New York, NY Lard Refinery River Front Fire, Apr 1889


A Tremendous Fire Along New York's River Front.

Five Immense Buildings and Other Property Destroyed.

One of the biggest fires known in New York City for many years broke out in the Wilcox Lard Refinery, at the foot of West Fifty-ninth street at about 4 P. M. It destroyed the refinery, Rossiter's stores and two immense grain elevators, with their covered wharves and connecting buildings and nearly half a million bushels of grain, besides a great quantity of flour, rosin, ale, oil, lard and other commodities on storage. The loss was estimated to be $4,000,000, partly covered by insurance.
It was the biggest fire, measured according to the standard of the insurance companies, upon which will fall the whole of the loss, that New York has known of recent years.
Far into the night the flames raged with fury, throwing a lurid glare over the whole city and for miles into the surrounding country.
A spectacle of more appalling grandeur was never witnessed. The cries of fright of thousands of animals imprisoned in the pens of the great Union Stock Yards added to the horror of the scene.
The flames started in the Wilcox Lard and Refining Company's massive five-story brick factory, at the foot of Fifty-ninth street.
Nearly, one hundred laborers and a dozen clerks were at work in the factory at the time.
In spite of their utmost exertions the flames gained rapidly, and after ten precious minutes had been wasted the men became panic stricken and fled from the building. With a roar like an explosion the flames burst up from the cellar and rushed along the oil-soaked floor of the first story.
The police had turned in a second and third alarm, and the sound of engine bells was heard on every hand. Four Truck arrived just as the crowd discovered a man in one of the third story windows. He screamed for help and the crowd screamed and shouted. The firemen pulled a ladder off the truck and raised it to the window.
“Come down!” yelled the fireman.
The man made a feint of clambering on to the ladder, but he was filled with fear or his strength had left him.
“Come down!” shrieked the crowd.
The man threw one leg over the sill, and with each hand clasping the frame work, looked down at the crowd with staring eyes. A tongue of flame in a heavy cloud of thick smoke burst out. The man would be burnt to death if he remained there much longer. A fireman ran up the ladder and grasped his leg. He pulled as hard as he could, but the man hung back and the fireman retreated slowly, urging the man to follow him. Suddenly the man threw his hands in the air and leaped out. He fell on the sidewalk, and was smashed so badly he died in a few minutes. He was HENRY BENNING, a laborer employed in the factory.
Within fifteen minutes after the fire started the flames reached a lot of wooden fences and shanties between the factory and the river and flashed across them to the New York Central pier at the foot of the street, known as Dock C. It was crammed with lard and oil awaiting shipment and the flames swept it from end to end with a rush.
At five o'clock the flames had gained full __________ were turned anxiously on the big elevator.

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