Fire in a Fireproof Building Twenty-four Years Ago
On Sunday morning, April 2, 1893, a serious fire occurred in the modern fireproof building, Temple Court, New York City. The building is a favorite house for engineers, patent attorneys and those of kindred callings, and the whole matter of fireproof construction is so interesting that it does not seem amiss to give a little space to this fire in Fire and Water. The walls were all laid with tile, except a few feet where the old and new buildings joined. The roof was made of hollow brick between iron beams covered with cement. All galleries, stairways and floor girders, as well as window spandrels, are of iron, stairways having marble or slate steps. The window sills are of sandstone in the case of the outer walls and of bluestone in case of windows in the light shaft of new buildings. About 7 o’clock, people on the streets noticed volumes of smoke issuing from the Theatre Alley wing of the new building, and when the alarm was given the firemen soon arrived and broke in the main door on Beekman street, as the building was locked and no one in attendance. The fire had gained such headway that it took two and one-half hours of most strenuous work on the part of a very large force of firemen to subdue the flames. The fire seems to have started on the seventh floor in either one or more of rooms 724 to 727, but most likely in No. 725. From this it seems to have burned through the connecting doors between the offices, then followed the inner partitions separating offices and antechambers, then crossing these, the hall doors, light casings and frames took fire, communicating to the set of inner offices, and breaking through the windows on the light shaft, set fire to the opposite window frames thirty feet away. The flames from the west struck the walls of the east wing, rebounding down and up, thereby setting fire to the sixth and fifth stories below, and the eighth, ninth and tenth above. The destruction extended into the old building so that one set of guides of the nearest elevator and two sets of offices were soon afire. As this building was warranted fireproof, little insurance was carried and but little effort was made to provide large safes for protecting records and documents, except such as had money value, and the amount of such instruments which were lost and the totality of their destruction is truly amazing. Libraries costing thousands of dollars left no trace, and although the wooden floors were not burned through, being protected by fallen papers and books, there is absolutely nothing left in rooms 721 to 730 but the bare partition walls in a crumbling condition. Not a vestige of woodwork of any kind remains in windows or door or partition framing. There can be no doubt that the fire had been burning for many hours before it was discovered and that the watchman, who is said to have been on duty, had not been near the origin of the fire, probably after midnight of Saturday, April 1, of which the evidence is quite conclusive.