Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thriller Thursday - Building Collapse

Sometimes, when you are searching for something, you come across something unexpected.  I had one of those the other day, which really caught me by surprise.  I was searching for a death record for Fannie Carlisle Maitland, when I discovered a marriage record for her. On January 1, 1908 Fannie married for her second husband, William W. McBride in Washington county, Arkansas. Somehow, they ended up back in Kansas City, Missouri, where William died tragically in 1912. According to the death certificate he died from from traumatism resulting in fractured skull and other injuries from collapse of building. Unfortunately, I was not able to find an obit or death notice for William McBride, but I did find an account of the collapse, which I have added below.



    The Men Concerned in the Construction and Inspection Explain the Fatal Accident by Placing the Fault on One Another - Their Opinions

The Blame for the collapse of the new Alameda Hotel, Tenth Street and the Paseo, which took a toll of human lives, will be fixed by a coroner's jury. The inquiry will begin at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Walter N. Davis, owner of the wrecked building, asked Fred B. Hamilton city superintendent of buildings, today to select a committee of building experts to decide who was at fault. To this proposal Mr. Hamilton said:

  "That will all be decided at the coroner's inquest. Everyone who had to do with the building, the architect, brick and concrete contractors and everyone else will be witnesses at the inquest."


Mr. Hamilton says the fault lies with the contractor, the George H. Seidhoff Construction Company, which loaded between seventy-five and one hundred wagon loads of cinders on the roof and then pulled the wooden props from under the roof before the cement was dry.

Mr. Davis, owner of the building, agrees with Mr. Hamilton, the superintendent of buildings, and says he protested yesterday against the props being withdrawn.

P. Green, foreman under Siedhoff, the contractor, says he believes the props beneath the roof were taken out too soon.

J. M. Deacy, foreman of the electrical work in the building, agrees with Hamilton and Davis that the withdrawal of the props and the weight of the ashes caused the roof to sink, carrying down the other floors into general ruin.


George H. Siedhoff, the concrete contractor, says the blame rests with the architect, Clifton B. Sloan.

  "There were not enough ashes on that roof to have any effect," he said. "It is not true that the roof was 'green.' It had been set for fourteen days instead of nine days as was claimed by Mr. Davis. We have our records to prove that. Those props had been under that roof fourteen days, the concrete was set and hard. The plans were faulty. Of course I had to follow the plans. But the walls of the building were of brick only nine inches thick in the two top stories, and there was not a concrete pillar in the walls. The five floors of hollow tile bound together with re-enforced concrete, were set into the brick walls four inches and rested upon the brick, when they should have rested upon concrete pillars.

  "The consequence was that when the wooden supports and forms underneath the roof were withdrawn the weight of the roof for twenty-one feet of its length, from the nearest concrete pillar to the wall, fell upon the thin brick wall and the wall buckled out and let the roof fall, and it carried down the other floors one after the other. There should have been concrete pillars and beams in the outside wall to support each floor and the roof."


Mr. Davis, owner of the building, wept this forenoon as he stood in the building and looked at the wreck.

  "It will ruin me," he said, "but I do not care so much for that as for the poor men who were killed. Every cent I have on earth was in this building. I put sixty thousand dollars in cash into it. And it was the strongest building ever built in Kansas City. I have built twenty-three buildings, and I know the walls were of ample thickness, up to the standard required by the building code. Nothing but the best concrete and mortar went into it, and all was re-enforced. I watched every detail of the construction myself and I know. In all my building work heretofore I never had a man hurt."

  "The roof was made of hollow tile eight inches thick and a foot square joined together by the best cement. Between each row of tile there ran a log of iron and over the whole roof was laid two inches of cement."


  "The roof was flat on top of it cinders were to be spread thirty inches thick at the front of the building and two inches thick at the rear to give it the proper slope to shed rain, and over the bed of cinders was to be laid one inch of cement.

  "Siedhoff, the contractor, had hoisted two hundred loads of those cinders to the roof and piled them four feet deep along the rear end of the roof next to the alley. Those cinders weigh forty-five pounds to the cubic foot and four feet of them made a great weight. The roof was yet green and was held up by planking upheld by upright wooden supports. Those supports should have stayed there two weeks longer and you can imagine my surprise when I found Siedhoff's men pulling them out yesterday.


  "I protested against it, but Green laughed at me. The result proved that I was right. As soon as the last support was pulled out down came the roof beneath its weight of cinders, and I could hear each floor crash down in turn as the load above fell upon it.

  "Proof that the weight of ashes caused the collapse is seen in the wreck itself. Only that portion of the roof fell that had ashes upon it. All the rest of the roof is intact and solid, and I am sure any builder will agree with me that the part of the building yet standing is the solidest in this town."

J. M. Deacy, foreman of the electrical work, said today:  "It was one of the best constructed buildings I ever saw, and I have worked in nearly all of them. There was not a faulty thing in it. The concrete was so solid that it took one of my men a whole day to drill a hole through the floor. And the brick walls were solid."

Deacy's life was probably saved by the circumstance that his wife was ill and he went home at 3:30 o'clock. Otherwise he would have been working in a room that went down in the wreck.

At the inquest tomorrow each interested person will be represented by an attorney. There will be suits for damages as a result of the collapse the heirs of those killed and of those injured will claim damages and those at fault will have to pay. It is important therefore, to know who was at fault.

The superintendent of buildings and his inspector will seek to show that they were not at fault, that the walls were of the thickness required by the building code and that the materials used and the work done were up to standard requirements. The owner and the contractor will contend that they are not liable.

Mr. Davis, the owner, had Siedhoff, the contractor, bound by a bond of $10,000 to do his work well. He will seek to show that the contractor was at fault and if he can do that the contractor, under his bond, must replace the collapsed part of the building according to contract.


The contractor will seek to show that his work was well done, so as to escape that liability.

Other interested parties are the casualty and liability companies, with which both the owner and contractor had insured against loss because of injuries to employees on the building. If the contractor was at fault the casualty company will have to pay for the deaths and injuries. If the contractor was blameless and the owner at fault the casualty company with which the contractor was insured will escape liability. If the architect was at fault he will be liable for the deaths and injuries.

There are bound to be several law suits result and there were several lawyers for different parties at the building today, taking written statements and making photographs of the walls and all details of the ruins.

The Kansas City testing laboratory took samples of the cement to test and see if it was up to specifications.


The whole of the building did not fall. Its full size was seventy-three feet frontage on the Paseo and extending back 120 feet on Tenth Street. The part that fell was the rear twenty-three feet. All the rest of the building is intact and solid.

The part that fell did not all fall at once. The southwest corner fell at 3:30 o'clock and at 4:45 o'clock the northwest corner fell.

Those killed and injured went down in the first collapse. Several had narrow escapes when the second crash came. Among them were George H. Siedhoff, the contractor, who ran when he heard the grinding noise and took refuge under a concrete beam in the front part of the building and George Oppenheimer and B. M. Richardson, insurance men, who leaped from a third story building.


The Jones Store Company had contracted with Mr. Davis to furnish the hotel from top to bottom and it had placed orders with a mill in Philadelphia for four thousand yards of carpet, and with a firm in Pittsburgh, Pas., for brass beds. The furniture was being made in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the silverware was ordered from the Oneida Community.  All these orders were canceled today.

Apartments in the hotel were to rent for $75 a month and nearly all of them were already engaged.

Mr. Davis said today that the damage done could be repaired for $7,300.

Copyright 2011, ACK for Gene Notes

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