My grandfather worked for Max Silver at 186 Eddy Street. He lived at the infamous Thomas Hotel that caught fire and killed 20 people. At 891 Mission Street, elderly folks were jumping out windows on to piles of mattresses the fireman had made in order to save their lives. How many millions of us had visualized doing this – as kids? To do so as abandoned seniors your brats don’t care about, is the height of existentialism.
“To jump, or, not to jump? Is it better to be consumed in the fires of hell, or, survive to suffer the indignation of your daughter and son-in-law not coming to visit you in the hospital, which tells you they wanted you to perish so they can be free of you – alas!”
Victor Hugo Presco jumped from the Roof of Life, and made sure he landed at the Very Bottom of Life. He quit! He was once a house painter, but, knocked that shit off. If he was an artist or a poet, then he would have owned A Life Excuse.
I have been drawn to this man I met, once. That was enough for him. Hugo was not a family man. Had he found the Buddha? Did he get a secret teaching from the owner of a Chinese Laundry on Mission Street? Was he an opium addict? He was a professional gambler. Did Max run a secret card room? There is a movement afoot to rename Eddy Street, that is farcical. One father sends out a warring to stay away from Eddy Street.
“The stores look like lootings took place just last night.”
Victor’s father, Wensel Anton Prescowitz, came from Bohemia Germany, and had a tailor shop in Hartford Connecticut, and perhaps found a better life in the New World.
“Brought kids down here last year. Huge mistake. Spent much of the trip explaining what was seen in that 45 minutes on Eddy and Ellis.”
Keep in mind Victor Hugo is the grandfather of the most successful woman artist – of all time! This fact did not get into the bios of the outsiders, who looted our family history and gleaned all the good stuff – grabbed all the gold nuggets!
“Don’t go down to Eddy Street – with the kids! Take them to gallery row in Carmel where the Creative Swells and Art Hawkers……dwell!”
You have just read how a Real Successful California Artist’s Bio should have begun. Consider Cannery Row. I am now ready to make Victor Hugo, famous! I may not be doing him a favor. But, as God is my witness, I am going to chase out them scum-sucking parasites that Sydney Morris let in. I want to herd them to the sea, just to see them jump in…….in order to escape my sour grapes of wrath!
” they will feign friendliness and then bully you for money.”
Currently staying at Nikko Hotel for work. Took a walk on Ellis Street just a block away and it is the closest thing to The Walking Dead you can witness in real life. The smell of urine and feces is everywhere. People comatose from drug use. People talking to themselves and ranting. Large groups of people loitering and cat calling, commenting on passersby.
The stores look like lootings took place just last night. If you get down to Market Street, the shopping centers have security and loss prevention officers everywhere, making the experience anything but relaxing. Staff is surly and make customers feel like nuisances.
Most of all, the garbage on the street is shameful and makes you wonder if the city government does anything, or what their priorities are.
Brought kids down here last year. Huge mistake. Spent much of the trip explaining what was seen in that 45 minutes on Eddy and Ellis. Not for families, or really anyone. It is not exaggerating to say this area looks like a third world country.
The Embarcadero isn’t much better and gets worse every time I have visited over the past 20 years. Even waiting for the cable cars there’s a solid chance you’ll get acosted by panhandlers offering “advice” but do not be friendly – they are not working – they will feign friendliness and then bully you for money. It’s amazing this is allowed around the oldest and most family-friendly tourist attraction in the city.
In short, for family vacation go elsewhere. Anywhere else.
San Francisco, CA Thomas Hotel Fire, Jan 1961
S. F. FIRE TOLL NOW 19.
DRINK-FUDDLED ROOMER BLAMED IN HOTEL BLAZE.
San Francisco (UPI) — A tiny fire that started in the room of a drink-fuddled tenant and was at first believed extinguished today muchroomed suddenly into a flaming killer in one of the worst hotel disasters in San Francisco history.
At least 19 persons were killed and 38 injured when flames billowed through the five-floor Thomas Hotel in pre-dawn darkness. The dead included two and possibly three women. Firemen still were digging through charred debris late today.
Firemen said the blaze started in the first floor room of RAYMOND GORMAN, 62, and ordered him arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
GORMAN and 37 other persons, including two policemen and firemen, were treated at emergency hospitals for smoke inhalation and other injuries suffered as the fire turned the five-story, low-rate hotel into a huge torch.
Most of the 150 occupants of the 50-year-old building were elderly persioners. The brick structure was located at 5th and Mission Sts. in downtown San Francisco.
GORMAN admitted freely to newsmen that he had been drinking the night before and “I was feeling no pain.” Witnesses said the fire started when GORMAN dropped a cigarette in his mattress in his first floor room.
Fire Chief WILLIAM MURRAY said GORMAN and a neighbor thought they had extinguished the fire and went back to sleep. But the mattress rekindled during the night, causing the inferno, MURRAY said.
As the blaze swept through the building, occupants leaped in night clothes into fire nets and down light wells onto mattresses hastily place in position by the 200 firemen who responded to the blaze. Firemen helped others down ladders.
A hero of the disaster was clerk HARRY GOULD, 71, who dashed from his second floor room and banged on doors to rouse tenants.
“It was horrible,” GOULD said. “It was the first time I’ve seen anybody at a fire act like animals.”
Stunned By Fear.
“But these people were making animal sounds, stunned by fear, as they fell or walked out.”
Another hero was night clerk CLARENCE BRODERICK, 53, who remained at the switchboard and called room after room, waking tenants.
MURRAY said the fire might have been avoided had an alarm been sounded more promptly.
“They should have called us the first time it burst into flame,” MURRAY said. “That’s a standard rule for anyone.”
Most of the dead were trapped in their rooms and killed when they inhaled gases.
Firemen saved several lives with swift action with the mattresses. When they arrived on the scene several tenants were leaning out upper story windows over the lightwell shouting that they were going to jump.
Firemen urged them to wait a few moments and piled several mattresses at the bottom. The tenants jumped and landed safely on the mattresses.
At least two of the dead were women.
Flames Attract Crowd.
At the height of the blaze a pillar of flame shot up through the inside of the Thomas Hotel and 150 feet into the air. It was visible for miles and attracted a crowd of several hundreds to the scene at 5th and Mission streets, just one block from Market Street in downtown San Francisco.
The fire was general or five alarms — highest number for the San Francisco fire department — with a rare “emergency” alert for the entire department.
It was also the worst hotel fire here since 1944 when the New Amsterdam burned killing 24.
Firemen wearing oxygen masks struggled through gas-filled upper hallways with hoses trying to put out the fire, and old men and women were helped down ladders in the front of the building. When some tenants jumped into fire nets at the rear, one of the nets caught on fire.
Arson Inspector EARL GRIMM found on of the dead slumped over the suitcase he was attempting to pack in his room when the fire started. GRIMM said the man might have escaped alive if he had not dressed and tried to take his belongings.
Temperatures Near Freezing.
Lightly clad survivors were bundled in blankets against a San Francisco cold snap in which the temperature was 36 degrees.
MRS. GENE SLAGLER, 57, a hotel clerk, said “I was in my room drinking coffee about 5 o’clock and heard someone holler fire. I got dressed, grabbed my birds and went to the window. The firemen told me to stay put. Then they came and pounded on my door and I walked out.”
One tenant, ED DAVIS, 60, said, “I heard some one yell fire as I slept in my second floor room. I went out and it was pitch black, with smoke and heat, but I knew I had to get out so I just kept going.”
Two policemen saved at least 30 lives in the fire today.
Patrolman PETER CAPPADONA, 35, and DON TAYLOR, 28, arrived just as the first fire equipment did.
They saw flames shooting from the building and ran into the lobby. About 15 tenants were milling about in the thick smoke.
CAPPADONA and TAYLOR quickly organized a single file evacuation line and directed the men through the front door to safety. Several, crippled or too confused to walk, were carried out.
Then the policemen went to the second floor and rescued more tenants the same way.
They tried to reach the third floor but were driven back by spreading flames.
The officers got on the second floor of an adjoining building and kicked in hotel windows to reach other survivors. They later piled mattresses in heaps onto which several men jumped to safety.
CAPPADONA and TAYLOR later were treated for smoke inhalation.
Fire Marshal ALBERT HAYES said the quick spread of fire that killed 19 persons today in the Thomas Hotel was made possible by an open dorway.
HAYES said he would advocate changes in the state and city building codes to require all such stairways to be closed off at each floor by re-resistant doors.
This requirement now is necessary in new construction, HAYES said. But older buildings have been allowed to keep open doorways.