Saturday, September 7, 2013

1883 Fire Destroys Cortland House

The Cortland News, Friday, November 30, 1883.

Cortland’s Greatest Fire!


   We are called upon this week to chronicle the greatest loss by fire that Cortland has ever suffered; one from which she will require a long time to recover.

   Soon after 12 o'clock Tuesday night, Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Barber, who resided in the Barber block and slept in rooms on the second floor, on Groton avenue, were awakened by the smell of gas and unusual noises in the room underneath, occupied as a grocery store by Bristol & Haylor. Mr. B. arose to investigate and discovered a fire under considerable headway in the store. He rushed out of doors and gave an alarm, which was taken up by others attracted by his cries, while he ran back to assist his family in escaping. The fire had by this time gained such headway that they had only time to leave the premises when the stairway came down. The fire department were quickly on hand and large crowds of citizens gathered, who went to work with a will carrying out furniture from the warerooms of R. Beard & Son and funeral caskets from undertaker Fletcher's establishment, which were in the same block.

   The steamer was soon at work, but had little effect on the flames which were rapidly spreading toward the Cortland House, the furniture of which was being carried to a safe distance. The goods in the millinery store of Mrs. Porter in the newly erected brick addition to the Cortland House, and in the barber shop of J. Grassman, in the basement, were also removed.

   The Wagon Co.'s steamer had arrived, but owing to some defect it was practically useless. The Homer fire department heard our alarm and got their steamer ready and even inquired if they could be of service, but not until about 2 o'clock were they notified to come. And then they did come with a rush—the Hose Company dragging their cart by hand—and coupling to the hydrant by the marble shop poured water into the north wing of the hotel, of which the flames by this time had full control, and it was feared would spread to the barn on the north. This was, however, prevented by the superhuman exertions of the firemen who, with the people, worked in a manner showing a perfect indifference to self.

   The wind was blowing from the south and sending a perfect shower of sparks over the north part of the village, rendering necessary constant watching of the roofs. The spectacle from 2 to 3 A. M. was a grand one. The entire corner was in a fierce blaze, the flames shooting up through the cupola of the Cortland House, forming a pyramid of glowing fire. At 4 o'clock, the fire had spent its force, and only a portion of the brick walls of the hotel remained standing.

   Wednesday was occupied in storing in different places the furniture and goods saved, and the steamer was used to throw water on the yet burning ruins.

   Mr. Bauder was insured by Maybury & Maycumber for $13,000 on the hotel and $6,000 on the furniture, his loss being about the same amount. Mr. Barber was insured by O. D. Allen for $5,000 on his building and $1,000 on furniture, his loss the same; R. Beard & Son had about $9,000 in stock and were insured $1,000 by Allen, $1,000 by Messenger, and $2,000 by Stevenson— most of their stock being saved, though damaged; R. B. Fletcher insured for $1,000 by Stevenson—loss about $500, the goods being mostly saved but badly damaged; Haylor & Bristol insured for $400 by Allen—loss $200; Mrs. Porter insured for $500 by Allen—goods saved and loss light; J. Grassman's furniture was saved. On the lot adjoining the Barber block on the west, but several yards distant, is the residence of Mr. D. E. Kinney, which was badly scorched and only saved by wetting blankets and carpets, which covered the side. It will require from $500 to $1,000 to repair it.

   The Hook and Ladder Company pulled down the rear of the Barber block, and part of the north wing of the hotel, which assisted in preventing the flames from spreading to the barns, and also helped save Mr. Kinney's house.

   It is believed the fire originated in the grocery from closing the pipe damper and opening that in the base of the stove, which created gas but prevented its escape, and that this, bursting out of the door, scattered coals over the floor.

   The Cortland House was built 51 years ago by Danforth Merrick, whose residence previous to that time occupied the same site.

   Of course the owners of the property have not decided as yet what they will do, but we shall be greatly mistaken if a fine block is not erected thereon in the near future.

Mr. Bauder's Gratitude.

Editor News:

   I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to the firemen of Homer and Cortland, to the people generally and to my neighbors arid friends in particular, tor their noble and unwearied assistance on the occasion of the recent fire,


Cortland and Vicinity.

   The Normal and village schools closed Wednesday for the rest of the week.

   R. Beard & Son desire to thank the firemen of the two villages and citizens generally for their generous aid on the night of the fire. The firm have removed their goods to the brick store on Port Watson street, where they will be in shape for business by the first of next week.

   A game of chess, with living pieces, will be played at Wells Hall on Friday evening, Dec. 7. The game has been arranged under the auspices of the Library Association, and promises to be a very novel and attractive entertainment. The effect of thirty-two figures arrayed in royal costume covering the checkered field will be particularly brilliant and picturesque. The rival forces will be marshaled under the leadership respectively of Rev. J. A. Robinson and Mr. R. Rowley, who, like many famous generals, will direct the contest at a safe distance from the field of battle. Heralds will announce the moves, while captains will conduct each living piece to its new position. Sixteen young ladies and as many gentlemen, arrayed in colors of red and white, armed cap-a-pie, bearing spears, pikes and miniature castles, will represent the pieces upon the board. The mimic battle will be conducted with a pomp and chivalry worthy the knights of old. Price of admission to this entertainment, 35 cents. Season tickets, $1.00.



Grip’s Historical Souvenir of Cortland, page 194:

Editor’s note:

   The Cortland House was located at the corner of Groton Avenue and North Main Street, Cortland. A year later the hotel was rebuilt. (Left click on images to enlarge.)

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