Aunt Connie’s Narrow Escape!


My Lithuanian grand aunt, Connie Barton was a resident at the Windsor House (which also housed the Lithuanian club) off Exchange Street in Athol, Massachusetts when on 14 July 1946, a fast moving kitchen fire caused by “hot fat” inflicted $20,000 in damage.

windsor House

There were 16 occupied rooms and some “very narrow escapes”:

– William P. Cleary, 58, jumped from the third floor ledge to a roof next door and broke his ankle.

– Nik Ross, 65 was overcome by smoke and suffered burns on the hand and face.

– Marion Stangvilla, 19, daughter of the owners Walter and Sophie Stangvilla was taken out of the third story by the firemen and,

– My aunt, Connie Barton, 37, escaped the flames by hanging from the third story ledge by her fingertips until she was rescued by firemen!

The owners did plan to rebuild, Connie relocated to 387 South Street in Althol.

Connie fire2 Connie fire


Connie fire3

The story hit newspapers nationwide.  Mrs. Henri F. Guthuz [?] of 619 No. State Street, Chicago, Illinois,  wrote Connie on 16 July:

letter to Connie

My Dear Miss Barton, 

In my newspaper (The Chicago Times) yesterday, I saw an item about you and your great courage.  

I did so want to tell you how much I admire you and of my heart felt sympathy.  

I can imagine to a small degree how you must have suffered and no doubt still are — strained muscles – back – hands and nerves.

I hope you recover soon –


 Helene Guthuz [?]

This was not the first time that the Winsor House burned!  A February 1896 the structure, then owned by Mrs. M. A. Coles, burned – no lives were lost but many lost all their possessions.  The cause was a tipped over lantern or a defective boiler.


The hotel was rebuilt and named a summer “Vacation Resort” reachable via the Boston & Maine in 1908:

1908 train

The hotel was next owned by Frank H. Ball and later purchased by a long time employee, a Lithuanian, August Sklenis who died in 1936.



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Darlene Stangvilla on February 27, 2016 at 8:46 PM

    Sophie Stangvilla was my grandmother! So nice to find this blog about her and my grandfather, Walter, and Windsor House. I don’t remember my grandparents but have heard a few stories and have some old photos. Darlene Stangvilla, San Antonio, TX



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