Cincinnati, OH Pike Opera House Fire, Mar 1866


probably the most celebrated fire and certainly one of the most destructive in the history of the city occurred on March 22, 1866. In this fire Cincinnati's handsomest building, Pike's Opera House, was burned to the ground and with it were destroyed the buildings occupied by the Adams Express Company, R. W. Carroll & Company, Peter's music store, Wheeler & Wilson, Philip Phillip's music store, the Enquirer office, Langley's cigar store and W. B. Clapp's jewelry store, as well as houses on Baker and Third streets. The curtain had just fallen upon a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and the audience had dispersed. Some had noticed a slight odor of gas but apparently no one paid any attention to it. Suddenly at a quarter past 11 a tremendous explosion was heard by those in the neighborhood of Fourth and Vine; this was followed by a deep rumbling noise as of thunder. Flames immediately appeared in the rear portion of the building and spread so rapidly that within a few moments the whole building was a mass of fire. Within a short time the buildings of the entire square were in flames. The fire was so intense and so wide-spread that very little could be done by the department. The total loss was estimated to be about one and three quarter millions of dollars. Several persons were injured but fortunately no lives were lost. The origin of the fire was never known. A curious circumstance connected with this fire was the stealing of Samuel N. Pike's watch by a sneak thief who took advantage of Mr. Pike's interest in the fire as he stood on the top of the Burnet House to relieve him of his valuables.

Centennial History of Cincinnati and Representative Citizens by Charles Theodore Greve, 1904, page 849