'All of a sudden, it went whoomp' People watched fire from roof of restaurant

Bystanders watch from the roof of the Hotel Elkton as the Newcomb Hotel burns late Friday night. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Sep. 7, 2013 1:05 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 5:15 pm
Bystanders at the Hotel Elkton watch as the Newcomb Hotel burns late Friday night. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Jonathan Lewis will never forget his first night in Quincy.

Lewis planned to crash Friday night at the fifth-floor apartment of his friend, Gillis Angeron, who lives in the Hotel Elkton, 133 S. Fourth. However, as he was driving north on Gardner Expressway, Lewis saw smoke and was worried Angeron's apartment was on fire.

Instead, the building on fire was the Newcomb Hotel, just north of the Elkton at 400 Maine.

"It's nuts," Lewis said as he stood on the roof of the Elkton with about a dozen other people as the Newcomb burned. "I came up the stairs, unpacked my bags and boom, the building is on fire.

"This is crazy. Coming to a new home, and you get a show like this your first night."

Lewis, a native of Maywood just west of Chicago, hooked up with Angeron in the hopes that he could start looking for a job in Quincy. The two met while living at the Heartland Christian Academy in Bethel, Mo.

Angeron, who is from New Orleans, said he has lived in his apartment for a couple of months and routinely spends time on the roof because he's "enchanted with the view."

"I was just out here, hanging out, just having a beer," he said. "You smelled it long before you saw any fire. It was almost like someone was having a campfire.

"When (the firefighters) broke through one window, there was a pop and a gust, and flames just shot up."

Brandon Gholston, an employee at the Patio on the main floor of the Hotel Elkton, said he was outside taking a smoke break on the south side of the building when he heard "crazy sirens."

"I saw the cop cars come by, and I was like, whoa, what's going on," Gholston said. "It sounded like they had stopped at our building.

"The second story, it was just smoking, and then all of a sudden, it just went whooomp. It went up from the back half first. It blew flames like 40 to 60 feet up in the back, and it just spread from there."

Angeron said that when firefighters applied water pressure on the windows and the glass burst, the oxygen rushed in and flames shot up.

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