Valley View Apartment Explosion, April 27, 1956

Photos generously donated by Chris Moore


Traverse Eagle Newspaper
April 27, 1956
Pulaski, VA - April 27 (UP)
A terrific explosion demolished a three story apartment house here today. At least two persons were killed but 12 others who were in the building are missing.
Rescuers had little hope that any survivors would be found and estimates of the total dead run as high as 14. A reporter at the scene quoted witnesses as saying screams from within the building died out within a few minutes of the blast.
The building was blown into twisted timbers and rubble by the blast, touched off when W.J. MAHAFFEY, the operator of a restaurant on the ground floor tried to light a gas hot water heater.
It happened at 5:50 a.m. EST while most of the occupants of the building were sleeping.
Some of the tenants were in a transient center operated by the Salvation Army on the first floor.
Six persons were hospitalized.
Lt. G.E. BOULEIN of the Radford Va. Police department said seven families were living in the brick apartment building in addition to those occupying the Salvation Army facilities.
Searchers began picking through the wreckage as soon as a fire that started with the blast was brought under control in about two hours.
The force of the explosion blew one ten year old girl out a window and she was among those hospitalized, along with the man who struck a match to the heater.
The explosion left only one wall and part of another standing. Houses within a mile of the shattered building were shaken and windows were blown out within a two block radius.
Pulaski is a town of about 9,200 in Southwest Virginia near the West Virginia line.

Source: SW Times Newspaper, Sunday, April 29, 1956, writer Larry Schoenfeld

VALLEY VIEW APARTMENT EXPLOSION

Old faded and worn, the Valley View Apartment building collapsed in an early morning explosion Friday, April 26, 1956.
Still on the critical list, Mrs. Nora DAVIS, is said to be improving by hospital authorities. She suffered burns from the steaming bricks and possible internal injuries.
Little 12-year-old Norma Jean MABE is in poor condition. The child was thrown out in the street from an upstairs apartment and received a fractured pelvis and internal injuries. Her nine-year-old brother, Clark, and her grandmother, Mrs. Helen DENTON, were killed in the explosion.
Mrs. MAHAFFEY, the fifth surviving occupant of the building, was not injured after sliding down a water pipe to escape the flaming building. She is staying with her daughter, Mrs. Oakie KIDD on Cliff St.
Joseph Marshall LYTTON, the only one of the three injured passers-by to be hospitalized, is in good condition. He suffered a fractured arm and lacerations.
W. J. MEHAFFEY, 75-years old, severely burned about the face and hands
Eugene WELCH, admitted to the hospital with a possible back injury and internal injuries. WELCH's wife and three children were buried in the falling debris.
The Valley View Apartment building was a business show place of Pulaski back before the turn of the century when Commerce and Valley Streets were the center of the business section.
Built by L. S. CALFEE in the 1800's the Calfee Building, as the Valley-View Apartments were known then, was the first location of the Old Pulaski Loan and Trust Company . . . the predecessor of today's Pulaski National Bank. Fred SEAGLE, G. C. HALL and other long-time Pulaski residents recall that the Calfee Building housed the Pulaski Post office back in the McKinley administration. Upstairs in Calfee Building during the 80s, E. S. Calfee, O. C. Brewer and other pioneer lawyers maintained their offices.

At one time Pulaski's leading clothing store, operated by W. A. PHELPS was located in the Calfee Building. Later E. S. CALFEE owned the first 5 and 10 Cent Store in Pulaski in this Commerce and Valley Street location. In the building addition next door on Valley Street, early Pulaskians saw their first motion pictures.

 

 
   

 

Injured:
Eugene Welch
W.J. MAHAFFEY, 75 years old
Mrs. W.J. MAHAFFEY, 75 years old
Norma Jean MABE, 12 years old, visiting Grandmother Helen DENTON who was a tenant
Leona CRUFF, a Jefferson Mills employee cut by falling glass
Doug LINKOUS, a Jefferson Mills employee who rushed into the debris to save Eugene WELCH
Joseph Marshall LYTTON, he was outside the building waiting for a ride to work
Jordan OLIVER, was walking past the building

Killed:
Bertie Mae MORRIS, age 51
Minnie Maude AKERS, age 74
George Henry GOAD, age 79
Mrs. Rosa MATHERLY, age 73
Mrs. Eugene WELCH, age 54
Lillie Mae WELCH, age 22
Garland WELCH, age 16
Victor WELCH, 12 years old
Clark MABE, 9 years old
Helen DENTON, 51 years old
Nora Stoots DAVIS, 58 years old, tenant, was rescued but died the following day


Return to Pulaski Co. VA Homepage