Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments
Chapter 16, Part IV
By Holice and Debbie
John L. Guyre, a member of Engine company No. 14, at a fire in Front Street, on April 24, feel through a hatchway and was killed. A large concourse of firemen attended his funeral, and the members of his company raised a handsome monument over his tomb in Greenwood Cemetery. On June 6 a woman, with an infant in her arms, appeared at a window of a burning dwelling in Twenty-ninth Street, near Leonard Avenue, and piteously cried for help. Reckless of danger, Foreman Joseph Davison, Assistant Foreman John Rogers, and William Minor and William Seaman, of No. 39 Hose Company, rushed into the flames. For some minutes they were hidden from view, and the suspense of the onlookers was intense. Then Rogers and Minor were seen descending the stairs bearing both mother and child and all considerably burned. When they emerged into the street with their precious burdens, the enthusiastic shouts of firemen and spectators were almost deafening.
In 1853 several firemen were killed in the performance of their duty. In the previous year, on September 25, Arthur J. Evans, one of the brave Mount's comrades, of Hose company No. 14, lost his life at a fire in Palmer's Chocolate Factory in Duane Street. On May 31, 1853, George W. Trenchard, foreman of Hose Company No. 16, was killed at a fire in Essex Street. On October 30, Michael O'Brien, of Hook and Ladder Company No. 11, and John S. Carman, of Engine Company No. 5, were killed at a fire in the Fowler Buildings, corner of Fulton and Nassau Street.
On December 10, 1853, Franklin Square was the scene of one of the most disastrous of conflagration. Several buildings wre within a few hours transformed from gigantic warehouses, into smoldering ruins, and hundred of artisans and workmen engaged in comfortable occupations wre within the same time robbed of employment and thrown destitute upon the world. The fire began a little after one o'clock in the afternoon in the extensive publication establishment of Harper Brothers just after the employees had returned from dinner. It was said that a boy had dropped a lamp into the camphene in the engine room, which would account for the rapid spread of the flames. The building being filled with paper and matter of alight and combustible nature, the ignition from roof to basement was almost like the flashing of powder. By two o'clock nothing was standing of the immense warehouse except the outside walls, and within those the angry flames were sporting like infant demons. At this hour, the apprehension was very great. There was no reason to doubt the destruction of many blocks in the vicinity. The wind was very high, and even there fell thick and fast upon the roofs of buildings and the heads of spectators. From Harper's buildings the flames ignited the opposite side of Pearl Street, although very wide at this spot, and for a time there was every appearance that his block would be licked by the increasing fire. Soon after the fire a heavy cloud of smoke hung over the city, filling many of the down-town streets to a burdensome degree. There were many narrow escapes. One young woman jumped out of a window and fortunately escaped injury. Another young woman had her dress take fire and saved herself by stripping it off. Policeman Masterson took her to the Chief's office.
As soon as the fire had extended across Pearl Street the efforts of the firemen were divided. The first building which caught on this side of the street was the Walton House, of Revolutionary memory. This was No. 326 Pearl Street, and every effort of the hard-worked firemen to preserve it on account of its historical association was of no avail. In a few moments it was completely gutted. The Walton House was a large three-story edifice built in the English baronial style of the last century. It was erected about 1754 by an aristocratic gentleman from whom it took its name. Finally it was turned into a boarding house. Adjoining the Walton House was the Franklin Square Hotel which shared the fate of its neighbor. Next to this hotel, was the extensive bakery of ex-Alderman James Kelly, No. 330 Pearl Street. For a long time it was feared this would go with the rest, but Mr. Kelly being an old favorite of the Fire Department, and an ex-member himself, every nerve was strained to save his dwelling. Wet blankets were hung out of the windows, and his roof was kept well-flooded. A hole was burned though his roof, but the house sustained very little other injury. As evening advanced the fire had a terrific beauty of its own. Harper's wa one mass of rubbish, comprising six houses on Cliff Street, running through to Pearl and taking in the same number of houses on that street. On the opposite side of Cliff Street the buildings Nos. 81 and 83, also occupied by Harper's were much scorched. Adjoining Harper's buildings, next to Ferry Street, was the large publishing house of George F. Coolidge & Brother, which also fell before the fiery blast. The fire was stopped on the side toward Ferry Street at no. 319, the drug store of W. W. Thayer, which was somewhat damaged by water. On the other side the fire was arrested at a new building which the Harper's were erecting, in addition to three other buildings. There the flames met with nothing but a shell of a house of stone, and had it not been for this the work of destruction would probably have extended much farther. In all sixteen buildings were burned, and four or five more or less injured.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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