Birmingham, PA Fire, Apr 1854

Great Fire in Birmingham, Pa!

The largest and most disastrous fire we have been visited by since the 10th of April 1845, occurred in Birmingham; opposite the eastern end of this city yesterday, (Saturday,) by which upwards of one hundred houses and stores have been left in ruins, and at least two hundred families rendered homeless.

About 2 o'clock in the afternoon fire was discovered issuing from the packing house, belonging to the glass manufactory [sic] of C. IHMSEN & CO. in the western end of Birmingham. The wind was cold and blowing a perfect hurricane when the fire broke out, and the flames spread with tremendous rapidity, so that in a few minutes the adjoining buildings were enveloped in one wild and raging flame of fire and smoke. It soon communicated to GREGG'S LEAD FACTORY and SAWMILL, and next to twelve frame houses close by, which were all in a flame and consumed so rapidly that the occupants had barely time to escape with their lives. (We may just add, that MR. JOHN D. DAVIS has but a short time since, purchased the last named twelve houses.)
Between Grosvenor and M'Kee streets, forty buildings were entirely destroyed, and by the force of the wind, sparks and burning pieces of shingles were carried to Bradford street, where some frame buildings caught, and still raging most fearfully along Bradford and Dewman streets, (known as Cholera Hollow,) upwards of sixty dwellings and stores were left in smoking ruins. Great excitement prevailed throughout the borough, and at one time it was thought the whole upper part of the town would be burned down, but happily the wind took a change to the southward, and by the efforts of firemen and citizens, the flames were checked about six o'clock.

It is estimated that about three hundred families were compelled to move from their houses, about a hundred, however, in the vicinity of the fire, would return to their homes. The hill-side was covered with furniture, and distressed families running to and fro, suffering from cold. --- We have not heard an estimate of the loss, but it is very great. MR. IHMSEN had a large supply of glass, &c., and his loss will be heavy. The parking house and black bottle factory, together with their contents, were entirely destroyed.

The Pittsburgh firemen were promptly on the ground and rendered efficient service; some exceptions, must be made, however, as we learn some of them were beastly intoxicated, and disgraced themselves by their conduct in the streets; we regret to refer to this, but the firemen should be on their guard and not allow such conduct.
It was certainly the work of an incendiary, as there had not been any fire in the room where it originated. --- Pitts. Journal

The Erie Observer Pennsylvania 1854-04-01