Kern Hotel Fire
At 5:30 A.M. on December 11, 1934, the alarm outside the
Kerns Hotel sounded.
The 211-room four-story brick hotel that stood on this
site had 215 registered guests. Before the last embers of
the fire were extinguished, thirty-two people were known
dead and forty-four, including fourteen firemen, had been
injured. Two of the injured people died later.
Among the dead were seven Michigan legislators and five
unidentified people. Many guests escaped by descending four
fire ladders, and eight people jumped into life nets.
However, the fire spread through the hotel’s wooden
interior so rapidly that many people were trapped in their
rooms. Seventy-two members of the ninety-seven-man Lansing
fire force fought the fire using eight of the force's eleven
pieces of fire apparatus.
The Hotel Kerns was built in 1909 by William G. Kerns.
The hotel cost $50,000 to build and was the first hotel
in the state of Michigan that had running ice water in every
one of its 162 rooms.
Located in the 100 block of N. Grand Ave., it's location
and amenities, made the Kerns popular with legislators and
community groups. In January of 1922 the women’s club
Zonta held their first meeting at the Kerns. The Kerns also
served as the bus station for the city of Lansing until
On December 11, 1934 a few minutes before 5am, "Pop"
Hayhoe, “…night janitor of the State Journal,
fifty feet north of the hotel across the dead end block
of East Ottawa street, made his regular round through the
editorial room of the newspaper's second floor, now empty
of editors and reporters. Suddenly he stopped. A curl of
flame licked up along some second floor window curtains
on the hotel's north side, near the front. Before he could
act the curl became a ravening sheet of flame. …Hayhoe
wasted not an instant turning in the alarm. The Central
fire station was only a block south of the hotel. His call
completed, Hayhoe turned back. Window after window was ablaze.
Now he could hear the screams of men and women, wakening
to red horror!”
What caused the fire? A carelessly discarded cigarette.
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