The first, on April 25, 1896, began around 1 p.m. when a gasoline stove overturned on the second floor of the Central Dance Hall on Myers Avenue. A brisk wind spread the fire to adjoining buildings. By the time the fire was out, two lives had been lost and eight blocks of the city's central business district had been destroyed.
Just a few days later, on April 29th, a second fire broke out. The headlines of the April 30, 1896, Rocky Mountain News declared:
CRIPPLE CREEK WIPED OUT BY FIRE / Second Conflagration Destroys Nearly All That Portion of the Town Not Touched by Flames—Thousands Are Destitute / Buildings Blown Up in an Attempt to Save the City / Three Men Are Dead and a Number Injured, Several of Them Fatally / Snow is Falling and Hundred of Campfires Dot the Surrounding Hills
The newspaper went on to include details of a fire that rendered 6,000 of the city's 16,000 residents homeless:
The second great fire came with the swiftness and deadly energy of the lightning's bolt. At 1 o'clock this afternoon fire started in the kitchen of the Portland hotel on Second street, below Myers...The whole city rushed to the scene, dropping tools from their hands. The fire jumped with a roar like a hungry giant at his food. Floods of water and the demolition of buildings with deafening explosions of dynamite were childishly impotent to stay the fire, and men stood with tears running down their cheeks, helpless.
Check out the Western History and Genealogy Department's Cripple Creek Fires, 1896 gallery, which includes images taken during and after the fires.
Thank you Katie for your research and short story on Cripple Creek's two devastating fires. While gambling has brought a renewal to Cripple Creek, many historic buildings have been saved and re-purposed. New infrastructure, sidewalks, streets and lighting will give visitors visiting this historic town, that never died, memories of a lifetime. I posted some beautiful photos for my followers and comments remembered visits 30, 40 and 50 years ago. DPL photos give us memorable insights into a hard working life that celebrates ingenuity, determination, failure and renewal.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Mike! We love to hear that our photo collection is inspiring people to share their memories!
Thanks to my great grandfather Rowley Sr for all the brick to rebuild the city.
Interesting the way history is retold over time; new details emerge while others fade away. As a direct descendant of Frank Angel I can report that he survived the fire. He wrote family including his grandson, my grandfather, some years after the fire to report that he was well and living in California. He stated that he left town in the immediate aftermath of the fire fearing he would be lynched! At least that’s the story that’s come down through the generations.