Category Archives: Disasters

Round Prairie tornado, 1883

A mother and her baby were among victims when a tornado surprised people living south and east of Springfield on May 18, 1883. At least four people died in Sangamon County because of the storm. Another 20-some were seriously injured, … Continue reading

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Lawrence Avenue fire, 1916

A quick-moving fire, compounded by misdirected fire engines, destroyed the south side of the 300 block of East Lawrence Avenue early Oct. 3, 1916. The blaze, the cause of which was never determined, started just before 4 a.m. in the … Continue reading

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Roosa-Diller fire, 1920

A “small army of suffering humanity” poured out onto the frozen streets of Springfield when a fire destroyed two dilapidated apartment buildings on Dec. 23, 1920. A passerby discovered the blaze about 7:30 p.m. He alerted residents and the Springfield … Continue reading

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Thanksgiving Day earthquake (1939)

People experienced the second earthquake in recorded Sangamon County history on Thanksgiving Day 80 years ago. The quake hurt no one and caused no damage. But it did restart Joseph LaVoo’s eight-day clock. The quake struck at 9:30 a.m. Nov. … Continue reading

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Italian Villa fire (1932)

The explosion that wrecked the Italian Villa nightclub on East Monroe Street in 1932, killing two, was never explained. Suspicion, fueled by testimony from passersby, the track records of the club’s owners, and a rash of explosions around central Illinois … Continue reading

Posted in Disasters, Hotels & taverns, Italians, Italians, Prominent figures, Restaurants, Social life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DeWitt Smith Building fire, 1918

When the DeWitt Smith Building caught fire in 1918, modern firefighting equipment saved the building, and a heroic elevator operator rescued many of its tenants. Even so, the top floors of the building, on the southeast corner of Fourth and … Continue reading

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Record-setting heat wave, 1936

The worst heat wave ever in Sangamon County – 12 straight days when temperatures reached 100 degrees or more – killed 33 people in July 1936. The stretch of torrid weather began on the Fourth of July and continued through … Continue reading

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Springfield fire protection, 1850s-’70s

Fires that demolished swaths of the downtown square in the 1850s led – eventually – to Springfield creating a full-time fire department. But city fathers first had to remedy another problem that plagued local firefighting efforts: a water shortage. An “incendiary” – … Continue reading

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Buffalo Hart tornado deaths, 1927

Three people, including two children from one family, died when a tornado destroyed Buffalo Hart the afternoon of April 19, 1927. “Until yesterday this town was a quiet and contented village,” the Illinois State Journal reported in a story written … Continue reading

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Coldest day in Springfield history (1905)

Springfield’s temperature fell to 24 degrees below zero at 7 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, 1905, the lowest official reading ever recorded in the city. Engines seized up, gas mains failed, and the destitute crowded local jails. Even the ink … Continue reading

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