Fire In A Tenement Imperils Many Lives 1898



For the second time in five years the four story double frame tenement at the corner of Harrison avenue and Wallabout street was almost completely destroyed by fire early this morning. As a result of the fire five persons were seriously injured, eleven families, or about fifty persons in all, had narrow escapes, and damage amounting to about $25,000 was caused. The night was bitterly cold and many of the occupants of the building, particularly the young children, who fled in their night clothing, suffered from exposure. The injured were:

Mrs. Sarah Taffe, 30 years old, both legs fractured by jumping. Homeopathic Hospital.

Abraham Taffe, her husband, one leg broken; bruises. Homeopathic Hospital.

Bertha Gelbert, 48 years old, right thigh fractured by jumping. St. Catharine's Hospital.

Adolph Zog, 30 years old, badly bruised by jumping. St. Catharine's Hospital.

Alfred Stover, 35 years old, right fore-arm fractured in two places by slipping and falling on the street. Homeopathic Hospital.

A number of people sustained injuries of a minor nature and were today being attended in the houses of friends in the vicinity. The tenements are among the largest in this thickly settled portion of the district. One, that at 173, is owned by Dr. Bornstein, a Manhattan physician, and that at 175 Harrison avenue, by Mrs. Benedict of 65 Bond street, this borough. Both buildings were provided with fairly good fire escapes in the rear. Otherwise the loss of life would have certainly been great.

Stover, who is on the list of injured given above, gave the timely alarm of fire. He is 35 years of age and is employed in Manhattan as a chemist. He was on his way home to 51 Pulaski street, this borough, on a Tompkins avenue car, when he saw flames shoot out from a window of the second story on the Harrison avenue side of the tenement next the corner. Stover jumped off the car and pulled the fire box at Harrison and Flushing avenues. Then he ran back with all speed in the hope of rescuing the people, as they were coming out of the building. In crossing the street he tripped on a car rail and sustained the injuries stated. Policemen from the Sixth Precinct came running up and assisted him into Winter's Teutonia Hall, Harrison avenue and Bartlett street, a block away. He was afterward removed to the Homeopathic Hospital.

Meantime the hall was filling with people who had fled from the burning building. Altogether about fifty thinly and poorly clad women and children sought shelter in the building. A ball of the Potato Handlers at the North Eighth street market, was in progress at the time, but as the news of the serious nature of the fire became known it was brought to a close. T. H. Collins, a brother-in-law of Mr. Winter, proprietor of the hall, was in charge, and he did his best to help shelter those who had fled from the fire. They were given a ball to themselves in the rear of the bar, where there was a stove.

Some of the injured were taken here for examination prior to being taken to the hospital. Their appearance caused some of the women to go into hysterics. As the fire progressed, there were four alarms and four ambulance calls were sent in. From the Wallabout street corner the fire made rapid progress up through the third and fourth floors of the northerly tenement and then crossed to the third and fourth floors of the building to the south.

There was a rumor in the vicinity of the fire today that the cause was the explosion of a kerosene lamp in the rooms of Mr. and Mrs. Taffe, but owing to their condition, this could not be verified. Mrs. Taffe, finding her escape cut off, jumped from a window on the second story. She was followed by her husband. In haste to make her escape Mrs. Gelbert, who also lived on this floor, fell down a flight of stairs.

Meantime the families on the third and fourth floors were having even more thrilling experiences. Harry Halpern, a tailor, employed at 52 and 54 Kosciusko street, occupied the top floor of No. 175, with his wife Clara, their three children__Isaac aged 6 months, Louis 2 years and 4 months and Gussie aged 5__Louisa Gelberg, 15 years old, a friend, and her mother, Mrs. Bertha Gelberg Halpern. on finding that acdess to Harrison avenue had been completely cut off by smoke, opened a window leading to the rear fire escape. He succeeded in helping down all the inmates of his home except the old woman, Mrs. Gelberg.

He was on the point of bringing her out when he was almost overcome by smoke. The woman was then handed down from one escape to the other by firemen and policemen and reached the ground considerably bruised. Julius Robinowitz, his wife and six children, and another man with a family of nine children, who moved into the tenement about six weeks ago, and whose name no one seemed to know this morning, also had narrow escapes, but were safely brought down by the firemen or police.

Nearly one-half of the people burned out had their effects insured. Adolph Salzman, who acted as agent and appraiser for nearly all the companies interested, gave the following list of insurances today: Mrs. Gelberg, British American, $400; Julius Rabinowitz, company not stated, $600; Louis Esser, dry goods store, ground floor, 173 Harrison avenue, Manchester Fire Insurance Company, $2,000; Herman Seigel, first floor of 173 Harrison avenue, Germania Fire Insurance Company, $600, and M.S. Bragan, Chemist, Wallabout Pharmacy, corner of Harrison avenue and Wallabout street, Merchants' Fire Insurance Company, $1,500.

The building is completely gutted and the contents not destroyed by fire were rendered useless by the volumes of water which the firemen poured on the flames for nearly two hours. The fire proved one of the most exciting in the locality for some time. After the last fire, which occurred about five years ago, the outer walls of the building, it is said, were allowed to remain intact, and the interior was reconstructed. There was rumor in the early morning that a man was missing, but the police state that all the occupants have been accounted for. Assistant Chief Perry was in charge of the firemen.

Website: The History
Article Name: Fire In A Tenement Imperils Many Lives 1898
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle March 1, 1898
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