Here to return to
FACTS AND FIGURES.
THERE are so many items which cannot be readily classed in a work of this kind, that the author has deemed it best to place them all together in one chapter.
The following report was made by the officers of the United-States signal-service with regard to the fire: —
To the Chief Signal-service Officer of the Army, Washington, D.C.: —
In reply to your telegraphic despatch, received this morning, directing me to make a full report of the meteoric phenomena attending the recent great fire, I would respectfully say that the wind at this station, during the progress of the fire, varied from north-west to north, with a velocity of five to nine miles per hour; the weather being clear, cool, and pleasant. On approaching the fire on the north or windward side as close as the heat would allow, the in-draught of air through the burning streets assumed the character of a brisk wind, probably sixteen or eighteen miles per hour; while the heat was so intense as to cause smoke, steam, &c., to be carried up in spirals to a great elevation. On the south or lee side the induced currents of air were very strong, — probably thirty or thirty-five miles per hour, — carrying the fire bodily to windward. This state of affairs appears the reverse of the Chicago fire, where the strength of the wind was sufficient to overcome the induced currents, and the fire burned to leeward. It appears as if the high wind permitted the in-draught to rise at a considerable angle after reaching the fire, leaving a large space of rarefied air in its front, inducing stronger currents to flow, which, on meeting the in-draught, gave the spiral or whirlwind form to the ascending current. During the fire, a flock of ducks passed at great height overhead; and the light reflected from their plumage made them appear as fire-balls passing rapidly through the air. Many who saw them called them meteors, and likened them to the balls said to have been seen north-west during the great fires in that region. As an example of the great heat diffused, I would state, that, during the night, I exposed a thermometer in, the observatory to the full glare of the fire, when it rose nearly five degrees, although placed upwards of two thousand feet from the burning district, and dead to the windward of it. No other phenomena occurred, the barometer rising slightly, and the weather remaining unchanged.
H. E. COLE,
Observer of the Signal Service, U. S. A.
NIGHT SCENE, SUMMER STREET (BILLINGS)
The police of the other cities came nobly to the assistance of their Boston brethren; Chief Knowles of Providence, Stimpson of Cambridge, Barrett of Lynn, and Jackman of Salem, having tendered the services of their several departments, and rendered efficient aid.
An examination of the books of the assessors showed the heaviest losses of real estate to be as follows, the figures given being the last assessed valuation upon the various estates previous to the fire: The Sears Estate suffered to the amount of upwards of five hundred thousand dollars; the loss of H. H. Hunnewell for himself and as trustee was over three hundred and thirty thousand dollars; that of the Messrs. Faxon Brothers, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; and the Simmons Estate, three hundred thousand dollars. The valuation of the splendid block on Pearl Street, numbered from 69 to 95, owned by E. Brooks, was two hundred and five thousand dollars; but it could not be replaced for that amount.
Harvard College was a loser to the amount of about a hundred and fifty thousand dollars; and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars would not repair the loss of Mr. William B. Spooner. The loss to Mr. Patrick Donahoe on real estate was two hundred thousand dollars. Mr. William F. Weld’s loss in buildings was upwards of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars; Mr. James M. Beebe’s, a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars; Daniel Denny’s heirs, a hundred and thirty thousand dollars; Isaac Rich’s heirs, three hundred thousand dollars; T. B. Lawrence’s heirs, a hundred and twenty thousand dollars; Mary and Ann Wiggles-worth, eighty thousand dollars; Edward Wigglesworth, a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars; Leman Klous, a hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars; E. B. Phillips, two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars; Nathan Matthews, ninety-five thousand dollars; Christine Nilsson, estate on Otis Street, fifty-one thousand dollars; Jacob Sleeper, eighty-five thousand dollars; Luther Park’s heirs, sixty-eight thousand dollars; Charles O. Rogers’s heirs, eighty thousand dollars; Stephen Dow, sixty-three thousand dollars; Axel Dearborn, fifty-five thousand dollars; William Gray, a hundred thousand dollars; Liberty-square ‘Warehouse Corporation, ninety-five thousand dollars; Levi L. Tower, sixty thousand dollars; Gardner Brewer, seventy-five thousand dollars; Torrey Estate, sixty thousand dollars; L. M. Standish, fifty thousand dollars; Edward Cruft’s heirs, eighty thousand dollars; James H. Beal, forty thousand dollars; Wright and Whitman, eighty thousand dollars; Charles Merriam’s heirs, seventy-five thousand dollars; William Sohier and L. Saltonstall, trustees, a hundred and fifteen thousand dollars.
At a meeting of the Lumber-dealers’ Association of the city of Boston and vicinity, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:—
Whereas, Our city has been visited by a terrible calamity, inflicting serious disaster upon the whole community, and realizing the importance of the earnest co-operation of all who are able to contribute to the immediate restoration of such structures as the wants of our people may require: it is therefore
Resolved, That this association tender, to all wishing to rebuild in this city, the stock of lumber now in their possession at such prices as have recently ruled in their respective establishments.
Resolved, That, as the interests of our business are identified with the interests of those who have so recently suffered, we hereby pledge ourselves to stand firm against any advance in prices, unless made by absolute necessity.”
The city government took prompt measures to care for the destitute, and to provide for the rebuilding of the devastated territory. The members of the city council worked earnestly with the mayor; and the wisdom of their ordinances, with reference to the widening and straightening of streets, added much to the value of real estate, and to the convenience of the business which will return to the burned territory.
One of the most noticeable events was the removal of the contents of the sub-treasury after the partial destruction of the old treasury-building. Quarters had been taken at the custom-hose, in the same room formerly occupied by that office. At three o’clock, in accordance with arrangements made, the sub-treasurer, Franklin Haven, Esq., Gen. A. B. Underwood, surveyor of the port, and C. R. Morse, the government truckman, were stationed in front of the sub-treasury with several trucks, to take charge of and convey the precious property. Two companies of marines from Charlestown under the command of Capt. Cullom, and a detachment of the Fifth Artillery from Fort Independence under command of Lieut. Whistler, acted as guard while the valuables were brought from the building. Scrip, bills, and stamps were brought down the steps; and a large number of people watched the operations, feeling proud of their trifling ownership in the great national funds. Bags of gold and silver were unearthed from their hiding-places, wet and muddy, and safely deposited in the wagons. The clerks of the sub-treasury superintended the transfer from the vaults, and watched with peculiar care the precious bags containing fifteen millions in gold on their way to the receptacle in waiting. All ready, the military guarding the trucks made an imposing march to the custom-house amid the cheers and approval of the multitudes witnessing the novel show. Arriving at the custom-house, a pathway was made to the old vault, guarded by two files of soldiers; and the valuable metal was tugged into the custom-house.
The work of opening
safes and vaults was one of the most interesting features connected with the
conflagration. Upon every one of them the hope of an individual or corporation
had been based; and none but those who have passed through such trials can feel
how sick at heart the watching, waiting ones become. Oft-times the iron-bound
treasure-box is discovered buried far below the surface, where the intense heat
of the early fire is still continued; and on several occasions they have been
found roasting in the midst of what was intended for the winter’s supply of
coal, while the solid masonry of the establishment itself was heaped as in a
funeral-pile above them. In such a case, ribs of steel, and bars of brass,
filled in between with the best of composition, could offer no effectual
resistance. Indeed, safes of any make proved but an uncertain dependence when
exposed to the full fury of the flames. Properly-constructed vaults, however,
gave very general satisfaction; in nearly every instance, their contents being
preserved unharmed. The valuables in the vaults of the Everett Bank, the Bank
of North America, and the Revere Bank, were found in a good state of
preservation. In the Bank of North America, securities and money amounting to
over a million dollars thus escaped destruction. The report from the Freeman’s
National Bank, which was located on Summer, near the junction of Bedford
Street, was less favorable. It appeared that a large amount of discounted
promissory-notes belonging to the bank, and other securities belonging to
private individuals, were placed in the outer safe, or vault. This was not
sufficiently firm to withstand the fierce heat; and the door became warped, so
that these valuable papers, amounting to a million three hundred thousand
dollars, were destroyed. The inner safe was all right. A large portion of the
dues to the bank represented by the promissory-notes was paid by the parties
for whom the paper was discounted; but, as the books of the bank were
destroyed, the bank-officers had to depend on the honesty of those of their
debtors who had saved their own books, and on the memory of others who came
forward to make payment. Among the individual losers was Lieut. Burley of the
second police, who had a large amount of bonds there deposited. The bank-loss was
said to be about a hundred thousand dollars in securities.
VIEW OF RUINS FROM SUMMER STREET (PHOTOGRAPH BY SMITH)
When the fire reached the corner of Milk Street, the officers of the Five-cents Savings Bank in School Street, who were on duty guarding the institution, were notified by the mayor that it might soon be necessary to blow up their bank-building in order to save the City Hall. In forty minutes the money and securities in the vaults of the bank, amounting in value to eleven million dollars, were removed to the house of the president, Paul Adams, No. 123, Charles Street, and there guarded, until the danger was past, by a squad of police.
The Emigrant Savings Bank saved its valuables, and was the next day opened at the corner of Washington and Avon Streets. Over the door was placed the following placard in bold black letters: “God has watched over the savings of the poor. In him we trust forever.”
The loss to Harvard College was thus estimated by President Eliot: “The president and fellows of Harvard College lost, by the fire of Nov. 9, stores in Franklin, Arch, and Hawley Streets, which, with the land on which they stood, were valued by the city assessors at five hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars. The annual rents of these stores were thirty-eight thousand dollars, the tenants paying the taxes. The stores were insured for two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars; but, of this amount, only about a hundred thousand dollars will be paid. The president and fellows will be forthwith called upon for assessments in mutual insurance-companies to the amount of six thousand three hundred dollars; and they are further obliged to re-insure, in part, buildings, collections, and libraries, at an immediate cost of several thousand dollars for premiums. Before the stores burnt can be rebuilt, a year’s taxes upon the land which they covered will also be due.
“Just before the fire, the president and fellows had found that the strictest economy would be necessary on their part in order to make the probable income of the current year meet the salaries and ordinary expenses; and they had felt themselves forced to retrench in all departments, although well aware that such retrenchment would be injurious to the university and to the interests of education. They now find themselves suddenly deprived of thirty-eight thousand dollars of annual income, and subjected to extraordinary expenses to the amount of at least twelve thousand dollars.
“The president and fellows are therefore compelled to ask the alumni and other friends of liberal education to contribute fifty thousand dollars for the immediate needs of the university, in order that they may keep the present organization unimpaired during the current year, and may not be forced to reduce the very moderate salaries of the professors and other instructors.
“It will cost about three hundred thousand dollars to rebuild the burnt stores; while the insurance to be recovered is only about a hundred thousand dollars. That they may rebuild these stores, and be again placed in as good a financial position as they were in before the fire, the president and fellows must further appeal to generous and public-spirited friends of university education to subscribe two hundred thousand dollars for this purpose during the next twelve months.
“Many of the constant friends of the university resident in this vicinity are themselves involved in the disaster, and are temporarily unable to contribute to her necessities.”
The air-currents caused by the conflagration carried partially-burned pieces of paper to a long distance. Scraps of check-books and ledgers were picked up in East Weymouth on Sunday morning; and a fifty-dollar bill, badly scorched, was found in South Abington, twenty-one miles away.
Though Saturday night was remarkably clear, and there was but little to reflect the flames except the great pall of smoke, the light of the fire was seen on vessels ninety miles from shore. The light was seen in Portsmouth, at the Isles of Shoals, and even as far away as Portland.
Detachments of police from Cambridge, Lynn, Salem, and Providence, have rendered valuable assistance to the authorities. From Providence twenty-eight police were sent, and were stationed over the goods placed on the Common.
In the very heart of the burned section, a wooden door with glass panels was left swinging upon its hinges, as good as new. It was in the arched basement of a building which withstood the pressure of the falling walls.
Thirty-five portraits belonging to the collection of our fallen heroes were destroyed in the fire. The lost portraits included those of Gen. Lander and Col. Hodges, both of which were to have been sent to the Peabody Institute, Salem, the next week.
Among the remarkable contributions to the relief fund was one from Blake Brothers and Co., bankers on State Street, for ten thousand dollars; one from Jordan, Marsh, and Co., for ten thousand dollars; one from C. F. Hovey and Co., for ten thousand dollars; and fifteen hundred dollars from the town of Woburn, Mass., which had been appropriated for a public celebration.
There were thirty-three insurance-companies doing business in Boston, of which twenty-two were obliged to suspend business. Some of them, however, re-organized with new capital. Their total loss was about thirty million seven hundred and ten thousand dollars. There were sixty-eight New-York insurance-companies having agencies in Boston; their total loss being seven million eight hundred and fifty thousand five hundred dollars.
Three companies suspended. Pennsylvania had sixteen companies represented by losses in the fire, the aggregate of which was two million seven hundred and seventy-six thousand five hundred dollars. Connecticut had eight companies, whose total losses amounted to four million nine hundred and fifty-two thousand five hundred dollars. Ohio had four companies; loss, two hundred and five thousand dollars. Rhode Island had four companies; loss, nine hundred and twenty thousand dollars, two of which suspended. California lost seventy-five thousand dollars; Illinois, thirty thousand dollars; Maine, five hundred thousand dollars; Missouri, twenty-five thousand dollars; Minnesota, fifty thousand dollars; New Jersey, seventeen thousand five hundred dollars; Wisconsin, fifty thousand dollars; foreign companies, five million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Total loss to insurance-companies, fifty-two million three hundred and fifty-eight thousand five hundred dollars.
Among the losers by the fire are the Deaf Mute Association, Boston College, and Methodist Seminary (probably one-quarter of Isaac Rich’s bequest of a million), and Tufts College eight thousand dollars. Mr. J. E. Farwell, late city printer, saved nothing but his books from the recent fire, and lost about eighty thousand dollars above his insurance.
The following are resolutions of the General Relief Committee, and doubtless represented the opinions of nearly every citizen of Boston:
“Resolved, That the appeal to the city of Boston to establish anew in the burnt district the lines of all the streets which are too narrow or too crooked for the present and future wants of the chief city of New England, imperatively demands immediate action.
“Resolved, That the citizens of Boston respectfully but earnestly request the commissioners of streets and city council of Boston immediately to revise and establish the lines of the streets in the district upon a comprehensive and liberal plan, relying on the character, energy, and progressive spirit of the people to approve such action; and we pledge ourselves to support the commissioners and city council in the exercise of the power and responsibility belonging to them in this regard.
“Resolved, That the citizens of Boston earnestly request the city council to prohibit any further construction of Mansard roofs, and to limit the height of all buildings within the city limits, so that such a conflagration as has just taken place may not be repeated.
“Resolved, That the time and opportunity for the erection of a Merchants’ Exchange in the centre of business, associating together all engaged in mercantile pursuits, has arrived; and we strongly advise that steps be taken at once to procure a charter from the legislature, to purchase a proper site, and to erect a suitable building adapted to the uses, and worthy, of the merchants of Boston.”
It is thought that no town in Massachusetts suffered so severely by the fire as Newton. of the one thousand firms burned out, about seventy-five are residents of the town.
A business-capital amounting to two hundred million dollars, belonging to residents of Newton, was invested in Boston at the time of the fire.
The trustees of the Boston, Hartford, and Erie Railroad, voted to build a new passenger-station of corrugated iron; the dimensions of the new structure to be sixty feet front and two hundred feet deep, with covered platforms beside the tracks; the cost, about twenty thousand dollars. The new freight-house to be of corrugated iron, sixty by three hundred feet. The trustees leased the adjoining premises on the south, which gives an entire frontage on Federal Street of six hundred feet. The company converted a passenger-car into a ladies’ waiting-room, while a baggage-car served the purpose of a baggage-room.
On Sunday evening, after the great fire had been extinguished, there was a second conflagration, which threatened the southern portion of the city, and created an almost insane excitement among the people, who began to think that the fire was almost invincible. It broke out about midnight in the immediate vicinity of the spot where it first originated. It came from the gas, which exploded in the buildings on Summer Street, near C. F. Hovey’s, occupied by William R. Storms and Co. The front wall of the building was blown into the street, and fire set to the store which extended back into Central Court.
Owing to the frequent gas-explosions, the firemen were for some minutes deterred from going into close proximity to the burning building; but, despite the danger of such a course, the brave fellows made a dash, and soon had streams playing on the burning buildings.
From Storms’s establishment, the flames speedily communicated to the extensive building on the corner of Summer and Washington Streets, occupied on the ground-floor by Messrs. Shreve, Crump, and Low, jewellers, and dealers in elegant gas-fixtures. The upper stories were occupied by Wheeler and Wilson sewing-machine warerooms; Lowell and Brett, engravers; and by two or three custom-tailors.
The efforts to stay the progress of the devouring element were unavailing; and in less than half an hour the magnificent block on the corner of Summer and Washington Streets, in the windows of which thousands had often feasted their eyes on displays of rare jewelry and articles of virtu, was destroyed.
The flames leaped from the windows, and curled themselves into a fatal embrace about the cornices; and soon the vast pile was wrapped in its shroud of flame.
One gas-explosion followed another in rapid succession. Several soldiers and firemen were prostrated, and, in one or two instances, severely injured.
A woman named Martha F. Hutchinson, who occupied rooms in the second story of the building, was awakened from her slumbers, and, in her wild fright, leaped from the window to the pavement, and was picked up seriously injured. The flames began their work upon the large adjoining stores of Hovey and Co., and Jordan, Marsh, and Co.; but the application of wet blankets and carpets to the roof, and the almost superhuman efforts of the firemen, saved those costly edifices. The gas was soon after turned off from the entire city; and although there were several explosions underground afterwards, which shook the ground like earthquakes, there was but little damage to other public or private property.
The destruction of numerous printing-establishments by the fire had caused a great increase of work in those remaining. Prominent among these was the office of Rand, Avery, and Co., one of the largest in New England. Fronting on Cornhill and Washington Street, its broad front of six stories (especially when in the early evening its numerous lighted windows revealed the scores of busy workmen) had long been an object of attraction to strangers, and a landmark to the citizens of Boston. Conscious of its large resources and its facilities for work, many of the burnt-out periodicals had sought and found a resting-place within its walls; and the office had been running evenings in the endeavor to accommodate them, as well as to keep up the regular work of its own customers.
Cornhill Front of Rand, Avery & Co’s Printing Office.
Every precaution had been taken against danger from fire. After the great fire, a guard had been kept at night; pails filled with water had been placed on the various floors, and extinguishers put in accessible positions.
This foresight, however, proved of no avail. Between six and seven o’clock Wednesday evening, the 20th, when many of the employés were in the office, while others were on their way to and from their suppers, fire was discovered in a bin in which waste paper from the presses was deposited. Fruitless attempts to extinguish it were made by those present; and an alarm, thrice repeated, soon called out the whole fire-department. So rapid was the spread of the flames, that the girls employed in the press-rooms and the composing-rooms bad barely time to escape through the heated, blinding smoke; and in a few minutes the blaze burst through the roof and upper windows.
The public mind was still morbidly excited on the subject of fires; and when to this is added the fact that many of the tenants of the buildings in the neighborhood were concerned in the printing and publishing business, and knew the combustible nature of the con‘ tents of the burning block, and knew also that in its extensive vaults were stored thousands of plates of the standard works of the publishing-houses of James R. Osgood and Co., Lee, Shepard, and Co., Woolworth and Ainsworth, B. B. Russell, the Mass. S. S. Society, Henry Bill, and other firms, it may be imagined with what intense interest the spread of the fire was regarded.
Bravely and skilfully did the firemen fight the foe which had dealt them such hard blows so recently. Firmly stood the solid brick walls under the pressure of a weight of machinery which no ambitious stone structure of the “burnt district” had borne (for honest workmen did honest work when this old building was reared); and at ten o’clock the great crowds dispersed with the comfortable feeling that the fire was under control, and that Boston was saved from another night of terror, — saved by the strength of brick walls and iron doors.
In the portion of the building in which the fire originated the destruction was complete; presses, paper, plates, and type being heaped together in a broken, charred, and melted mass, while the elevator furnished a road for the flames to reach the counting-room. Tho upper stories of the adjoining buildings were also swept by the flames; but the thick brick walls by which the block is divided, with their iron doors, the heat of which was kept down by their being drenched with water, saved not only the block from entire destruction, but probably prevented a still more serious result.
The books of the firm were secured and put in a place of safety by the bookkeeper at the first alarm; and as much other valuable property was saved by the employés as the short time allowed. A large quantity of work in different stages of progress was consumed. The “Every Saturday” was partly destroyed in sheets, and partly melted on the press. “The Pilot,” ready to go to press, was destroyed for the second time. The printed sheets of “Old and New “had just been carried to the binders; but the plates were lost. The title of “The Well-Spring” couldn’t save it. “The Advocate of Christian Holiness, “The Home Circle,” “Littell’s Living Age,” “The New-England Register,” “Our Dumb Animals,” and other publications, suffered more or less. “Carleton’s” pen-sketch of the great fire received added illustrations not by Billings; and Mrs. Partington’s mop was of no avail against the flood. Among the larger works burned were the writings of orthodox and heterodox teachers. Both were tried by fire; and both failed to stand the test. The first chapters of this work shared the same fate.
The vaults of Messrs. Rand, Avery, and Co., were not injured in the least by the fire. These vaults are a wonder in themselves. Here are stored from one to two million dollars’ worth of stereotype and electrotype plates, among them some of the noblest literary productions of America. Here are also the plates of many unique works, which are nearly out of print, and which would probably never be reprinted were the plates destroyed.
The loss of Rand, Avery, and Co., and of their customers, was very large. The extensive stereotype establishment of C. J. Peters and Son, the bookbinderies of S. K. Abbott and of Adams and Baker, the publishing-houses of Henry Hoyt, the Mass. S. S. Society, and Knights and Co., the paper store of Strahan and Son, and other firms, — all tenants of Rand, Avery, and Co., — were seriously damaged by water.
Of all the discouraging-looking places imaginable, a half-destroyed great printing-office after a fire bears the palm. When it is considered that the mere transposition of one little type in ordinary times turns the sublime into the ridiculous, and pathos into bathos, what a chaos must be the mingling of many millions of such mischief-makers! Undismayed, however, the proprietors, — who had seen their establishment grow from the one room in which the senior partner had pulled his own hand-press, to its present proportions, — while the fire was still burning, caused a card to be inserted in the morning papers, asking the forbearance of their customers for the delay in delivering work, and stating their intention to go on as soon as possible; while a second card notified the employés that their full pay would go on, and requesting them to report as usual at the office.
The manifestation of such a spirit was a sure guaranty that this great establishment would soon recover from the blow, and take its accustomed place among the leading printing-houses of the country.
The Old South Church has been such a prolific theme for discussion in view of the great changes in store for that locality, that we cannot forbear to insert a short reference to its remarkable history.
The most notable of the early pastors of the Old South were the Rev. Mr. Willard, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Sewall, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Prince, the Rev. John Hunt, the Rev. Dr. Eckley, and the Rev. Joshua Huntington. The Rev. Benjamin B. Wisner, settled in 1821 at the death of the Rev. Mr. Huntington, was pastor until his death in 1835; and he was followed by the Rev. Dr. George W. Blagden, who only recently preached his farewell-sermon, and retired from active life. Rev. Jacob M. Manning, D.D., the present pastor, was settled as a colleague in 1857. The Rev. Mr. Willard, who was pastor in 1692, was one of the decided opponents of the witchcraft persecutions which at that time prevailed to such terrible extent. It was during his pastorate that Gov. Andros carried matters in Boston with such high hand, choosing at one time to occupy the Old South for Church-of-England services, and at many other times to interfere with the services of the regular society to suit his own pleasure, caprice, and convenience. At the opening of the Revolution, the Rev. John Hunt was the sole pastor; and he leaving the city soon after for a visit to Brookline, and being prevented from re-entering Boston without a pledge to remain, the church, during the exciting days which followed, was without a pastor. Mr. Hunt died in Northampton, whither he had retired in December, 1775. In 1778, services of the Old South Society were resumed in King’s Chapel by the favor of that society, under the preaching of the Rev. Joseph Eckley, who was ordained the next year. Four years after, the work of repairing and restoring the Old South was begun; and on the 2d of March, 1783, it was rededicated. The great fire only hastened the decision of the society to remove to the more fashionable Back-Bay section of the city. It had determined some time before on a partial removal at least to the Back Bay, where a chapel, with which a church is ultimately to be connected, is already approaching completion. The proposition of United-States officials, made after the fire, to take possession of the old church for a post-office, met with considerable opposition and protest: but the advocates of change overpowered those of sentiment; and a majority-vote was passed by the trustees, which was confirmed by a majority of the pew-holders, to give over the old landmark to the destroyer of all things at all venerable in this country, — sometimes called Progress.
The Chicago fire is a topic not yet fruitless in interest; and our own recent calamity leads us still more to refer to this destruction at the West, concerning which we here present a few facts. The fire began on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 7, 1871, at half-past nine, by the kicking-over of a lamp in a small cow-barn on the corner of De Koven and Jefferson Streets. The cow that did the deed has become famous in consequence. In less than ten minutes the fire embraced the area between Jefferson and Clinton Streets for two blocks north, and was rapidly pushing eastward towards Canal Street.
In an hour the flames were so far beyond the control of the firemen, that the engines were behind the advancing fiery element, and were unable even then to afford the aid necessary to control the farther progress of the fire. It was then steadily moving to the northward, and had embraced Taylor, Forquer, Ewing, and Polk Streets, and was rapidly grasping after others, running swiftly in two solid columns towards the north at midnight. The total consummation on Saturday by the flames amounted to eighteen acres.
When it seemed as if the fire had been stayed, it broke out again, beginning its second part in the terrible drama on Sunday evening, and moved under a strong wind for a long distance till it met the southern boundary of the fire of the night before. The fire had begun on the west side, and, burning to the river, cast its brands across to the south side, igniting buildings here and there at points somewhat outside of a direct course, and long before it could have reached them. To aid the progress of the flames, a strong gale was blowing, which swept every thing along in irresistible fury. It was the hope, as well as the supposition, that, as the gale was blowing from the west and south, the portion of the north division westward of the fiery line of march would escape; butt the fire had become so strangely uncontrollable, that it moved both east and west.
Though the fire began on the west side, it did its slightest damage there; while it burned an area on the south side nearly a mile in length, and half a mile in width, and on the north side reached a mile and a half, extending in width from the lake to the river. When the work had all been accomplished, and the devastation was looked upon as completed, and not progressing, it was found that twenty-six hundred acres were burned over, eighty thousand people were rendered homeless, and something like eighteen thousand buildings were destroyed. The real check to the progress of the flames was the blowing-up of buildings, which formed barriers that the fire could not cross. Gen. Sheridan ordered and superintended this work, — a labor for which he was blamed at the time, but a work which was found efficient in our own conflagration.
The scenes during the fire have been so often and so graphically told, that it is needless to repeat them; and all who have any remembrance of the furious burning will call to mind the bridge laden with those who would escape the flames, but found only their own destruction thereby; the hanging of ruffians to the lamp-posts; the heroic but helpless efforts of the firemen of Chicago, and from other cities which sent aid; and the thousand and one other little incidents which could only be told in a long article. The spirit of the citizens at the time, when villains who attempted to further the fire were strung up on lamp-posts, is shown in a little item from “The Chicago Tribune” of Wednesday, — the day after the fire ceased, — reading, “Bridget Hickey was arrested for setting fire to a barn in the rear of a house in Burnside Street. By some mistaken idea of clemency, she was not hanged.”
Among the prominent buildings destroyed on the south side were the Michigan Central Dépôt, Pacific Hotel, Sherman House, and ten other hotels, the courthouse, the gas-works, Crosby’s Opera-House, McVicker’s Theatre, Hooley’s Opera-House, Wood’s Museum, Dearborn Theatre, Post-Office and Post-Office block, the Western News Company’s large book-houses, several of the finest and largest business-blocks in the city, twenty banks, telegraph-office, Chamber of Commerce, insurance-blocks, eight churches, seven newspaper offices, and many others, which only detailed accounts of the fire at that date contain. On the north side were destroyed many large school-buildings, hotels, some of the finest churches, grain-elevators, breweries, tanneries, theatres, hospitals, and the finest business-blocks and private residences. No bridges remained, except at Division Street and North Avenue.
There were about two hundred missing men, women, and children at the close of the fire; but the number was greatly lessened as time proceeded. The number of fatalities was large. In extent, the Chicago fire must stand first among the many large ones in history. But the wholesale destruction was not more terrible than the reconstruction of the city has been wonderful; and the people of Boston can do no more in rebuilding on the site of our perished business grandeur than to imitate the action of their brethren of the West.