The Hamptons Union
November 10, 1921
The magnificent summer home of William D. Hannah of New York, one of the show places on the coast, was destroyed by fire shortly after 3 o'clock Sunday morning with a loss estimated at $300,000. The owner made his escape in his night clothes down a ladder from his bedroom window. The servants also escaped in their night clothes through smoke-filled halls.
Nothing whatever was saved. The flames, raging through the big house, in a few minutes more would have cut off the escape of every living person. The house, erected during the past year and occupied this summer for the first time, is on the north side of the Head and the flames, fanned by the northwest gale, were swept to sea so that no other property was menaced.
Mr. Hannah was here for the weekend to supervise the closing of the house for the winter, with the aid of the servants. The fire was discovered by a maid, Miss Katherine Haviland, who was awakened shortly after 3 o'clock by a muffled explosion. She got up and opened her door and found the hall filled with smoke.
She called George Washington Murphy, the colored chauffer, who with his wife had rooms on the same floor, but she said that the smoke and flames were sweeping through the main part of the house and they could not get across to call Mr. Hannah. He was finally awakened by the cries of the three and the barking of his pet dog, who braved the smoke to scratch at his master's door.
Mr. Hannah, when he opened his door, was met by a rush of flames. He slammed the door and with some difficulty succeeded in crawling out on a small balcony outside his window. Meantime the servants and the dog had fled down thru the hall and out by the rear. The chauffeur got a ladder and Mr. Hannah made his escape in this way, collapsing as he reached the ground.
Summoned by telephone, the men from the coast guard station number 13, at the further end of the Head, arrived shortly before the motor fire apparatus from Portsmouth and Hampton, but there was little that the firemen could do, as the house was then a roaring mass of flames, and at daylight only the walls and chimneys were standing. Later in the day these were dynamited.
The origin of the fire is still unknown. Surfman Johnson of station 13, passed the house at 2:45 and at that time everything was all right, but he said that the fire may have been burning then as all of the windows, with the exception of those in Mr. Hannah's room, were shuttered for the winter. The sound heard by Miss Haviland is thought to be a hot air explosion, as she said that immediately afterward she heard the crackling of the flames in the hall.