|Seneca Falls, N. Y. after the great fire of July 30, 1890.|
A VILLAGE IN ASHES.
ALL THE BUSINESS PORTION OF SENECA FALLS BURNED TO THE GROUND.
Half a Million Dollars in Property Destroyed—Many Business Firms Wrecked—The Fire Started by an Incendiary.
(From the Syracuse Standard, July 31, 1890.)
SENECA FALLS, July 30.—The beautiful village of Seneca Falls on the Seneca river has gone backward 20 years in a day. The whole of the business portion of the thrifty village, which has been the source of its greatest pride, and excited fond hope in the breasts of the inhabitants that some day in the near future it would become a city, now lies buried beneath its own ashes and the only hope that is left the people is that some time the village will regain its former loveliness and greatness.
On Fall street from the Hoag hotel on the north to the Opera House on the south, on State street from the river on the west to Hosmer's livery stable on the east, nothing now remains to tell of the life and noise and bustle of that once busiest part of the town. One wave of the wand of the fire king and it was destroyed by the flames upon the very bosom of the waters. Many a prosperous business man who went to bed prosperous on Tuesday night, awoke yesterday to find himself a beggar. Many a business firm that for years has enjoyed a reputation of unchallenged stability to-day are reduced to the direst straits. The people are fairly paralyzed with the suddenness and extent of the awful visitation. The buildings upon State street on the east side from Fall street to Lewis Tripp's house are entirely wiped out.
At 3 o'clock yesterday morning as William Smith, the night watchman for Gleason & Bailey's fire apparatus manufactory was making his rounds on the west side of the creek his attention was attracted by the sight of a small flame in the basement windows under Tom Lawrence's saloon. It might have been the glow of a lamp, or it might have been the blaze of a match as it was applied to the end of a cigar. Then for a moment the light went down and Mr. Smith went on his way. In perhaps 15 minutes Smith was again in the vicinity. The thought of the little flame was with him and he looked to see if it was there. A great blaze met his eyes and made him start on a run to give the alarm. By the time the alarm was given angry flames blazed from the basement of the Pew block. From the electric light works to Todtman & Gladkey's clothing store the basements seemed to be a perfect sea of flames. Great billows rolled from the windows and lapped the sides of the buildings.
In a short time the whole village was in an uproar. The fire department responded promptly, but before they could get their streams to playing the whole of the Pew block was in flames and beyond the control of the department. Within 25 minutes of the time that the alarm was given the post office and the electric light works were also a mass of flames. Billows rolled and surged across the street and drove the firemen back. The water that they threw seemed to have no effect whatever upon the fire. The only vantage ground from which the fire could be reached was on the river side from the Gleason & Bailey works. Here the company's pumps were put on and did great work in keeping the flames from spreading to the east.
At 4 o'clock a wind sprang up from the south and sent the flames pouring in great masses across the street. Already the Daniel Opera House was scorched and dry, and as the wind sent the flames across, it caught the fire and in turn sent the flames skyward. It was then that the fire department realized how powerless they were in the hands of the fire demon and sent for aid to the villages of Waterloo and Geneva.
At 5:30 o'clock the Geneva Button Engine Company and the Nestor Hose from Geneva arrived and shortly after came the Waterloo Engine company. And the flames still raged. The drug store of Edward Woolston, newly fitted up, was the first in the Hoag block to catch the fire and carry it onward in its course of destruction. As the Opera House crumbled beneath its scorching touch, as if in exaltation at its power to destroy, the fire fiend went from place to place, licking up the small business houses at one great gulp. The Western Union Telegraph office, the Reveille Journal, and Courier offices, lawyers' offices, barber shops, markets and stores all were to feed the flames which seemed to grow the fiercer as the water was poured on them. At 4 o'clock the sky was lighted so that a newspaper could be read with ease in Springport five miles distant. At 7 o'clock the fire had gained such headway in spite of the help that had arrived all hope of saving the village was despaired of. Then fortune favored them and the wind went down. By their combined and continued efforts the flames were at last got under control, but it was not until they had lapped every inflammable thing within a district covering about three acres of ground.
It is probable that the insurance companies will not be called upon to pay 10 per cent of the actual loss. The greatest confidence has been felt all along in the efficiency of the fire department. So great has this confidence been that rather than submit to the increase in the insurance rates the business men have either allowed their insurance to lapse or have reduced the amount of their insurance. The result is that the fire has caused almost a total loss. Only one accident occurred during the day while the men were playing on the Hoag block the hose slipped from the hand of those holding it and struck John Duff in the leg breaking it just below the knee.
The Seneca Electric Company are the heaviest losers. The total value of their block and plant is $175,000 with no insurance except $10,000 on the block. Mr. Phillips and the company he represents are the most energetic and pushing capitalists in the village, and will probably make arrangements to continue business at once. Mr. Phillips left for New York last night to consult with members of the company.
Milton Hoag is probably the heaviest loser except the Electric Light company. He loses from $80,000 to $50,000 above his insurance. His loss includes the Hoag House and barns and the entire Daniels Opera House property. He had just sold his drug store to parties from Cortland and whether he loses on that or not is not at present known.
The burned buildings were the handsomest in the village and included the Phoenix block, containing the post office, the Courier office and the American express office, the Partridge block, the Johnson block, the Hoag House, the Daniels block, Houston electric light works, including dynamos. All the letters were saved from the post office, but very little of value was taken out of the remaining burned buildings. Every printing office was burned and there is not a pound of type in the village. The names of the papers are the Reveille, the Courier and the News, all weeklies.
The losers with amounts of losses and insurance as far as ascertained are as follows: Thomson-Houston electric light works, loss $100,000, insurance $10,000; the Phoenix block, owned by Mrs. Lee Partridge and occupied as follows: Reveille office, loss $15,000, insurance $2,000; Courier office, loss $12,000, insurance $4,000; Sanderson Bros., furniture dealers, the post office and the American Express office, the Partridge block occupied by Mauer, tobacconist, and Cromwell, butcher, the Peat block containing Southerland's saloon, Peck & Co.'s fish market, Allen confectionery; the Johnson block, loss $25,000, insurance $10,000, this block also contained Miss Jennings' millinery, Sam Lawrence's saloon, Robert Wayne's barber shop, and one vacant store. James Gould block, occupied by Munnold Bros., clothiers, loss $3,000, insurance $1,000. D. Howe block, occupied by Hoag drugs and Stahlnecker saloon; C. L. Sheldon block, with Albert Gay, clothier, and Bartlette Bros., tobacconists, whose goods were badly damaged.
This was the extent of the fire on the south side of Main street.
Beginning on the north side of the street at the Hoag House, and going east, the following places were burned: Hoag House, $25,000, insurance $10,000; Daniels block occupied by Van Kleek, drug store, Hill's groceries and Gilmore drugs; Opera House block, owned by Milton Hoag, Daniels Opera House, loss $50,000, insurance $10,000, E. W. Addison, boots and shoes, Garnsey and Walter hardware, loss $15,000; and a vacant store. Single stores, Howe, hatter, loss $6,000, insurance $4,000; Phelps & Hawley hardware; Cromwell store, occupied by H. C. Blodget dry goods, loss$15,000, insurance $10,500; F. P. McCarthy harness, loss $12,000; a vacant store belonging to J. F. Miller badly damaged. Here the progress of flames on Main street was stayed.
The names of the losers on State street are as follows: Mrs. A.M. Johnson, house and block; George Black, barber shop; O. Fornesi, confectionery; Marcott block, occupied by a Chinese laundry, Comber's wholesale liquor store, Hanna's secondhand store, A. M. Hall's cigar manufactory and Kellogg's livery stables. The horses and carriages in the stables were saved. Two dwelling houses next to the stables were burned.
Altogether there were about 50 buildings laid in ashes. The list given does not include the numerous offices in the upper part of the burned buildings. The Empire State Telephone office was entirely cleaned out, together with the Western Union telegraph office. The telephone company opened a temporary office in front of the Stanton House at 9 o'clock, and at 12 was working in a new block. The telegraph company is using the New York Central wire. The electric light company has already made arrangement for starting a new plant in Johnson Hall and the village which was thrown into darkness by the destruction of its extensive works will be lighted by electricity within three weeks.
The following are additional figures of losses: R. C. Wayne, book store, $4,000, insurance $2,200; Sutherland & Squires, saloon, loss $1,500, insurance $500; John Crowel, market, loss $500, insurance $300; Maurer Bros., tobacco, loss $3,000, insurance $1,000; Seneca County Journal, loss $7,000, insurance $4,000; Seneca Plating Company, loss $1,500, insurance none; E. W. Addison, boots and shoes, loss $10,000, insurance $400; J. K. Gilmore, drugs, loss $6,000, insurance $4,000; Geo Hanna, second-hand clothing, loss $1,800, insurance $500; H. W. Knight, two dwellings, loss $1,000, insurance $800; Dr. Howe block, loss $13,000, insurance $8,000; A. M. Hall, cigar manufacturer, loss $2,200, insurance $1,000; Garnsey & Waller, loss $10,000, insurance $6,000; Albert S. Gag, clothier, loss $8,000; J. Stahlnecker, saloon, $2,500; M. Hoag, drugs, $8,000; Jacob Allen, confectionery, $1,500; W. Beers, news room, $400; C. S. Sanderson, undertaker, $3,000; William Sanderson, furniture, $9,000; American Express Company, $2,000; P. H. Van Auken, office, $1,000; Phillips & Hawley, hardware, $5,000; E. Hill, grocer, $3,000; P. H. Van Kleeck, drugs. $3,000; William Comber, wholesale liquors, $3,000; Daniels block, $12,000.
Photos of Seneca Falls fire: http://blogs.fingerlakes1.com/flistory/the-great-seneca-falls-fire-of-1890/
Any person who may wish to take the contract to furnish the town of Cortlandville the booths for election purpose, is requested to inclose a plan, specifications and estimate, in a sealed envelope and leave the same at the office of the town clerk, Second National Bank building, on or before Aug. 15, 1890, or hand the same to either of the assessors or the Supervisor.
The town will require 78 voting booths, each to have four sides inclosed, one side to open and shut as a door swinging outward, each side of each booth to be at least six feet high and the door to extend to within two feet of the floor, each booth to be at least three feet square and to contain a shelf at least one foot wide, extending across one side at a convenient height for writing.
The plans submitted must comply in all respects with Chap. 262 L. 1890, to which reference is hereby made for a complete description.
Dated July 29, 1890.
By Order Town Board.
H. A. DICKINSON, Town Clerk.
A RUMOR HUNTED DOWN.
MR. EDITOR:— The rumor that Wm. H. Clark had started for Bar Harbor, Me., on his bicycle with copies of the recent correspondence between him and Palmer in his pocket, to induce Mr. Blaine to retract his opinions in favor of reciprocity or free trade with the Spanish-American countries, lacks confirmation. On investigation it was found the bicycle was still here. It is believed the recent retraction signed by Theo. Stevenson and others will have great weight with Mr. Blaine and induce him to see that harmony in the G. O. P. requires that he should retract the heresy of partial free trade contained in his recent letters. This is the most important mission the editor of the Standard has yet undertaken.
Cortland, July 29, 1890.
HERE AND THERE.
The fall term of Homer Academy opens on Tuesday. August 26th.
Annual review of the fire department will take place August 16th.
The Wickwire wire mills are shut down afternoons during the [trotting] races.
The Homer Wire Fabric Company will start up again about the middle of August.
Frank T. Newcomb & Co., of Homer, have purchased over 40,000 lbs. of wool this season.
Cortland Wagon Company mutual aid excursion to Pleasant Beach to-morrow. Train will stop at Homer.
The forty-fifth regiment band furnished muscle for the first day of the races. The band numbers seventeen pieces.
The grounds surrounding the opera house are being graded, and a new walk has been laid to the stage entrance.
The funeral of Mr. Maurice Ready was attended from St. Mary's church, Sunday afternoon. He was seventy years of age.
There were nearly one hundred fine trotting and pacing horses stabled on the fairground over Sunday and throughout the week.
Palmer R. Price of Homer, has been adjudged incompetent to take care of his property and a committee has been appointed to take charge of the same.
Work men are engaged in preparing the foundation for a fine residence on the Woodworth lot on North Main street. The former building has been moved on to Pearne street.
Thursday noon the works of the Cortland Wagon Company closed until next Monday morning. This was done that employes might attend the closing day of races and the Pleasant Beach excursion.
The Hitchcock Manufacturing band furnished music at the races Wednesday; gave an open air concert at McGrawville last evening, and will render a select programme to our citizens this evening at the Messenger House corner.
The crosswalks along Main and other streets have been relaid and brought to grade during the past few days.
To my friends and patrons: Allow me to notify you that I have this day sold my Fire Insurance Agency business and good will which for years has been in the Messenger family to Theo. Stevenson, who has the largest, oldest, and best conducted insurance agency outside of the principal cities of our state. Thanking you for your past favors I would request you to continue all your business with my successor. Mr. Stevenson, who, I assure you will give your business prompt and courteous attention. Yours very truly,
HENRY A. MESSENGER.
Cortland, N. Y., July 25, 1890.