While searching for a photograph of The Point Grill, we discovered something unexpected. We had been looking for a four-story, mixed-use building with an impressive mansard roof on the corner of Eagle and Daniel streets, kitty corner from the Catholic Union. Instead, we found a single-story, flat-roofed commercial structure. But looking closely, we noticed that the windows and front steps were the same. What happened?
After a little digging in local newspapers, we learned that the building had turned one hundred years old in 1950. It had been a hotel, fancy at first, less so by the 1930s. In 1954, furnished rooms rented for $7 per week (the equivalent today of roughly $62.50, according to Measuring Worth). That’s about what the other area rooming houses charged. That same year, a three-alarm fire ravaged the Eagle Hotel, killing three residents and sending six to the hospital. One of the deceased was never identified.
The night of the fire, a Knick News reporter interviewed 60-year-old Blanche Hurley, wife of the hotel’s manager. Her 74-year-old husband, Bill, was hospitalized with burns to his arms and face. The couple had lost their livelihood, along with all their possessions. And yet she felt “lucky to be alive” and upbeat about the future. (At the time of the interview, she was unaware of the fatalities.)
“As soon as Bill gets out of the hospital,” Mrs. Hurley predicted, “we’ll get another place. Bill knows how to handle people, and I like what he likes. You know, Bill was paid for his work, but I wasn’t. The next place I’m going to get paid too.” In fact, the fire had saved the couple from making a big mistake. They had been planning to buy the hotel and fix it up.
It would take years to settle the lawsuits resulting from the fire. But the building’s owners quickly determined that they could salvage a portion of their investment by demolishing the upper floors and remodeling the commercial space below. And so the structure survived, and the remaining businesses carried on, until the South Mall.