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A second terrible fire

December 11, 2010
By HOWARD RILEY, hjriley@adelphia.net

The Saranac Lake downtown area was still reeling from the terrible fire in the Berkeley Hotel (reported here last week) on New Year's Day 1925 with the loss of 10 businesses, when 13 days later fire broke out across the street and burned almost an entire block.

The 60-point headline on the Enterprise of Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1925 declared: "Business section is swept by flames" and subheads that read: "General Conflagration Averted when Saranac Lake and Lake Placid Firemen Halt Blaze Starting in Central House and Devastating Row of Frame building on Broadway."

After careful reading of the story and from the description of the buildings, it seems that everything was destroyed from the current location of the Borracho Taco's to Goody Goody's right through to where the Twin Crystal Rock Shop is located today.

Article Photos

Here is the lead paragraph in the Enterprise:

"Sweeping the heart of the business section with damage of a quarter of a million or more, fire that broke out in the Central House on Broadway devastated a row of frame business blocks today on the most disastrous fire in the history of the village.

"Striking in the most dangerous locality conceivable, in the midst of a long row of antiquated frame buildings, the flames gutted the upper floor over four stories, and water damage was inflicted on two adjoining buildings in addition."

Throughout the story there was high praise for the volunteer firemenhere is one quote: "Without regard to personal safety, braving frozen hands and feet in near-zero temperatures, the battle was pressed from all sides by firemen whose work was of heroic proportions."

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Random quotes

"The motor fire truck was not ready to answer when the first alarm came, work being in progress on the engine. The horse-drawn (the horse stalls were in the basement of the present fire house entered from ground level in the rear) hook-and-ladder apparatus was the first on the scene with hose with only slight delay when the truck arrived connecting the pumper to the river on the Broadway bridge."

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"Two men and one woman were trapped in the rear of the buildings and were forced to make good their escape by means of ladders erected by firemen."

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"Henry Erling was asleep in his room at the Central house and for some reason was not warned of the danger. He is employed in the restaurant of Lawrence Quigley on Bloomingdale Avenue and works nights. Erling made his escape through the Crippen building and then to the Williams building by means of windows nearly opposite. His final crossing to safety was accomplished by Samuel Wood, who reached out from a second story window in the Williams building and caught Erling as the latter hung by his hands from a window of the other building and dropped." (It is strange but I knew Sam Wood, a rugged big man, who lived next door to our family when we moved to 5 Pine Street in 1941.)

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Business places ruined

"Places of business destroyed or flooded in the Central House Block were:

"Kay's Toggery Shop, men's apparel store, owned by H. D. Kabatchnick, No. 12 Broadway, first floor.

"United Cigar Store, Warren Ward, manager, 16 Broadway, first floor.

"Broadway Cafeteria, H. L. Kalkof, proprietor, 14 Broadway, basement floor."

Other businesses listed were I. Feinberg at 18 Broadway, water soaked with damage to the chapter rooms of the Disabled America Veterans of the World War on the second floor of the Crippen Building; also on the second floor were the reading rooms of Temple Emanu-El and the offices of the Ampersand Reality Company. Heavy damage was done to Robbins Lunch and Restaurant owned by Mr. and Mrs. Max Robbins on the ground floor.

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Climax of series

"Today's fire came as a climax of a series of damaging blazes that started in mid-December and included the Jenkins Block in Main Street, partially damaged; Colbath Block on River Street totally destroyed and the Berkeley Hotel on Main and Broadway, partially destroyed."

 
 

 

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