Rochester, NY Fire Sweeps Downtown, Feb 1904

Scene Before Fire Fighting the fire Fighting the fire Collapsing Wall



Rochester, N. Y., Feb. 26. -- The worst conflagration in the history of Rochester broke out shortly before 5 o'clock this morning in the basement of the Rochester Dry Goods company's store at 1516 Main street. The fire, according to the night watchman in the store, THOMAS CONNORS, was discovered soon after it started, but it spread with such rapidity that by the time an alarm was turned it, the entire front of the store was a mass of flames. The fire department responded promptly. Assistant Chief JAYNES realized at once the dangerous nature of the fire and turned in a general alarm. By this time the flames had spread to the building occupied by the dry goods firm of BEADLE and SHERBURNE company. Chief LITTLE arrived on the scene promptly after the general alarm was sounded. He realized that the flames were beyond control of the local department, and appeals for more fire apparatus were sent to the chiefs of the BUffalo and Syracuse departments. Nearly five house later four steamers arrived from Syracuse.
Within an hour after being discovered the fire had spread to the big Granite building, occupied by the firm of SIBLEY, LYNDSAY and CURR, and by hundreds of business and professional men.
The only accident reported was the injury of Assistant Chief FRANK A. JAYNES, who was struck on the head by a flying nozzle. The loss is estimated at between four and five million dollars, most of which fell on the SIBLEY, LINDSAY and CURR company, the BEADLE and SHERBURNE company, the Rochester Dry Goods company, and the Walkover Shoe company. The loss to the business offices in the Granite building cannot be estimated at this writing.
Chief LITTLE believed the flames could be kept under control, as there was no wind. The firemen used dynamite early, but the use of explosives was soon abandoned.
A portion of the KIELEY building occupied by the BEADLE and SHERBURNE company, also fell, carrying with it a mass of burning timbers, brick and plaster. Trolley wires broke and eight firemen had narrow escapes from injury. The fire area was guarded by large details of policemen.

Start And Spread Of Flames.
Rochester, N. Y., Feb. 26. -- A great fire started in the heart of the business district of this city early today, and is still raging fiercely. The weather is ideal for fighting fire, as there is scarcely and wind blowing. Had there been even a moderately high wind the firemen say nothing could have prevented a repetition of the Baltimore fire.
As it is, the firemen are battling under extreme difficulties, as many water mains are frozen up.
At 7 o'clock Chief LITTLE and Commissioner of Public Safety GILMAN telegraphed to Buffalo and Syracuse for assistance.
At. 10:10 the Syracuse fire fighters arrived, having been delayed on account of the severe cold which is delaying traffic on all the railroads in this part of the state.
The chief of the fire department at 8:45 said he believed the fire could be kept within the main street block extending from St. Paul to North streets unless it crosses to the south side of Main street. In this event a large part of the residences of the section would have to go.
The fire is reported to have started in the basement of the Rochester Dry Goods company. A fuse connected with the electrical motor that runs the elevator blew out, and the next moment the flames were rushing up the elevator well. In a few minutes thereafter, the building was wrapped in flames.
The fire spread to the Walkover Shoe company just east of the Rochester Dry Goods company, and this building was entirely gutted. The fire is under control in this section.
The fire also spread to the rear of the Granite building on Division street. The COX building which fronts on St. Paul street, on the corner of Division street, is on fire and is doomed. There have been several explosions in this building.
The fire started so early in the morning that very few people were on the street, but by six o'clock there were thousands crowding the scene of the disaster. Explosions of dynamite used to check the spread of the flames, were supplemented by the thunder of falling walls. Mayor CUTLER and Commissioner GILMAN were on the scene shortly after the fire was discovered.
The huge granite building belonging to SIBLEY, LINDSAY and the upper stories of which were occupied by hundreds of professional men, lawyers, doctors, dentists and business men, was gutted from the basement to the tenth story. The entire tenth floor of the Granite building was taken up with the offices of the Vacuum Oil company, a branch of the Standard Oil company. At 8:10 there was a tremendous explosion in the basement of the Granite building, where the SIBLEY company conducted a large drug department. There have been several previous explosions in the burning buildings.
Since 6 o'clock the trolley current has been cut off and the mass of wires in the fire section has been crashed to the ground. The Granite building will be a total loss.
Across St. Paul street to the west is another large dry goods store, BURKE, FITZSIMMONS, PONE & Co. The efforts of the fire department are centered on the west wall of the Granite building to prevent it falling and spreading the fire on the west of St. Paul street. Should the fire once spread to the West Side the entire business section would be at the mercy of the flames. On the corner diametrically opposite of COmmerce building, eleven stories the Granite building is the Chamber high. The building occupied by the Rochester Dry Goods company, just east of the Granite building, is totally destroyed and the walls have fallen.
At 9:15 Asst. Chief FRANK JAYNES was injured by a fall his head being cut open.

Fire Losses.
This afternoon the firemen apparently had the fire under full control. Insurance men estimate the loss at from four to five million dollars. The heaviest losses are on buildings. The Granite building, $300,000; insurance $175,000; Buell building, $75,000; Cornwall building, $75,000; SIBLEY, LINDSAY & CURR, loss on building not given; insurance $200,000; retail stock, $350,000, insurance $300,000; wholesale stock, $1,200,000, insurance $1,000,000; loss to tenants in the Granite building, $200,000; loss in stock to BEADLE and SHERBURNE company, $65,000, insurance $250,000; loss to stock of Rochester Dry Goods company $150,000, insurance $125,000.
Assistant Chief FRANK JAYNES, while at work fighting the flames at 9:15 fell from a ladder and was seriously injured, a fearful gash being cut in his head. Injury is not necessarily fatal.

The Ogden Standard Utah 1904-02-26