The Great Fires In Lower Wall Street and Vicinity 1804


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The fire of 1804 started on the night of Dec. 18th, about two o'clock, in a grocery store in Front street. The whole block from the west side of Coffee House slip, in Water street, tot he next door to Gouverneur Lane, and including all the buildings in Front street to the water, were swept away on that side of the slip, and the fire crossed Wall street and destroyed the buildings on the east side of the slip.

 Among the buildings destroyed were the old Coffee House and several brick stores, but most of the buildings were of wood. The whole number of buildings consumed was about 40. The loss was between one and two millions of dollars.

The great fire of New York occurred the night of Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1835. The fire broke out in the store of Comstock & Andrews, 25 Merchant street. The night was intensely cold, the thermometer being at or below zero and a fierce wind prevailed. The following account is taken from Courier and Enquirer, Dec. 17,the next morning: "South street is burned down from Wall street to Coenties Slip. Front street is burned down from Wall street to Coenties Slip. Pearl street burned down from Wall street to Coenties Slip, and was there stopped by blowing up a building.

Stone street is burned down from William street to No. 32 on the one side and 39 on the other. Beaver street is burned down half-way to Broad street. Exchange place is burned down from Hanover street to within three doors of Broad street; here the flames were stopped by blowing up a house. William street is burned down from Wall street to South street, both sides of the way, Market House down. Wall street is burned on the south side from William street to South street, with the exception of Nos. 51, 53, 55, 57, 59 and 61, opposite this office. All the streets and alleys within the above limits are destroyed. The following will be found a tolerably accurate statement of the number of houses and stores now leveled with the ground. Twenty-six on Wall street, 37 on South, 80 on Front, 62 on Exchange place, 44 on William, 16 on Coenties Slip, 3 on Hanover Square, 20 on Gouverneur's lane, 20 on Cuyler's alley, 79 on Pearl, 76 on Water, 16 on Hanover, 31 on Exchange, 33 on Old Slip, 40 on Stone, 23 on Beaver, 10 on Jones lane, 38 on Mill; total 674, six hundred and seventy-four tenements. By far the greater part in the occupancy of our largest shipping and wholesale dry goods merchants and filled with the richest products of every portion of the globe."

Other accounts give the number of buildings destroyed as 528. The total loss was estimated at $17,000,000__$13,000,000 for the goods and $4,000,000 for value of buildings.

There was also another large fire in 1845, which consumed 345 Buildings, the loss being estimated at about $5,000,000. The portion of the city destroyed was lower Broadway, Exchange place, Beaver, Marketfield, Mill, Stone, Whitehall, New and Broad streets. After the fire of 1804 the character of Wall street changed, becoming more commercial. We find in 1811 that John Baker had a porter house at No. 4 and Samuel F. Randall one at No. 9. Dr. Daniel Proudfit and Samuel Benton, shoemaker, were at No. 14. It was even at this date (1845) the banking center, Mechanics' Bank at 16; Union Bank, 21; Bank of Manhattan, 23; Merchants' Bank, 25; Bank of New York, 32 (organized by Alexander Hamilton, 1784, in the Merchants' Coffee House); Bank of United States, New York branch, 38; Arnold & Jones' dry goods store was at 28; the widow of Rev. Henry Vandyck at 45; Hoffman & Glass Auction Rooms at 67; Alex. Lamb, hair dresser and wig maker, at 70; Berdsell & Townjsend, tailors, at 80; Tontine Coffee House, northwest corner Wall and Water streets; Phoenix Coffee House, southeast corner Wall and Water streets (site of the old Merchants' Coffee House), and Alex. Fisher, a grocery store, at 82; William Majester, a store at 90. it must be remembered the numbers, at this time, did not run as they now do. I give a few names only to show that the street was given up to business almost entirely, there being only a few residences remaining.

On Water street we find that Widow Jane Foster lived at 209, and Jacob King had a "slop shop" at 208; Widow Burry's boarding house at 120; John Hayes, breeches maker143; John Bryan, tobacco, 112; Price & Dunning, stationery, 111; Price Current office, 104; John Reid, bookseller and stationer, 106, and he lived at 99; Deyez & Ackerman, upholsterers, 102; residence of Hugh Holme, 65; John J. Gottsberger had his office at 79 and lived at 82.

Front street was given up entirely to business. The fire of 1804 had destroyed the old houses and the new ones were stores. This whole section was completely wiped out by the great fire of Dec. 16, 1835. None of the buildings in our vicinity are very old. In 1851 the tea and coffee trade centered in our neighborhood, Samuel Barber, tea packer, at 79 Water and Alfred Wardell, 24 Old Slip. The tea importers were: On South street, Aymer & Co., Grinnell, Minturn & Co., W.L. Griswold & Co., Howland & Aspinwall, Olyphant & Sons. On Front street, Booth & Edgar, Bucklin & Crain, Jno. Caswell & Co., Jas. Walter & Co., E.T. Nicoll & Co., E.W. Tiers & Co., Gill, Gillets & Noyes, and Cary & Co., at Pine Street; Wood & Grant and Jas. W. Wheelock & Co., wholesale grocers, both in Front street. E.T. Christianson had a number of stores. Their main office was 101 Fulton street.

There were but very few coffee importers: Henry W. Delafield, at 79 Front street; Foster Elliott & Co., 60 South street; Masson & Thompson, 33 Pearl street; while there were 17 tea importers. Abraham S. Zuretz, of 91 Water street, had the honor of being the last name in the city directory for 1851.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Great Fires In Lower Wall Street and Vicinity 1804
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: History and Reminiscences of Lower Wall Street and Vicinity by Abram Wakeman; New York, Spice-Mill Pub. Co., 1914.
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