200 People Made Homeless by Midnight Fire 1896

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Thirty families, comprising about two hundred people, were made homeless, and property valued at $25,000 was destroyed shortly after midnight this morning by a fire which raged in the thickly populated tenement house district of the Sixteenth ward.

 That no one was seriously injured is probably due to the fact that the flames started in an unoccupied building. The several thousand men, women and children who were sleeping in the nearby tenements were therefore able to reach the street before their homes caught fire. There were many narrow escapes, however, and in some cases the tenants had great difficulty in getting out of the burning buildings.

At one time it looked as if the whole quarter would be destroyed, but the firemen handled the blaze exceptionally well, and the fire was confined to the block bounded by Graham avenue, Ewen, Seigel and Moore streets.

It was 11:50 o'clock when the fire was first discovered in the four story frame building at 53 and 55 Moore street. That structure was recently owned by Otto Huber and occupied by a manufacturer of bar fixtures. Six weeks ago Otto Huber sold the property to Jacob Werbelowsky of 91 and 93 Meserole street, and the latter had not been able to secure a tenant for the place. The flames had a good start when they were first noticed, and by the time the firemen arrived the whole structure was ablaze. The tenements in that section of the city are nearly occupied by Russian and Polish Jews, and in some of the houses fifteen or twenty families live. As soon as they learned of the fire, the greatest excitement prevailed throughout the neighborhood. After the women and children had reached the street the men worked hard to save their household effects.

Meantime the fire spread with great rapidity. Before the families were scarcely out of the three story double frame dwelling at 57 Moore street, it was on fire. The flames at the same time spread to the three story frame buildings at 42,44,46 and 48 Ewen street, owned by Leonard Eppig. the brewer. The ground floors of the Ewen street buildings were occupied as business places, while the upper floors were tenanted by fifteen families. They all escaped without injury, but lost their household effects. The firemen were working hard to prevent the fire from extending to the surrounding property, when they observed that the three story brick building at 72 Seigel street had caught fire in the rear. Michael Bershatsky used the building as a bath house and the moment the fire broke out on Moore street he turned on all the water in the bath. He thus aided the firemen materially and the house was not badly damaged. The rear dwelling at 68 Seigel street and the three story frame house at 70 Seigel street were on fire at one time and they were damaged to the extent of $3,000.

The firemen realized when they first arrived on the scene that they had a lively blaze in a bad neighborhood. Four alarms were turned in and there were three special calls. Chief Dale was in charge of the firemen and Fire Commissioner Bryant was an interested spectator. Police Sergeants O'Connor, Simons and Coleman, in command of the Sixth precinct force, assisted by reserves from the Fifth, Thirteenth and Nineteenth precincts, succeeded in keeping the crowds back of the fire line.

During the progress of the fire the plate glass windows in the stores at 44, 46, and 48 1/2 Moore street were cracked by the heat. They were valued at $500. The synagogue at 46 Moore street was also scorched, but not materially damaged.

It is almost impossible to secure a complete list of the losses. Many of the families who lost everything in the fire have made their homes with friends in some of the surrounding tenements, and they could not be found this morning. The only building which was entirely destroyed was the one owned by Jacob Worbelowsky, at 53 and 55 Moore street. The other thirteen buildings were only partially burned.

The losses, as reported at the Sixth precinct police station, are as follows: Jacob Werbelowsky, $5,000; F. Cohen, 57 Moore street, $1,000; Leonard Eppig, 42, 44, 46 and 48 Ewen street, $8,000; Michael Bershatsky, 72 Seigel street, $1,000; Isaac Cohen, 68 Seigel street, $2,000; Wolf Plotel, 70 Seigel street, $500; B. Shepario, grocery, 44 Ewen street, $600; L. Rudich, butter market, 42 Ewen street, $100; S. Klim's lunch room, 46 Ewen street, $1,000: R. Finkel, restaurant, 48 Ewen street, $200; M. Paritz, tailor, 48 Ewen street, $100.

"We are unable to say how many families lost their household property," said Police Sergeant O'Connor, in speaking of the fire this morning. "In many of the tenements partially destroyed from five to twenty families lived, and I know that in a few cases they lost everything. I should say, however, that at least thirty families were made homeless."

The streets in the neighborhood of the blaze were thronged with the fire sufferers and their friends when an Eagle reporter visited the quarter this morning. It is evident that several sweatshops were destroyed for hundreds of half burned sewing machines were lying in the street, while the owners stood by mourning their losses.

According to the police report only one person was injured. Frank Smith of 266 Ellery street, while standing near the fire line, was struck by a falling timber. He received an incised wound of the leg and was removed to St. Catharine's hospital by Dr. Linder.

Little, if any, of the property destroyed was insured. The cause of the fire is not known, but Assistant Fire Marshal Rice, who investigated the circumstances surrounding the blaze, says he is sure it is not the work of an incendiary. The building where the fire started was not insured.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: 200 People Made Homeless by Midnight Fire 1896
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 Brooklyn Daily Eagle October 3, 1896
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