old, all escaped from the structure with minor injuries.

The building in which all these people were at the mercy of the storm was a three-story brick structure on the northeast corner of Seventh and L streets, occupied on the ground floor as the office of the B.F. Saul Real Estate Company, with a little store on the same floor at the Eighth street side occupied by Thomas E. Casey, a tinner. The upper floors were used as lodge rooms.

In the real estate office the force was placidly at work when the storm broke. There was no thought of danger until there came the sudden shriek of rending tin and the crash of splitting timbers and falling bricks. The wind had got a purchase under the roof and was lifting it away.

Walter E. Hilton, the vice president of the concern, whose desk was about in the middle of the long room, shouted a warning, and some of those nearer the front made a rush for the door. They were hampered by the low railings and partitions that divided the room into separate departments. Edward H. Boblitz, a young runner, who was sitting on a bench, was the first to reach the door, which he swung open, to permit the egress of Hilton, who was half leading and half carrying Miss Nellie E. Desmond, one of the bookeepers, and the Misses Hilda and Emma Schutrumpf, young sisters who were employed in the place as stenographers and whose desks were close to Hilton's.

As Hllton and the three girls got out, Boblitz reached over the counter to rescue Miss Katherine McMahon, the cashier. But just then the shifting roof pushed the front wall out into the street and the two side walls came down upon the dropping roof. Miss McMahon disappeared in the smother of debris, and Boblitz found himself practically unhurt, lying among the bricks and broken boards on the sidewalk. Behind him and all around him were piles of debris whence could be distinguished the screams of women and cries of men.

It was then that Hilton was killed. Having dragged the three girls to safety through the raining bricks of the falling front wall he essayed to reenter the store, the front of which being of iron and stone, was still standing. Hilton was going in after more women. But just as he went through the door a beam dropped on him, breaking his neck.

Down in the cellar, buried under tons and tons of tangled timbers and iron and brick, were Miss McMahon, the cashier; Miss Katherine Breen, one of the bookkeepers; Thomas E. Allen, secretary of the concern; J. Wriley Jacobs, the firm's insurance agent; Mrs. Ida Koplan and her 12-year-old daughter, Sadie, and Thomas Fealey, an aged carpenter, who had stepped into Casey's tinshop to get out of the rain.

The rescue work started almost immediately. Policeman Jack, of the Second precinct, and a sergeant were half a block away when they heard the crash. The sergeant ran as rapidly as he could to the police station, a few squares away and Jack rushed to the fire alarm box at K street and turned in an alarm, which brought to the scene Deputy Chiefs Carrington and Keliher, with Nos. 6, 14, 2, and 7 Engine companies, and Nos. 4 and 1 trucks. The reserves of several precincts came and maintained fire lines to keep back the crowds.

The first to be taken out of the wreckage were Mrs. Koplan and her daughter, who were freed from a mass of splintered timbers by Policeman Jack and a civilian named Waddington. Much bruised and shaken, but not badly hurt, they were carried across Seventh street to a clothing store, where Leon Cohen, one of the proprietors, and his wife had a narrow escape from the falling wall, which partly demolished the front of their store. The Cohens gave them clothing, after which they were placed in an ambulance and taken to Casualty Hospital.

In the meantime, the firemen, led by Capt. Lanahan, of No. 6 engine, and Lieut. Steele, of No. 4 truck, were chopping and sawing timbers and shoveling away bricks and mortar dust in an effort to reach the imprisoned victims, whose cries could be heard now and then. In fifteen minutes the fireman had reached Miss McMahon and taken her out after Dr. Kelly had given her a hypodermic injection of morphine.

Then Fealey was found – or what was left of him. He was dead when Dr. Kelly and the firemen, crawling through a tortuous tunnel of debris, reached his side. Heavy timbers had pinned him to the foundation wall crushing his body, and a beam of the roof truss had crushed his skull. By this time the debris at the L street side of the wreck had been removed so that the rescuers could utilize an ash hoist there. Dr. Kelly and four of the firemen on No. 4 truck company held Fealey's body in their arms, while the ash hoist slowly ascended to the street level, where the body was placed in a patrol wagon an sent to the morgue. It was not identified for several hours.

An employe and a small son of T.J. Casey had a narrow escape from death when the building fell. The two had just driven to the curb in front of Casey's shop and had entered the building when they heard falling bricks and ran hurriedly out. The falling wall caught the horse and wagon, smashing the latter and instantly killing the horse.

Thomas Fealey, who was in the shop when the young men entered, ran out with them, but paused to lock the door. This delay cost him his life. He was crushed just outside the door. The two youths escaped unhurt.

By the time Capt. Beers, of No. 4 truck, and several of his men, directed from above by Deputy Chief Keliher had chopped their way to Miss Breen, and when Dr. Kelly, following the firemen, had reached her, he found Allen the secretary of the firm, pinned under some timbers close to her, and trying with his free hands, to make her position easier. Allen himself was in agony, and mortally injured. Dr. Kelly found that Allen's legs were so horribly torn and broken that they would have to be set and bandaged down there in the dark before he could be moved. So, cramped in the narrow space, the top of which might settle suddenly and crush all of them. Dr. Kelly bandaged the maimed legs and then he helped hold Allen while the ash hoist lifted him to the sidewalk. Miss Breen was hurried off to the Casualty Hospital and Dr. Carr, who had brought an ambulance from the Emergency, took Allen to his institution.

The last man to be taken out of the debris was J. Wriley Jacobs, who having been in the rear of the office, had no chance to escape. Jacobs was pinned near Miss Breen and Allen, and he, too, was trying to help the young woman when the firemen found them. Jacobs was bruised about the legs and body, but the timbers and bricks about him had failed to press upon him with great weight. He was carried into W.T. Kerfoot, jr.'s drug store, opposite the wrecked building, and treated, preparatory to being removed to his home.

Two hours or more had elapsed after the crash before the firemen and police were certain that the rescue work was complete. It was after they made a list of the persons taken out of the debris, and those who had escaped without the aid of rescuers, that they were certain.

Washington Post, Aug 1, 1913

Injured Are Doing Well

Miss Katherine Breen, the cashier of the Saul Company, is still in serious condition, but the physicians of the Casualty Hospital, where she is undergoing treatment, said last night that she is rallying well from the shock and is not regarded as in danger. She did not suffer fracture of any bones, and that the chief fear now is that she may have received some internal injury.

Miss Katherine McMahon, the bookkeeper for the company, is at her home, 1111 Rhode Island avenue, and is rapidly recovering from the numerous contusions which she received. Mrs. Ida Koplan and her daughter, Miss Sadie, who were in the building when it collapsed, are said to be suffering merely from numerous contusions.

Thomas E. Allen, secretary of the Saul company, is probably the most seriously injured of the victims. The physicians of the Emergency Hospital are still disturbed as to his condition, but say that unless infection sets in at the seat of the fracture to his lower limb, he should recover the use of the limb. Both bones in the lower leg were badly fractured.

Heads up!

Incoming toilet at twelve o'clock.

Washington Torn by Electric Storm

Here it is in the New York Times.


According to this caption on Flickr, the Saul store at 7th & L Streets was destroyed by a tornado on July 30, 1913. There's a small photo of the whole building here:

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