Omaha, NE Farnam Street Theater Fire, Oct 1893


Farnam Street Theater Completely Destroyed


Five Firemen Injured, Two Fatally – Detailed Statement of the Losses and a List of the Names of the Losers – Origin of the Fire Unknown, But Supposed to Have Been Caused by the Falling of an Arc Electric Light – First Discovered on the State.

OMAHA, Neb., Oct. 3 – The Farnam Street theatre, on the northeast corner of Fifteenth and Farnam streets, has been completely destroyed by fire. The building was of brick, 77 feet by 132 in size, and was four stories high in front and five in the rear. On the first floor were a number of stores, the stocks of which were ruined. The total loss is estimated at $252,000. Six persons, five of them firemen, were injured by falling walls. They are: J. M. GAYNOR, spectator, head and spine injured; J. H. SCOTT, pipeman, bruised on head and body; ED. SIMPSON, ladderman, arm broken; JOHN McBRIDE, fire captain, cut about head and leg – dangerously injured; Pipeman KLEANER, cuts about the head and concussion of the brain; Pipeman MALSON, severe cuts about head; Pipeman AL. JEROME, missing. McBRIDE and KLEANER are thought to be fatally injured.

The opera house, which occupied the four floors above the first, was insured for $90,000 and was worth $200,000. SNOW, LUND & Co., druggists on the ground floor, were damaged to the extent of $9,000, the insurance just about covering the amount; J. J. MULLEN, a confectioner, lost a $5,000 stock, insured for $3,500; LENZ & WILLIAMS, saloonkeepers, next door to the theatre building, lost on stock and fixtures $8,000 and were insured for $5,000; JACK WOOD, saloon on the ground floor of the theatre building lost $15,000 and held insurance to the amount of $6,500; ED WITTIG, beer saloon operator, adjoining theatre building, lost $3,400 and was insured for $1,500; HENRY ALLENSPACH, ticket broker in the theatre building, lost $300, uninsured; PARDEEN'S bath and barber shop in the theatre basement, lost $3,000, half insured; The American Fuel company on first floor, lost furniture and fixtures worth $500, fully insured; J. S. SCOTT, cigar dealer in the same office, lost $600, insured. A. RUBENSTEIN, dyeshop in the basement, lost $300, uninsured; D. JACKMAN, dentist on the second floor, lost $3,500, partially insured; HESS & SWOBODIA, florists, lost $300, uninsured; N. M. RUDDY, optician, lost $2,500, half insured.

The origin of the fire is not known. It was discovered in the stage about 5 o'clock just after “The Walls of New York” had ended a rehearsal, and it is thought that the fire started from a spark thrown out during the fire scene in the play or from a cigarette dropped by one of the players. Another theory that it was caused by the falling of an arc-light. The theater employes[sic] at first, attempted to put out the fire by using the hose in the building, but this was soon given up and a general alarm sounded. The falling in of a portion of the roof carried the fire into the middle of the building, and the firemen, owing to an unaccountable weakness of the water pressure, could for a time do nothing with it.

The first three of the injured were hurt by falling timbers, which fell from the high portion of the rear wall. This caused the collapse of the north wall. At 10:30 the west wall crumbled and it was here that the last of the firemen named were injured. All of them were buried in the debris, being carried down to the sidewalk from a narrow balcony on which they were working. AL. JEROME, one of the squad, was still missing at a late hour, and is believed to be lying dead at the bottom of the pile. On account of the menacing condition of the walls yet standing, Fire Chief GALLIGAN said that he would not order his men beneath them to search for the missing firemen. When the east wall fell the mass crushed the one-story saloon buildings of LENTZ & WILLIAMS and ED WITTIG, completely wrecking the buildings and destroying the stocks of both.

The Racine Daily Journal Wisconsin 1893-10-03