Category Archives: Disasters

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

Posted in Disasters | 4 Comments

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

Posted in African Americans, Architecture, Auto dealers, Buildings, Disasters, Local government | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Disasters, Weather | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Disasters, Fires, Illinois capital, Weather | Leave a comment

Rainfall records, 1926

Two massive rainstorms made Springfield a virtual island on Sept. 8, 1926, flooding streets and basements, stranding autos, trains and streetcars, and leading to the electrocution of an Illinois Watch Co. worker. Even people using the Knights of Columbus swimming … Continue reading

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Seven children die in car/train accident, 1928

Seven young people – six siblings and a cousin – were killed on June 5, 1928, when the car they were in drove in front of a southbound Interurban train near Auburn. The car was traveling west on Divernon Road. … Continue reading

Posted in Children, Disasters, Railroads, Transportation | Leave a comment

Johnston-Hatcher fires, 1907 & 1913

The Johnston-Hatcher Co. sold home furnishings of all kinds from 1899 to 1949 in downtown Springfield. The store, however, fell victim to two of the city’s most devastating early 20th-century fires. Johnston-Hatcher was the creation of two sets of brothers … Continue reading

Posted in Agriculture, Airport, Amusements, Auto dealers, Buildings, Business, Crime and vice, Disasters, Farming, Fires, Presidents, Prominent figures, Uncategorized | 2 Comments