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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Downtown in St. Louis, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Phelim O'Toole

 
 
Phelim O'Toole Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, June 14, 2020
1. Phelim O'Toole Marker
Mounted plaque
Inscription.  
Phelim O'Toole—firefighter and folk hero—was born in Ireland in 1848. O'Toole went to sea at the age of 12. In 1872 he settled in St. Louis where he joined the fire department.

O'Toole personified courage and heroism in the tragic Southern Hotel fire of 1877. The Southern occupied this block. On the night of April 11, 1877, over 300 guests were registered, including Joseph Pulitzer, who one year later founded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. At about midnight O'Toole's Company was called to the scene. At great risk, O'Toole personally saved the lives of 12 people.

Ironically, Phelim O'Toole perished at age 32 on July 6, 1880, in a small basement fire on Locust Street when a faulty fire extinguisher exploded in his arms. His last words were, "My God I'm killed."
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Charity & Public WorkCommunicationsDisastersHeroes. A significant historical date for this entry is April 11, 1877.
 
Location. 38° 37.451′ N, 90° 11.364′ W. Marker is in Downtown in St. Louis, Missouri. Marker is at the intersection
Phelim O'Toole Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, June 14, 2020
2. Phelim O'Toole Marker
Looking west on Walnut Street; Equitable Building is seen in on the right
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of South 4th Street and Walnut Street, on the left when traveling north on South 4th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 20 S 4th St, Saint Louis MO 63102, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Rue de la Tour (a few steps from this marker); Battle of St. Louis (within shouting distance of this marker); American Zinc Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Chief Pontiac (within shouting distance of this marker); Engineers' Club of St. Louis (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); International Fur Exchange (about 400 feet away); Rue des Granges (about 400 feet away); Fort San Carlos (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown.
 
Regarding Phelim O'Toole. For his heroic actions, the citizens of St. Louis awarded O'Toole with a check of $500, which at the time, was a considerable sum of money. O'Toole, who was making a $75 salary, donated the money to help orphans as well as the Fire Department. He would also take part in putting out the fire which occurred at the St. Louis Courthouse (which today is known as the Old Courthouse). In keeping O'Toole's memory alive, the St. Louis Fire Department christened their Fire Marine Rescue Unit's fireboat, the "Phelim O'Toole". The twin-engined 32-foot boat was donated by the U.S. Coastguard in 1994. It is based at Engine House 11, at S. Seventh and Pestalozzi St. It is
Southern Hotel image. Click for full size.
By Robert Benecke, Missouri History Museum (public domain), 1868
3. Southern Hotel
Southwest corner of Fourth and Walnut streets
equipped with an impressive 500-gallon-per-minute water pump for fighting fires.

The Southern Hotel fire was known to be the worst hotel disaster in St. Louis history. It was reportedly caused by a steam heating system that was recently installed indoors. The hotel, which stretched from 4th to 5th Streets in St. Louis, was owned by prominent St. Louis figure Robert Campbell. Campbell bought the hotel in 1866, but the fire left him in depression. While he wanted to redevelop the site, he had little time before his death in 1879. The hotel would later be rebuilt but closed in 1912. Finally in 1933, the building was torn down.
 
Sheet music image. Click for full size.
By John Hopkins University
4. Sheet music
A song was written shortly after the disaster in dedication of O'Toole and fireman Michael Hester. Composed by Harry Banks. This is from the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, which is part of John Hopkins University.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 30, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 29, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 61 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on June 30, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 13, 2021