New York, NY Tarrant & Co Drug House Explosion, Nov 1900


Many Persons Killed and Property, Worth Millions, Destroyed.


Fire Started in a Drug House and Explosions of Chemicals Wrecked an Acre of Buildings.

The Fire Said to Have Started in the Laboratory of Tarrant & Co.'s Drug House From an Electric Wire – The Business Section of the Metropolis Shock by a Series of Explosions – Hundreds Were Injured, Most of Them by Flying Debris – Property Loss Estimated at $1,500,000.

New York City (Special). -- A terrific explosion of chemicals in the wholesale drug store of Tarrant & Co., on the northwest corner of Warren and Greenwich streets, totally wrecked about twenty buildings and damaged three score others more of less; made more than thirty firms homeless, entailed a property loss of about $1,500,000, injured over 200 persons, some of them seriously, and killed over a score of others. The loss of life may be finally determined when the ruins have been searched.
Flames were seen breaking from the third floor of the drug manufacturing house of Tarrant & Co. some minutes before the crash came. At ten minutes after 12 o'clock a terrific explosion in the Tarrant building threw the entire front of the structure into the street.
One fire company had just arrived on the scene when the awful explosion occurred. It threw the whole engine crew down the stairway.
Captain DEVANNEY, of the company, ordered his crew back into the building again. They were dragging the line to the doorway for the second time when a second explosion, more terrific that the first, come, and the whole crew was hurled across Greenwich street.
In the meantime the other engines that had responded to the alarm had collected, and the firemen were busy rescuing people from surrounding buildings. Firemen had already taken many girls down the only fire escape upon the building, and more persons had been carried down the escapes of the Home-Made Restaurant, next door, and the buildings adjoining upon Warren street.
Reliable persons who witnessed the second explosion declare they saw a column of smoke and flame shoot 300 feet into the air from the top of the drug shop, and nearly all of them assert that they clearly saw bodies in the fiery fountain.
The building seemed to leap into the air, and in a moment masses of brick wall, timbers and stone were falling into the streets. The force of the explosion tore away the walls of the big commission store houses fronting on Washington street and caused them to collapse, falling all at once in a mass of timbers, boxes and barrels, from which the flames, which burst out from the Tarrant building like the belching of a cannon, at once broke forth.
Across Warren street to the opposite buildings the flames leaped, setting them all on fire at once, the force of the explosion demolishing windows and all wooden structures about the houses. In a moment Warren street was choked up with a mass of debris and the whole place was aflame. The great explosion was followed by half a dozen more, scarcely less intense, and by a countless number of smaller ones.
By this time the fire apparatus was arriving from every direction. Deputy Chief AHEARN came about two minutes after the second series of explosions, and he at once ordered a fifth alarm sent out, followed by a general call for ambulances. The explosion and the fire together had now assumed the proportion of a great catastrophe. Throngs of people were rushing about in the near-by streets, many of them panic-stricken, fleeing from the fire.
Half an hour after the explosion the streets for blocks around the fire were crowded with fire apparatus with a score of ambulances, while hundreds of police were being rushed from all the lower precincts of the city to form lines, and many priests from near-by parishes were going here and there in the smoke-obscured thoroughfares, seeking for injured who might need their aid.
The second explosion carried destruction in every direction. Just after the outbreak of fire from the windows of the building a downtown bound train stopped at Warren street station of the Ninth Avenue Elevated road. It passed on in time to escape the explosion. The explosion completely carried away the station, and the mass of masonry that fell with it broke through the flooring and almost demolished the structure just below the building.
Immense masses of masonry, pieces of cornice, great beams, window casings and an indescribable mass of wreckage of every description tumbled suddenly into the street in front of the building all at once.
The wreckage was thrown across the windows of the building in which the Irving National Bank is on the north east corner of the streets. The officer of the Irving Bank and of Mecklem Brothers, bankers and brokers, were nearly wrecked.
Captain McCLUSKY, of the detective Bureau, was appealed to to[sic] protect the funds of the bank, he being told that they were in the vault, the door of which was supposed to be unlocked. When the Captain and his en went in however, they found about $10,000 scattered in confusion over counters and floors. This was hastily thrown into the vault and the door locked.
Down in Mecklem Brothers' offices in the basement, when the fire broke out, $90,000 in money lay upon the counters. A boy named HECKENBERRY was stationed at the door while this was gathered together for putting in the vault.
The first explosion filled the place with sulphurous smoke that nearly asphyxiated everybody. The second explosion blew in the windows and cut the two MECKLEMS seriously. The boy HECKENBERRY found the two girl clerks lying in a heap, fainted away. He carried them out to a place of safety.
A barber shop in the same building was demolished, the barbers and two customers that were being shaved were driven to the street. The other tenants of the building, a number of lawyers and brokers, all escaped injury.
The explosion completely demolished windows along Greenwich street on both sides for three blocks in both directions. The street was covered with fine bits of glass.
The explosion was supposedly caused by naphtha. In the great confusion that existed it was impossible to find any person who could give the slightest detail regarding the work that was being done at the time the calamity occurred and the possible cause other than the escape of naphtha gas.
The whole lower part of the city felt the shock and streets for blocks leading to the scene were strewn with glass from windows and doors, whose empty frames told of the force of the quakes.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1900-11-02