Binghamton, NY Inebriate Asylum Fire, Mar 1870
THE INEBRIATE ASYLUM FIRE.
THE REAR BUILDING BURNED -- THE MAIN EDIFICE UNINJURED -- LOSS $75,000 -- SCENES AND INCIDENTS.
From the Binghamton Republican, March 5.
At between 11 and 12 o'clock last night, a fire caught in the rear of the New York State Inebriate Asylum, and in three quarters of an hour the entire rear building -- directly connected with the main building, but not part of it -- was wholly destroyed. By almost superhuman exertion the fire was kept from the main edifice, and that now stands substantially uninjured. The burned part, which covered a space of not far from 200 feet square, though a portion of it was used as a court yard, &c., contained the great dining room, provision rooms, kitchen, and about all the accommodations for operating the Asylum. It is impossible to determine accurately what the loss is, but it can scarcely fall below $75,000, and may exceed that sum.
The fireman, who was in his place, that adjoined the carpenter shop, says that not long before he saw the light, and raised the alarm, he heard a noise, as of somebody moving in the direction of the carpenter shop; he thought the noise was in the coal room; and that somebody was getting coal; but it does not appear that he paid any particular attention to the matter until he saw the fire. It is declared that none of the Asylum help were getting coal; and it is inferred, therefore, that, if (as if suspected) the fire was of an incendiary origin, what the firemen heard was the noise of the incendiary. There were windows through which a man might obtain entrance, if so disposed and the generally accepted theory is, that by some such means the fire occurred.
The Scene At The Fire.
The Asylum building being situated on an elevation, the conflagration was seen for miles in various directions. The Chenango Valley, as well as the Susquehanna Valley, was lighted up; but the main building, that is about three hundred feet long, faces this city and obscured the light to some extent. Yet the flames rose above the roof of the great edifice, (which is about twice as high as the other was,) and sometimes above the towers. As a spectacle, the Asylum fire was grand beyond conception of those who did not witness it. WHen it bacame certain that the rear could not be saved, the efforts of those who were at liberty were given to secure the property in it. As the fire raged overhead, the patients in the fifth ward were busily engaged in stripping their rooms; and they succeeded, we believe, in taking away all their effects. Some other property was saved, but not a great deal, owing to the fact that, as we have described, DR. DAY'S attention was given to the work of preserving the main building of the Asylum. The servants sleeping rooms were in the burning part, and the girls were hastily summoned from their beds, and we believe no great loss or injury occurred during the abandonment of the rear. The city waterworks are not connected with the Asylum. The plan of introducting the city water had been discussed, but not adopted.
The Old "Conservatory."
The ground burned over was DR. TURNER'S "conservatory." That is, the inclosed space comprising an area of somewhere about 200 or 250 feet square, was designed by DR. TURNER, under whose direction it was laid out, to contain some thousands of choice plants, trees, &c., and thus to form a place of promenade or inspection of the patients. It was but one story in height, and was covered with glass, as greenhouses usually are. But the present management discarded the idea as Utopian, or at least involving a measure of very doubtful utility; and instead of making an orange grove, they constructed an excellent dining room at the contract cost of several thousand dollars. They buildt also a commodious kitchen, such as would be required by a first class hotel, with billiard rooms well furnished; a gymnasium, with a full set of apparatus, and other conveniences for patients disposed to divert their minds and improve their health by exercise. The heating apparatus, comprising four fine boilers, were in this part of the building. There was also a laundry, and the accommodations of every class needed for a large public institution. It is probable that in consequence of the fact that the building was not designed for the purposes to which it was applied, that its cost was far greater than will be necessary for a compact building that will be needed in its place. But its fine courts and long and spacious halls will be very much missed by inmates of the asylum. The patients' OLLA PRDRIDA Club room was in the rear, and was burned, with much of its contents. The papers and books were saved. Two reading rooms were burned.
While the fire was at its height, many men from this city and elsewhere, entered the rooms of the patients and took clothing -- except when they were caught in the attempt, and were compelled to give up the property. One man opened a patient's trunk, took a coat out of it, took off his own shabby one and had his arm in the other, when the owner came up, and in the language of the "scouts" compelled him to "come out of it." It is said that some of the servant girls who had hastily arisen and had no shoes and very little clothing upon them, were stripped of blankets in which they had wrapped themselves. In fact blankets were taken whenever they could be found and from whosoever would give them up. Castors and valuables of every kind were taken away from thieves; but it is understood that a large proportion of the things stolen were carried away. An instance of particular outrage occurred to the Superintendent, DR. DRY, iin passing from one part of the badding to another, encountered two men going off with property they had seized; one had a bundle of blankets, and the other a carpet. The Superintendent ordered them to give up the things, when one of them stepped up to him and told him that if he made any disturbance they would kill him. DR. DAY faced him sharply, and said to him that if he failed to let go instantly what he had stolen, he would "trash the ground" with him; the fellow's courage was not equal to the occasion, and both men did as they were bidden, and sneaked off. This was during the confusion and excitement of the fire, when it was feared that the entire building would be destroyed, and no time could be given to arresting and holding men, even if there had been authority; soon afterward, however, the Superintendent organized a Police for the protection of property. Among the articles missing was a microscope belonging to the Superintendent, worth $250.
What Is To Be Done.
The resident Trustees of the Asylum hald a meeting this morning to determine what should be done; and it was decided to continue the work of the Asylum with as little interruption as possible. Cooking apparatus was ordered, and before noon was in the building. Stoves will be placed immediately in various parts of the building hitherto heated by steam. The floors, which were flooded with water, have already been cleaned. The furniture, &c., of the Asylum, which was thrown about in the utmost disorder, some of it outside the building, will be replaced immediately, and the patients will be comfortably accommodated in a day or two. The insurance on the entire building and furniture is $25,000. How soon the management will replace the building will be determined in a short time. The north wing of the Asylum was burned a few years ago, and is now in process of reconstruction. When that is finished it will afford all the accommodation of patients, except possibly what may relate to the culinary and laundry departments.
The New York Times New York 1870-03-07