On a January night in 1883, flames engulfed Milwaukee’s Newhall House hotel, among the tallest buildings in the nation at the time. In just two hours, the fire killed more than 70 people. The fire remains among the deadliest unsolved arsons in U.S. history. The tragedy drew global attention to Milwaukee, with heart-wrenching stories of victims who were burned to death or killed as they leapt from the burning building. But there were also tales of escapes and amazing rescues.
With no efforts made to rouse the sleeping guests and residents of the Newhall, most were left to be woken by the fire itself. Many jolted awake from the smell of smoke or the dull roar of the flames taking hold of the elevator shaft. Others woke to the shattering of the glass transom windows above their doors.