Burdick Hotel Fire

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Photo Gallery: Burdick Hotel Fire

Early Years

Construction on the Burdick Hotel began in 1850 at 130 Main Street (now Michigan Avenue). The hotel opened to the public on April 19, 1854 and was originally known as the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The name was changed to the Burdick Hotel in June of 1855 in honor of the late General Justus Burdick and because the hotel was located on the original site of General Burdick’s home.

Raging Fire

At 10 pm on December 8, 1909 a fire was discovered by a night watchman in the basement stockroom of the Star Bargain Store. The fire quickly grew and soon spread to the adjacent buildings, including the Burdick Hotel. When firefighters first arrived on the scene they were unable to reach the flames because of the large clouds of smoke that surrounded the building. All of the 190 guests staying at the Burdick Hotel at the time were evacuated and had to wander the streets for hours in the freezing temperatures because they could not find accommodation at any of the other area hotels. Unable to control the fire themselves, Kalamazoo firefighters quickly called for aid. Firemen from Battle Creek arrived at 2 a.m. with two fire engines and were later joined by firemen from Grand Rapids and Jackson at 5 a.m. Even with the combined efforts of the firemen the fire continued to rage on, engulfing almost the entire block. In the attempt to put out the flames so much water was being pumped out of the city’s water supply that the city mains had to be connected to the State Hospital’s water standpipe. This prevented the possible water famine that threatened to arise if the firemen were forced to continue fighting the flames throughout the day. The asylum mains were connected to a creek which furnished an unlimited supply of fresh water to the city. The flames were eventually controlled and the last of the fire was put out in the early evening of December 9. In the end, the fire claimed the life of one unidentified man and destroyed over a dozen businesses. Some of the businesses destroyed included, the Burdick Hotel, the Cowlbeck Store (a men’s clothing store located in the hotel), and the Star Bargain Store. The Kennedy Drug Store, which was adjacent to the hotel, was also severely damaged and collapsed several months after the fire into a hole that was created by the removal of rubble at the fire site. Overall, the cost of the damages from the fire reached almost one million dollars.

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Bouncing Back

After the site was cleared, the Burdick Hotel was rebuilt in the same location and was reopened to the public in 1911. The hotel continued to service the city of Kalamazoo until it was forced to close its doors in 1970 due to financial problems. The building was torn down in 1973 to make room for the Kalamazoo Center which is today the site of the Radisson Plaza Hotel. 

 

Sources

Books

Hotels and Taverns in Kalamazoo, 1832-1876  

  • Peterson, Karen
  • Papers from The History Seminar Kalamazoo College, January 1957
  • H 647.9 P485

Articles

“Burdick House in Ruins: Over a Dozen Stores go up in Flames”

  • Kalamazoo Gazette 9 December 1909 page 1

“Weary Firemen Fight Flames Throughout Day”

  • Kalamazoo Gazette 10 December 1909 page 1 and 4

 Local History Room Files

Subject File: Hotels and Motels

Subject File: Burdick Hotel