Battle Creek’s Biggest Fire Happened February 18th, 1902
The headlines in the Battle Creek Daily Moon on February 18th, 1902 said it all:
The Sanitarium Burned!
Worst Conflagration Ever Visited Our City.
Loss of Buildings and Contents $500,000.
The fire alarm was turned in at 4:03 a.m. Two hours later, it was pretty much gone. By 9am, the paper reported that the sanitarium had burned to the ground and that there “is little doubt but that the hospital also will burn to the ground.”
The fire was thought to have started in a bath room in the lower part of the building. Firemen from station #2 were called but, “The fire got beyond their control and into the elevator shaft. Stopping it then was beyond all human agency. It rushed to the tower of the building from whence a rush of flames and smoke illuminated the country for miles around.”
There were injuries and several narrow escapes, but just one fatality. Abner Case of Bath, New York, ran back into fire to rescue some of his possessions.
The next day, the Battle Creek Daily Journal reported that “The large safe in which are the valuable papers of the sanitarium, is still half buried in the debris of the main building. Streams of water have been steadily thrown upon it, so that its heated condition can be cooled. It is expected that by late this afternoon, it will be possible to open it and secure its contents.”
Dr. Kellogg was out of town, returned the next day at 5 am. Papers were already reporting that the new Sanitarium would be built in Berrien Springs. But later that morning, Dr. Kellogg presided over a board of directors meeting where it was decided to keep it in Battle Creek.
A “Monster Mass Meeting” of more than 3500 citizens was then held at the Adventist Tabernacle and plans were made to rebuild at once, even though insurance covered very little of the loss.
The dedication of new fire-proof building was held 15 months later on the same site.