Bloomington, IL Fire, Jun 1900 - Loss in Millions

Bloomington Laid Waste

Five Squares in Main Business District in Ashes---The Court House and Fine Blocks.

Loss Estimated To Be In Millions

Fire Protection Fails at the Critical Point-Help from Other Cities-Fifty Business Houses Lost.

Bloomington, Ill., June 19.-A terrific conflagration has wiped out nearly one-half of the business portion of Bloomington, including the finest business buildings and heaviest stocks of merchandise. Two sides of the court house square are in ruins. The north and east; and two other blocks cornering on the square and one-half of the block west of the square are destroyed. The courthouse is a ruin. It is standing, but is butted from dome to basement. The loss is variously estimated at from $1,500.00 to $2,000,000. Fortunately no lives were lost or anyone seriously injured. There was a report that several firemen were killed, but this proved untrue.

Fire broke out at 12:30 a.m. in the Model laundry on Monroe street, in the block northeast of the court house. It immediately got beyond control, passing into the four-story brick of B.S. Green & Co., Monroe and East. In an hour the entire block was destroyed, excepting the government building, in which is the post office and which escaped unharmed. In this block was the old Durley theater and the block was being remodeled. In this the principal losers are George Brand & Co., furniture; Vimont & Koehn, dry goods; Cooper & Jackman, glassware; Pixley & Co., clothing; E. Thompson and Sons, furniture and mattresses; Model laundry; the B.S. Green Co.; Z.T. Miller & Sons, hardware. The fire leaped west across Main street, destroying the block, including the Minerva building, owned by Dr. Schroeder; M. Sans, No Name store; Niehaus’s restaurant; Helbig’s music store; the McLean County Coal Co.; Senseney’s coal office; Guthrie’s cigar store; the Phoenix hotel; Garver’s drug store; Coblent’s drug store; R.C. Rogers, wallpaper; C.W> Kleman, dry goods, where the loss is $100,000; Stephen Smith Sons, dry goods, $75,000; J.H. Riggs, dry goods, $30,000; Bolles’s tailor shop; Schneider Shoe Store Co.

The Windsor hotel on the west side of Center was next destroyed, a loss of at least $50,000. In this building was Wilcox’s big dry goods establishment, loss $75,000. Mehaffey’s livery barn was also in the block destroyed but the stock was saved.

Griesheim’s seven-story building, corner of Main and Jefferson, was fired and about 2 o’clock and with the entire block lying east of the court house, is destroyed. Griesheim’s building was occupied as a clothing store on the ground floor. All the upper stories and offices, occupied by 300 to 400 professional men. The loss is $100,000. In this block and destroyed were Parritt’s jewelry establishment; Cole Bros.’ new building and dry goods stock; Fahey’s saloon; the Corn Belt Bank; Reed Bros., hardware; Klopp, hats and caps; State National Bank; the Eagle office building and Brokaw’s livery stable.

The courthouse caught fire from the Griesheim building and burned slowly, the clock in the dome running until it struck four. The court records were removed in safety. The court house cost $400,000 25 years ago. In the block west of the square Green’s jewelry and drug store was destroyed; also Gowdie’s Boston store; Ebert & Goode’s 5 and 10 cent store; Kleinaus, confectionery, and Ensenberger’s furniture establishment was badly wrecked. In this block the western end of the fire was overcome by the Bloomington, Peoria and Springfield departments just in time to save the block to the west. The eastern branch of the fire was checked by blowing up several buildings. The water supply was deficient at a critical stage of the conflagration.

Robert Louis Schmitt, aged 19, died at 4:30 a.m. from a shock occasioned by noise of an explosion of dynamite used in blowing up buildings to arrest the progress of the fire. He was a sufferer from heart disease.

Daily Register Gazette, Rockford, IL 19 Jun 1900


A letter received by Mrs. F.R. Metcalf from Mrs. Will I. Metcalf, of Bloomington, Ill., tells of the havoc and widespread destruction caused by Tuesday morning’s fire, which destroyed five of Bloomington’s finest business blocks, two hotels, the McLean county court house with all its priceless records. Will Metcalf has been employed as advertisement writer for the big department store of C.W. Klemm, which was completely destroyed, loss $147,000. Mr. Klemm was in New York at the time buying goods. People in the streets of Bloomington went almost wild, when the water gave out and they were obliged to stand and witness the destruction of some of the finest buildings of their beautiful city. Dispatches state that there were several lives lost.

Adrian Daily Telegram, Adrian, MI 20 Jun 1900