Mercy Hospital Fire 1950 Kills 41-Davenport, IA

On this day, in the early morning, in 1950 a fire broke out in the Mercy Hospital in Davenport, IA. The fire was noticed by a night nurse making rounds when she noticed smoke in the courtyard and then found the St. Elizabeth mental ward in flames.

All of the victims that were trapped, 65 in all, were mentally ill and most unable to make valid attempts of escape.

The rooms were secured with wire mesh and bars for keeping the patients in their rooms and the ward. The screams of women could be heard as rescue attempts were made, but due to the progression of the fire, most were futile.

One nurse was able to get some of her patients out of the building and re-entered to try to rescue more, but never made it back out.

There were a total of 41 people who died that cold night. The building was not sprinklered and was suggested to be so by the fire chief a year earlier.


  • Virginia Peterson Wright says:

    I was 13 years old when this happened and remember my Uncle Laverne Griffin telling us about this awful incident. Griff was a young fireman at the time but later became Fire Chief for Davenport. He and my aunt Virginia Griffin made so many contributions to that wonderful city. He was a remarkable man who dealt with serious horrific fires but always retained his optimistic, pleasant personality and humor. Love.

  • Chris says:

    I was born in Mercy Hospital on January 24th, 1950. I’m sure it was a spooky experience for my parents having to walk past the ruins from 17 days earlier.

  • Kathryn Humphrey says:

    I remember the fire all too well . I was there watching those brave firemen risk their lives to try to help others. I saw the firemen carry down the ladder those who were in question of surviving. The hollering up the doorway ” anybody there” but no reply. The body bags with the demised inside each bag and more bags being taken to bring out more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *