An Interesting Baptist Hospital Ad After the Russwood Park Fire

image courtesy Architectural Record / eBay

In our April issue, I told you the story of the 1960 Russwood Park fire, one of the worst blazes in our city's history, and included never-before-seen color images of the damage up and down Madison Avenue the following morning.

The fire took consumed the old baseball stadium place right across the street from Baptist Hospital. And even though news photographs showed flames practically washing over the building, except for a few cracked windows, the hospital suffered little significant damage, and not a single patient was injured. We can thank the hard-working hospital staff for that — they evacuated hundreds of patients from the most dangerous areas — and certainly the quick work of the firefighters, but apparently some of that credit also goes to the special windows recently installed in the new building.

In fact, a few months later, the September 1960 issue of Architectural Record carried a full-page ad from the Adams & Westlake Company, the Elkhart, Indiana, firm that produced all those "Adlake" windows in the hospital. As you can see, the ad carried a terrific (or horrifying, depending I guess on your point of view) of the fire. Here's what the had to say about their windows:

"Lashed by 25 m.p.h. winds, flames from the Memphis stadium towered like a giant blazing tongue above the roof of the Baptist Memorial Hospital ... licked hungrily at its face and the Adlake double-hung aluminum windows. For more than half an hour, temperatures stood at Fahrenheit 1200 plus, the melting point of aluminum. Yet, no Adlake windows gave way. Frames retained their square ... weatherstrips their seal — thanks to Adlake's built-in safety of quality. "Without those windows, we would have had a bad situation," firefighters agreed. Officials credited Adlake double-glazed windows with having "saved the life of the hospital" not to mention human lives that may well have been spared. Write for a 36-page catalog of non-residential aluminum windows and curtain walls."

Hmmm. A "giant blazing tongue"? And even though I've read many accounts of this fire, and I don't remember seeing any of those exact quotes from agreeable firefighters or the anonymous "officials." Even so, it's true that the windows did play a role in keeping the flames, heat, and smoke out of the hospital, so we'll give the copywriters some leeway here.

In case you're wondering, this ad was recently listed on eBay. Somebody in Milwaukee had cut it out of the old magazine and offered it for sale — a bargain at $10 (yes, it apparently sold). Many thanks to my pals Joe Lowry and Skip Howard for bringing it to my attention.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business. Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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