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March 10, 2013

Seven died in hotel fire

MALONE — Perhaps the worst fire to ever hit Malone was on April 17, 1913, when the Wilson Hotel was destroyed and seven people died.

The hotel, located at the corner of Catherine and Mechanic streets, had 35 boarders and guests at the time of the fire. The aging structure burned with ferocity, forcing most to flee in their night clothes. Guests who couldn’t get to the first floor jumped from windows.

The building was flimsy and originally built as a carriage repository, therefore no fire escapes were present. For some unknown reason, there was a coating of sheet iron on the outside of the wooden structure, hampering firefighters’ efforts to attack the flames.

Fred Tummons lived only a few hours after the fire, dying from the severity of his burns.

Others who died in the fire were Malone residents Albert Robideau, John Timmons, hotel bartender Fred Truechon, a traveling musician named Tony Nicolina of New York, Philip O’Connor of Pierceville (Saranac Lake), John Maas of Albany and Michael Cooney of Westville.

Newspaper accounts from the time say Nicolina was performing at the local theater. After finding his way out of the flames, he went back into the hotel to salvage his harp. He never made it out again.

According to a story in the New York Times on April 18, 1913, “those injured by jumping were a Mrs. Premo of Eltonburg, both legs broken, and A. Martin, a vaudeville actor, left arm and ankle broken.”

It was determined, by witnesses, that the fire started from an explosion. Nevertheless, the owners of the hotel, William and Mary Wilson, were brought before the grand jury on charges of manslaughter, but they were found innocent.

Email Susan Tobias: stobias@pressrepublican.com

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