Big Olean Fire
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE!The entire business portion of Olean in Ashes! One Man Perishes in the Flames! List of Sufferers.
Last night during the prevalence of the high wind, a fire broke out in one of the wooden blocks just above Martin's brick block, in our sister village of Olean, which spread with fearful rapidity, owing to the wind which was blowing a perfect hurricane at the time, and in spite of all the exertions of the citizens, consumed all the business places on the west side of Main st.
The origin of the fire we have not yet learned--the telegraph only informing us that "it broke out above Martin's Block." A portion of the district destroyed has been laid in ashes some three or four times heretofore.
We learn that H. H. Phelps, Esq., undoubtedly perished in the flames, as he has not been seen since. Mr. Phelps is a well-known lawyer.
The fire broke out about 12:20 p.m. There are but one or two stores left. The loss is estimated at one-half million dollars. _________ We have just returned from the scene of the late conflagration. The fire demon held high carnival, and was not sparing of his feast. Where the business portion of Olean once stood, there remains nothing but a long stretch of smoking ruins. Martin's Block which was looked upon as fire-proof, is nothing but a heap of bricks and other debris. The walls, even, are not left standing,--proving the fierceness of the flames or the ill construction of the boasted "fire-proof." The rest of the blocks burned were of wood, and of course with the wind blowing the hurricane that it did, were licked up by the devouring element like tinder. From the Fobe's House at the lower or southern end of Main street, to the Masonic Hall at the northern extremity, everything on the west side is swept clean.
To those who witnessed the fire, the scene must have been grand and fearful in the extreme. So rapid was the spread of the fire, we are informed that the entire district burned was in flames at once. The east side of the street was only saved by the almost super-human exertions of the citizens; even now it is a wonder to us how it could have been done, when we take into consideration the high wind that prevailed.
The fire was first discovered about one o'clock, in the boot and shoe store of Geo. Jones, near the lower end of the village. From there it spread both ways. North it took first C. H. Haven's saloon, Fred Eaton & Co.'s large Jewelry and Yankee Notion Store, and Adams & Charles' Boot and Shoe store. It then took Martin's Block, in which were the following stores and offices: Blake's Hardware & Cutlery store; Martin Bro's Bank, and also, their Dry Goods and Ready-Made Clothing Store; Angel & Phelps, and Cary & Bolls' Law Office, and a furniture wareroom. It was in this Block where the lamented Phelps lost his life. His office was on the second floor, and was not insured. He had got most of his books and papers out, when he thought of something else, and started back again. He was warned against going, but he said he knew right where what he wanted lay. He rushed into the blazing building, he never returned. He had scarcely entered before the blazing awning. In front fell, blockading the entrance. About the same time the fierce flames burst through the rear windows, shutting off egress in that direction. Poor Phelps was heard and seen in the ball room which was on the same floor of his office, but no help could reach him. The roof soon fell in--the walls crumbled inward--and thus he met his fearful death.
From Martin's Block, the fire swept onward, consuming the following places of business: Mrs. Pettit's millinery store. J. D. Manderville & Son's insurance agents. Davis & Chaple's liquor store. Baker& Co's meat market. Lewis' boot & shoe store. Genther's large crockery store. Bronson's drug and medicine store. Here are the fire reached Pelton's Block, in which were Smith & French's Harness manufactory, J. G. Pelton's extensive Gents Furnishing store, and the Olean Advertiser printing establishment. The Advertiser had but recently changed hands, Mr. J. I. Henry having sold out to the Gardiner Brothers. Scarcely anything was saved by the Messrs. Gardiner. Mr. Pelton saved a portion of his goods.
The flames next lapped up with their fiery tongues the following places of business, in the order which they come: Korn's ready-made clothing store. N. Birge's harness shop. Smith and Brown's mammoth wholesale and retail dry-goods store. Barse & Co.'s extensive hardware store. N. S. Butler & Co's dry and fancy goods store. John Knox's grocery and provision store. Mr. Knox had just bought out Wm. Pierce and was in New York at the time purchasing a stock. James Kelsey's large tobacco and cigar manufactory. E. C. Swift & Co's dry-goods store. Miller's eating house. Widow Townsend's residence. Here the fire having reached the corner of the street, was subdued.
Masonic Hall, on the opposite corner, was only saved by the utmost exertions of the brethren, sustained by the fire department. South from Geo. Jones', where the fire first originated, the following places of business were burned. R. Meyer's meat market. Griffith & Faunce dry goods. Terry's book and stationery store. E. J. Finn extensive drug and medicine store. A. Miner's photograph gallery. Moore's dental office. Merritt & Co's grocery and provision store. Cranston's photograph gallery. C. Young's baker. F. Foster's residence. Mr. F. lost everything.
Back of Martin's Block several other buildings owned by the Martin Bros., were also burned; and in fact all along the street, in the rear buildings were destroyed. The aggregate amount of loss we have heard variously estimated; most place it as high as two hundred thousand dollars part of which was covered by insurance.
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Last Update February 2, 2020