Skagway Fire!

Apparently last night at 11 pm a fire broke out in the 600 wing of the Westmark hotel – the building next to Diamonds International. As I write this, there is still smoke coming from the ruins. The volunteer fire department has been up all night fighting it and has successfully stopped it from going further.
Jeff Brady has some great pictures of 20 foot flames shooting out the roof and he said that this Friday’s paper will have the whole story. The offices of the Skagway Jewelry Company, Avis and M&M tour sales are completely gutted. Water from the sprinklers in the Diamonds International Store is flooding out the doors. The store will need extensive repairs to reopen in May. Photo by Reed McCluskey.

John P. Laumister

Meet the butcher and his family who came to Skagway in the Gold Rush from Tacoma. John Laumister was born in 1850 in Germany and married Mary Ann Clark in Victoria in 1878. Their sons Charles and John Jr. were also butchers and his daughter Lillian married Mr. Black in 1930 in Alaska. Anton Laumister, probably a brother came to Skagway from San Francisco and worked as a miller and butcher also.
Mr. Laumister was in Dawson on March 8, 1917 for the big fire there:

“Fire started at 9:45 o’clock last night in the Yukonia hotel and destroyed that building and several other well known landmarks in the same block. It was 20 below zero, and the fire department made a prompt response and a fine fight was put up by the men of the brigade and by many volunteers. The fire finally was stopped after midnight and by 3 o’clock was entirely subdued. A stiff wind from the south fanned the flames from the start until the finish, and it was most fortunate that the fire was stopped as soon as it was. John Laumeister was badly burned about the head and had to have his head dressed by the surgeon at the hospital but is out and about today. James Purden was with Laumeister and his head and ears were singed. Harry Bridges, Purden and Laumeister were attempting to put out the fire in the hall with the hose when the flames drove them out and they escaped from the lobby just after the volume of heat exploded through the windows of the lobby with a great report…” from the The Daily Alaska Dispatch, Juneau on March 9, 1917.

The fire must have affected Mr. Laumister’s health because he died on this day, January 6, 1918 in St. Mary’s hospital in Whitehorse from pneumonia.

Seen above are the frozen ruins of the Yukonia Hotel following the fire.

Fairbanks news accounts; 1900 Skagway census; familysearch.

Lewis Meyers

Lewis Meyers was a merchant in Skagway in November of 1898. He decided to go to San Francisco on business.
On November 22, 1898 he checked into the beautiful Baldwin Hotel downtown at the corner of Market and Powell. He never checked out. At 3:20 am a fire broke out and soon the entire hotel was in flames with people hanging out of windows and jumping to the ground. Lewis had a heart attack and died on November 23, 1898.

When the Baldwin Hotel was completed in 1877 at the cost of $3 million, it was opulent and majestic. Unfortunately, by 1898, the economy was in a downslide and opulence did not attract paying guests. Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin, a California comstock miner had invested most of his money into the hotel and land. Like many others during this economic depression, Baldwin mortgaged several properties, including his hotel, in an attempt to pay his bills. But when the hotel caught fire and burned to the ground, he was not that unhappy. He was able to sell the property for $1.1 million, about $200,000 more than the amount owed on the hotel’s mortgage—proving that the nickname, “Lucky” was well-earned.

Unfortunately Mr. Meyers was not as lucky, he should have stayed put in safe Skagway, Alaska!

SF Municipal Reports; Elias Jackson Baldwin biography online;;

Deadly Hotel Fire in Dyea

On this day in 1898 there was a fire in Dyea. The Every One’s Home Hotel and the adjoining saloon and dance hall there burned at night. Although 20 people were sleeping there, 4 people did not make it out as reported by the New York Times on March 10, 1898. The dead were identified as Bert Meeker of Portland, a man named Russell and two unidentified men. It was also reported that a woman’s body was recovered, but Mrs. Bert Meeker escaped as reported by the Dyea Press on March 12, 1898 and was staying at Murray’s.

New York Times March 10, 1898; Dyea Press March 12, 1898.