Mount Vernon, NY Building Fire, Sept 1878

Incendiaries At Work.

A Costly Building Burned At Mount Vernon.

Destruction By Fire of Cornelius Corson’s Forty-Thousand Dollar Barn-An Extravagant Building In Ashes.

A very large and costly barn on the property, a quarter of a mile north of the depot at Mount Vernon, formerly owned and occupied by Cornelius Corson, who was one of the prosperous associates of Tweed was burned to the ground yesterday morning, with all it’s contents, except a few articles of small value that were saved. The property is in charge of Edward Carroll, who occupies the dwelling nearby, with is family, to guard the building against fire. The fire was undoubtedly the work of an incendiary, but when it was discovered it had made to much headway to permit its origin to be ascertained. There were three dogs on the premises-one in the house, one outdoors, and a large and sagacious old fellow, named Leo, in the barn. At 1:30 A.M. Carroll was roused by the barking of Leo, and on looking out he saw that nearly the whole of the north end of the barn was in flames. Carroll hastened outdoors, and heard the footsteps of a person running away up the public road. The Mount Vernon fire-bells were promptly rung, and the firemen came quickly, but seeing that they could not save the barn, they devoted their efforts successfully to saving the dwelling-house, situated about 100 feet from it. The barn was a frame building, 100 feet square and three stories in height, with a large tower of three stories above the roof. From the top-story of the tower a magnificent view could be had of the surrounding country, the waters of Long Island Sound and the hills of Long Island. “Corson’s big barn,” as it was generally called, was the wonder of the country for miles about. It had chimneys and fireplaces, it might readily have been converted into a grand hotel. The first floor was arranged for stock and vehicles, with a big room, handsomely finished, for an office and smoking room. On the second floor was a billiard-room and fine bowling alley. On the south side of the building the space of a good part of the second and third stories was taken up with an elegant assembly-room, furnished with handsome settees, so that an audience of 600 persons could be seated, or the floor could be cleared for dancing. A spacious music-gallery was built high up o none side of the room. The remainder of the third story was occupied by a picture-gallery, a music-room, a play-room for children, and a large library. The flames consumed a large lot of valuable books of elegant and uniform special binding; a handsome billiard table, a number of pictures, some harness and one vehicle. There was not a wisp of straw or hay in the building. The barn was erected by days’ work concurrently with other improvements made on the property under the personal direction of Mr. Corson in the palmy days of the Tweed regime in 1870 and 1871, and almost without regard to cost, so that its cost has never been known even to Mr. Corson himself. It is believed that the barn and contents consumed must have cost fully $10,000 at the “flush times” prices. Mr. Corson parted with the entire property several years ago, and since then the estate has gone into divided ownership, although nominally in custody of a real estate firm in Mount Vernon. It is not know whether the destroyed property was insured, but it probably is in favor of a mortgage, the estate being heavily mortgaged to an insurance company in New York. Since Mr. Corson removed from the place it has been leased for use both as a private residence and a hotel, but the rent and taxes, (the latter amount to be $1,200 yearly,) were found to be too burdensome to be borne in the present condition of the county, and lately there has been talk of making it the site for some public institution. The estate comprises 15 acres, and is said to have cost Mr. Corson $100,000, including the first cost of $15,000. The dwelling-house is an old fashioned farm-house of liberal dimensions, with a small wing of modern architecture. On their way home, at about daybreak, the Mount Vernon firemen discovered another incendiary fire in an unoccupied house on Fourth Avenue, and quickly extinguished it.

The New York Times, New York, NY 9 Sept 1878