Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 16, Part V

By Holice and Debbie

The energy of the firemen on this occasion was said to be very noticeable. For a long time before there had not been so large a turnout of the Department. Almost every engine in the city was on the ground, and even the Harlem engine was on hand. The bells rang a general alarm, which had not been done for months before. There were present four of the Brooklyn companies, Nos. 1, 4, 5, and 7. The Brooklynites formed a line through Peck Slip and took their suction from the dock. Of our firemen the New York Herald of that date said:

We cannot again refrain from speaking of the noble conduct of our firemen. At the time the fire broke out there were six hundred human beings in the establishment of Messrs. Harper, men, women, and children, and immediately upon giving the report of the fire the greatest consternation prevailed--every window was filled with frantic souls crying for help. We are told there are abundance of time for every one to come down safely, but in the terror of the moment all rushed for the windows. The firemen immediately mounted their ladders, and brought all down in safety to the ground, periling their own lives in doing so. * * * * Amid crackling timber and hissing flames they forced their way, regardless of every peril in their efforts to roll back the billows of fire. Some idea can be formed of the degree of heat, considering the fact that it was difficult at times to bear it even in the upper part of Franklin Square. Yet amid all this for three long hours the heroic firemen worked at their engines, and yielded not till they were masters of the angry element.

Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 (Mutual) was the second apparatus on the ground, and by means of their ladders several girls made their escape. Some of the members of the company directed their efforts to rescue the safes. They got out the larger seven feet high one, and Mr. James Harper requested them to rescue the smaller, but it was impossible. Hook and Ladder company No. 6 had the task of throwing down the walls on the Pearl Street side; on the Cliff Street side No. 11 did the same work; Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 were at work in different parts. All the ladders of No. 1 were broken by the fall of a portion of the Cliff Street side.

The loss to the Harpers was eight hundred thousand dollars; Coolidge & Bros., two hundred thousand dollars; and taking the other firms and houses altogether nearly one million five hundred thousand dollars. Ten years before on June 1, 1842, the firm lost one hundred thousand dollars through a fire.

In the newspaper of December 12, 1853, under the heading "The Firemen," we find the following advertisements:

A CARD.--Oceanus Fire engine No. 11 return their sincere thanks to Mr. Joseph Carlisle, of Centre and Leonard Streets, for the bountiful supply of refreshments furnished them after their return from the fire in Pearl Street.

By order. David Baker, Foreman.
Wm. J. Lewis, Secretary

A CARD.--At a special meeting of Hook and Ladder company No. 4, held at the truck house after the return from the fire in pearl Street, it was unanimously:

Resolved. That the thanks of the company be tendered to Mr. and Mrs. John Baulch for the bountiful supply of refreshments furnished us after the above fire.

John Cornwell, Chairman
John Slowy,

On December 14 Foreman Chas. F. Meyons and Secretary Martin Wise published a similar card in reference to Mr. James Kelly.

A fire that broke out on December 26, 1853, in a store in Front Street, spread to the shipping in the docks. Among the vessels burned was the big ship Great Republic (three hundred and twenty-five feet long and four thousand five hundred and fifty-five tons burden). The total loss was six hundred thousand dollars.

The gallantry of the firemen was conspicuous at the burning of Tripler hall and the LaFarge House on Broadway, nearly opposite Bond Street, on June 8, 1854. T. F. Goodwin, foreman, and Hugh Curry, both of Hose Company No. 35, particularly distinguished themselves by their courage. The fire caught from one of the hotel furnaces under the orchestra box of the concert room, and in an hour the buildings were in ruins. Tripler Hall was built by Mr. Tripler, and first opened to the public on the fourteenth of October, 1850, and could seat four thousand persons. It was a concert room in the LaFarge Hotel. The Lafarge House cost three hundred thousand dollars, and was leased to Wright, Laniers, & Co., for fifty-four thousand dollars a year. It was elegantly furnished. Among the first of the brilliant stars who occupied the boards of the LaFarge House was jenny Lind, who was hailed as the "Gifted Swede," and welcomed as the "Sweet Warbler," in a motto at Castle Garden. Indeed, Tripler Hall was built especially to accommodate the large audiences which evening after evening flocked to hear the Swedish Nightingale. It was costly and magnificent beyond anything at that time in the city, and cost one hundred thousand dollars. It was the largest music hall in the world, except for the opera houses of London, Milan, and Havana. But the first voice heard within its walls was that of the sweet singer Madam Anna Bishop. Then followed jenny Lind. Here also Miss Catherine Hayes entertained crowded and distinguished audiences; here Alboni and Madame Sontag sang; and here the monster Julien Concerts drew immense houses night after night. The name of the concert room had been changed to metropolitan Hall, and the last announcement previous to its destruction in 1854 was for Wednesday evening, January 18, was to have been thrown open for ladies and gentlemen patronizing Julien's Grand Ball Pare, to obtain admission to which full evening dress was indispensable. The hall was also used for political and other meetings. There were heard the ringing tones of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, the Irish patriot of 1848, who had to fly from his country. Other well-known names in its history are those of Lucy Stone, Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips.

The work of rebuilding the hotel d theater was at once begun, and on the eighteenth of September, the "Great Metropolitan Theater and New York Opera House," was opened with a poem spoken by Harry Eytinge, the song of "The Star Spangled Banner," and Bulwer's play of "The Lady of Lyons." Brief, however, was the second period of the brilliant career of the metropolitan. Toward the close of 1854 the famous Italian priest Gavazzi, who had abandoned the Catholic Church, made his appearance in this country on a crusade against his ancient faith. He was a man of keen intellect, and his eloquence was forceful and earnest. Everywhere he went the Catholic part of the population, especially the foreign element, opposed him most strenuously. His life was threatened, and vengeance was vowed against him of he persisted in his attacks. Saturday night, November 8, Gavazzi lectured at the Metropolitan. Although threats had been made to tear down the building should the apostate priest speak there, it was not thought that any serious results would follow. He had spoken there before and had not been interfered with. On this occasion Father Gavazzi lectured to five thousand persons, and the meeting passed over tranquilly. A few hours after its close, however, the building ws in flames, and the efforts of the firemen could not save it from destruction.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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