Bethlehem, PA Opera House Fire, Oct 1884



South Bethlehem, Penn., Oct. 7. -- A fire broke out this morning under the stage of the Grand Opera House. When the alarm was given the flames had gained much headway, and it was at once seen that it was impossible to save the building or its contents. South Bethlehem firemen responded promptly, but they had no steamer, and the engine of the rolling mill was utilized to pump water. The Bethlehem steamers were asked to come to the scene and lend their aid, but they refused to respond unless ordered to do so by the Chief of the Fire Department. After hunting high and low for the Chief he was found, and finally gave his consent to send the Bethlehem department to the scene. This was almost two hours after the fire broke out. The roof had fallen in and carried all the walls down to the first story with it. The front part of the opera house, H. J. JACOB'S jewelry store, and the Bethlehem Iron Company's store, which was packed with all kinds of dry goods, carpets, groceries, &c., with nearly all the stock, were destroyed. The loss on the company's stock is estimated at $25,000, and on the building at $60,000. The latter is insured for $30,000 and the former for about $20,000.
By the time the firemen got into service the entire upper part of Palace Row, adjoining, was wrapped in flames. Help came from the Fire Department in Bethlehem, and all the companies abandoned the opera house and directed their attention to saving the row, the first story of which was burned off. The row was occupied by WILLIAM WINT as a liquor store; MILTON LAUFER, stove and tin store; A. H. UHLMAN, music store; J. H. FABS, as a green grocery, and four families. All the occupants lost heavily, the stock and furniture being damaged by water, JACOB'S loss is heavy. He escaped fromt the building in his night clothes. FAHS knew nothing about the fire until near 4 o'clock. He occupied the upper part of the building as a dwelling, and was awakened by the smoke. He and his child were nearly suffocated. CHARLES FOGET, a fireman, had his head badly cut by the falling walls. Several men had their clothing and hands burned in trying to save the stock in the company's store.
The opera house was 50 by 100 feet, four stories high, and was purchased of ABRAHAM YOST several years ago at Sheriff's sale. It had a seating capacity of 1,500 and was remodeled this Summer. What caused the fire is not known, but it is supposed to have originated in one of the dressing rooms, as one of the members of the company was smoking there at the close of the performance. The "Separation" company, which played last night in the house, removed all their baggage after the last act. It has been the custom before last night to leave the baggage in the opera house until the next morning. Engagements had been made with various companies for performances, all of which will now have to be canceled, as there is no other large building in town where performances can be given. The burned opera house will be rebuilt at once. The total loss on buildings and stocks is estimated at $125,000.
Through the recklessness of several firemen who were under the influence of liquor the fire may result in the loss of life. While four men were standing on a ladder it fell, and a man namce MAUSER had his back broken. He is in a critical condition, and his life is despaired of.

The New York Times New York 1884-10-08