Akron Fire Company
1 Main Street
Akron, NY 14001
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Main Street Conflagration of 1890 - Article 1
Akron Breeze Article - Friday November 28, 1890
"The heaviest fire that has ever occurred in Akron swept through the central part of the south side of Main Street last Monday. The buildings form the Hoag brick block on the east to E. E. Parkers hardware store on the west were all destroyed. The south side of Main Street consisted of a row of wooden buildings closely connected, from the Hoag block to the store occupied by Orin Pennell, and it was owing to a fortunate change in the direction of the wind and the untiring exertions of our firemen and citizens, that the fire was checked before all were destroyed.
The alarm was given at twenty minutes before 1 o'clock PM. The fire originated in the Robinson block, adjoining the brick block of W. N. Hoag. The building on the ground floor was occupied by A. F. Robinson as a grocery store, and the second floor as living rooms by Mr. and Mrs. M. Osborne. When the engines reached the ground, the ceiling between the first and second floor was found to be a mass of fire. The flames soon burst out, and nothing could be done towards checking them. The heat was intense, and it was not known but that the Hoag block would have to go, but owing to the substantial manner in which it had been built, with such a contingency in view, with the exception of the broken glass in the windows no damage was done. Next to the Robinson block came a wooden building owned by W. N. Hoag, and occupied on the ground floor by the tailor shop and store of J.A. Anderson, while the second floor was occupied by Will Havens for living rooms, H. L. Steiner for law offices, and the town Clerks office. This building only added to the flames. The next building, owned by Mrs. Zwetsch, and occupied as a residence and the bakery adjoining, also owned by Mrs. Zwetsch, and occupied by H. Eagan, were soon a mass of flames.
The next in order was the building owned by Supervisor Cummings, occupied by him for a general store and post office. From the inflammable nature of the material, the rapid progress of the flames, fanned by the quite strong wind and the intense heat, no effectual work could be done toward stopping the fire. The next buildings in the path of the fire were owned by Paxon & Paxon. The first was occupied on the ground floor by Will Havens as a barber shop, the second floor by Paxon & Paxon for law offices. An "L" extended to the west and to within 3 or 4 feet of the second building, which was occupied by John Handley as a shoe shop. It was evident that if progress of the fire was checked hat it must be at this point. The building occupied by John Handley, together with the "L" of the adjoining building, was torn down. This made it possible for the firemen to stop the spread of flames at this point.
The rapid spread of the fire was caused by the inflammable nature of the material in the buildings, together with the strong southerly wind that was blowing at the time. Although the most of the buildings adjoined each other, the double wooden walls would for a little time check the advance of the fire, but as soon as the fire reached the inside of a building, in almost an instant it would be all in flames. The flames burst out of the Robinson building at about one o'clock, and by three o'clock the fire was under control. Had it not been for the fortunate change in the direction of the wind the entire row of wooden buildings would have been destroyed. When the fire started, the wind was southeasterly, partly drawing the flames and heat away from the Hoag block, and in the direction of the row of wooden buildings. Before the first two buildings burned down, the wind veered into the south, and by the time the Cummings building was reached, it changed into a southwesterly direction, partly drawing the heat away from the Parker building. But for this change it would have been impossible, with the means at hand, to have stopped this fire.
Too much praise cannot be given for the prompt response to the alarm, and the faithful and untiring efforts of the firemen and citizens. The engine and hose companies had their apparatus on the ground at once. The Falkirk company reached the fire in a remarkably short time. The cisterns in the vicinity of the fire were quickly pumped dry, and valuable time was lost in moving the engines to new localities. The engines were finally moved down to the creek, but it entailed heavy labor to throw the water to the top of the high bluff and on to the fire. willing hands were found to assist in saving the property in the burning buildings. Many ladies were busy in the work, displaying more coolness and nerve during the exciting time than many of the men. The rapidity of the fire made it necessary to strip the buildings of their contents, consequently the furniture and goods removed are very much damaged and much will be lost.
At this writing, only an approximate idea of the loss sustained can be given. Much of the property taken out was piled together in the nearest place of safety. Some of the goods and furniture which had been dropped on the opposite side of the street caught fire and were consumed. It will take time to get together what has been saved, and further time will be necessary to estimate the loss and damage done. In any case the loss will be heavy.
The first building destroyed was owned and occupied by Mrs. A. F. Robinson, for a grocery store. The contents were a complete loss. Value of the building $2000, insured for $1200. Value of the stock $2000, insured for $1000. Unfortunately, Mr. Robinson had diminished the value of his insurance $300 about 1 month ago.
Mr. M. Osborne, who lived on the second floor, lost all of his furniture and $12 to $20 in money. Loss about $300. No insurance.
The building owned by W. N. Hoag was valued at $2000, insured for $1000. J. A. Andersons stock of goods amounted to about $6000, on which there was an insurance of $1600. While many of the goods were removed from the building, the loss will probably be much more than the insurance.
The furniture of Will Havens who occupied the second floor for a dwelling, was mostly removed in a badly damaged condition. No insurance. H. L. Steiner, Town Clerk, who also had an office in the upper rooms of this building, saved the records of the town. His furniture was removed in a badly damaged condition. No insurance.
The building occupied in part by Mrs. Zwetsch as a residence and for a bakery by H. Eagan, was valued at $2000. Most of her furniture is lost and destroyed. No insurance. The stock of H. Eagan was valued at $1800, on which there was insurance of $850.
The building owned by Wm. M. Cummings, worth $2000, had an insurance of $1500. The stock in his store amounted to $2000, on which there was insurance of $500. The post office boxes have been removed temporarily to the store of E. R. Parker. The mail matter in the post office is supposed to be all saved. The books on postal laws were lost.
The building owned by Paxon & Paxon, the upper part of which was occupied by them for law offices, was valued at $2500, on which was an insurance of $1300. The furniture in Will Havens barber shop, on the ground floor, was saved in a damaged condition. No insurance. The books, papers, and furniture of Paxon & Paxon were removed. The loss cannot be estimated at this time. No insurance on contents of the building.
The next building, also owned by Paxon & Paxon, and occupied by J. Handley for a shoe shop, was valued at $1000, insurance $600.
As the fire approached the wooden building occupied by E. E. Parker for a hardware store, it seemed as if it could not possibly be saved, and the stock of goods was hastily removed. The stock was insured for $4500. From the disarrangement of his business, as well as the loss of more or less property that he will not be able to identify as having been in stock at the time of the removal, Mr. Parker will sustain quite a heavy loss, beyond what he can receive for insurance. The building owned by Mrs. A. C. Paxon was but slightly damaged. Insurance on the building $1200.
The buildings on the north side of the street were slightly scorched, and the roofs in many places were injured by the falling cinders, but a careful watch was kept of the exposed district and no further harm was done.
A dispatch was sent to the fire department at Buffalo for assistance. A steamer was sent as soon as possible, but the fire being under control when it arrived, it was not unloaded.
It is not known how the fire started, but it is supposed that it was caused by a defective flue. The fire was first discovered in the ceiling, between the first and second floors, at the back end of the Robinson store. The rooms below and above were occupied, and yet the fire had made such headway that when it was discovered and located, help could not be got in time to prevent the bursting out of flames. Mr. Osborne called the attention of Mr. Robinson to the smell of smoke in his room about 12 o'clock. The latter made an examination, and discovering no signs of fire, concluded that the wind had driven the smoke down the pipe of the kitchen stove. After Mr. Osborne had taken his dinner, he again called the attention of Mr. Robinson that the smoke was increasing. Mr. Robinson then discovered smoke issuing from the cracks in the floor, and upon going below and breaking through the plastering, found the lath and woodwork completely charred. The pipe of a woodstove entered the flue at the back end of the store. This flue was five or six feet from the place where the fire was discovered.
We are glad to be able to state that no very serious accident occurred. Aside from blistered hands and faces we have learned of no serious accidents.
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