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
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
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
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
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
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