The St. Augustine, Fla., Conflagration
Six hotels, housing more than 1,000 tourists; the courthouse, a theatre and several homes, in all 33 buildings, were destroyed at St. Augustine, Fla., the oldest city in the United States, on April 2, in a fire which devastated a quarter of a square mile from the heart of the city to Matanzas Bay. The property loss is estimated at from $500,000 to $750,000. The fire started at midnight in the store-room of the Florida House and spread in all directions. It was discovered by a policeman when it burst through the inflammable wooden walls of the building with a fierceness and volume which indicated that it had been burning some time. The policeman ran to the fire station only a block distant and gave a verbal alarm. When the fire department arrived the fire had made such progress that the building was then beyond saving. The hotel was located in a very narrow street, which was a severe handicap in the operations of the fire department and greatly assisted the flames to spread to buildings on all sides. The store-room, where the fire originated, was in the second story in a wing of the building. The flames spread quickly to the third and fourth stories of the large wooden structure. The hotel alarm was promptly given and the guests made their escape safely, but most of them saved only the night clothes they wore when aroused from their sleep. In a brief space of time the entire structure was a roaring mass of flames and burning brands were carried for blocks, threatening destruction to many other wooden buildings. With but a few feet dividing the hotel from the Genova opera house, a wooden building, the fire leaped across the narrow chasm soon utter it started and in a few minutes that building was burning from one end to the other. From the opera house the fire quickly spread to the Lynn building, a two-story brick business block. The Claremont Hotel, a large twostory brick building, was the next to go, and the flames were reaching for the Magnolia Hotel, a towering structure, and several times ignited its heat blistered wall, and each time the fire department vanquished the attack and saved the building. Meantime, the fire was spreading in other directions. It crossed Treasury Street, which is only seven feet wide, and several cottages were here destroyed. The court house and several residences were soon burning. The Central House, a large three-story wooden structure, the Genovar building on Charlotte Street, which is a mere alley, followed, and other buildings. some of them more than a century old, and cherished as relics, crumbled before the fearful blast of heat and flames. The old Sanchez house, in which was the museum and priceless relics of the Historical Society, met the fate of all the other buildings in the path of the conflagration. The Burt building on Charlotte Street, another old landmark, the Vedder museum, the Sallas budding, the Josenh palatial residence, were all in flames within an hour or so of the commencement of the fire. To the northward several re.idences. business structures, shops, etc., were destroyed, to the eastward the Mansion House and several cottages, the Atlantic House and o*her buildings were consumed. The fire was held in check along Hypolita Street, the fire department saving many buildings along this street which several times became ignited. On the east the water at the bay front stopped the fire in that direction after the burning of the Power Boat Club house. On the south it was stopped by the spacious grounds surrounding the Joseph manshion. Six buildings adjoining the fire zone were damaged and ten stores were destroyed. When the fire spread to the opera house, Jacksonville was telephoned to for assistance and Chief T. J. Haney responded with apparatus and men, but when the train reached St. Augustine the fire was under control and their services were not needed. The fire department is in command of Chief C. P. Townsend, formerly a member ot the Jacksonville department, who has held his present position since 1905. The force is part paid and part call and the apparatus consists ot an engine, two hose wagons and a ladder truck.