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The great Tupper Lake conflagration, 1899

December 1, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The business portion of the village of Tupper Lake was destroyed by fire on a Sunday morning in July 1899. There were 129 buildings burned at a cost estimate of $227,000. (Google says that amounts to $1,512,255 today).

Here is the Enterprise story:

"At 1:30 Sunday morning an alarm of fire was rung in at Tupper Lake village, and by 5:00 a.m. the entire business section was in ashes. The fire was discovered in the oil room of King & Page's mammoth general store and is supposed to have been of incendiary (meaning it was set) origin and rapidly spread to the storehouses, John McDonough's residence, the Windsor Hotel, and by the time the people began to realize the danger, several buildings were ablaze. There being no water supply, it was seen at once that with the strong west wind the town was doomed, and they commenced to save all the personal property they could reach.


Fire jumps the road

"The fire crossed the road and caught in the post office; H. Cohen's grocery store; went to the town jail; from there to Bloomberg's clothing store, and swept everything in its path to B. Seigel's hardware store; it then took a turn to the Commercial Hotel, and worked back against the wind, burning Propp's large clothing store; Marsha's furniture store; Central House; McNeeley's store; McCloskey's bottling works; Fountain Brother's barns; to the Methodist Church and the residences in between; from there to Cook's Furniture Store; E. G. Reynolds' general store and storehouses; then to Roe's Blacksmith Shop; Hayes' livery barns; N. P. Gravell's residence; the Williams block; Kellas and Munsilll block; Daley block; Delancett building; Dr. Austin's house and barn and ice house; Allen Flanders store; the Thissel three-story building occupied by Maid's drug store, John Goff, jeweler, Drescher, the Tailor; 2nd floor by Santa Clara Lumber Company, J. I. Tallman, attorney and the 3rd floor by I. O. F. [the official name is the Independent Order of Odd Fellows]; to the McCloskey building where the telephone exchange and the Herald offices were located.


Altamont hotel is saved

"The Altamont Hotel and the City Opera House, which were located opposite the Kellas & Munsill block, were in great danger and all went to work with a will to save these two buildings; the hotel having a water tank, wet blankets and men with pails succeeded in saving the buildings, but the paint is all blistered on the front side of the Hotel.

"People who witnessed the fire say they hope they will never, during their lives, witness a spectacle like the one they saw Sunday morning. Several prostrations [overcome] were reported from heat and a few received slight bruises. Several of the business places will no doubt be rebuilt at once and some commenced to put up temporary houses and stores Monday morning."


Other losses

There were many other businesses and homes that suffered damage in the fire which were listed under insurance claims; here are a few that we could make out from the old newspaper clipping:

"J. L. Jacobs, two rooms of household furniture; J. P. Etienne, Tailor shop and residence; Octave Gauthier's bakery and residence; Tupper Lake M'f'g Co., residence, occupied by P. Trombley and Hart LaFountain; Export Lumber Company, residence occupied by Ed Burrell; Runions Photography Shop; H. Colin, grocery and restaurant; H. McFarland, ice cream and confectionery store.

"Residences - John McConnell, Mrs. Peter Delair, Ed Cholossy Cottage, Mose Deisle, M. Bristol, Archie Leboen, William McLaughlin; Joseph Mayotte, saloon and residence; Alfred LaBoeuf, two cottages, barn and ice house; William O'Brien, cottage; Morris Goldberg, ladies fancy goods store and Dentist Foote's office; N. Wharfman, dry goods and Cote and Ives, barbers, grocery store."

As everyone knows Tupper Lake village is one of the most important lumbering towns in northern New York and was fast gaining popularity as a summer and winter resort, and the town had assumed a business-like appearance.

"A stock company was formed to put in a complete water supply with a pressure of 70lbs. to the square inch, and the work was to commence next week. The insurance rates were so high that it was impossible for the poorer people to carry insurance and many who were able took chances instead of paying the high rates that are charged."


Notes of the fire

"The Altamont barn, ice house and gas plant were totally destroyed together with 20 hogs which were roasted alive, loss $1,000, partial insurance."

"When the fire was under control, for want of fuel, the homeless men, women and children flocked to the Altamont Hotel and Landlord Weir threw open the doors and invited all to enter and try to make themselves comfortable."

"P. McCarthy, who owned the meat market, opened up Sunday afternoon in Frank Shatraw's Shop, and had beef, mutton and veal on sale before dark."

"Isaac Bloomberg, thinking he could save his goods, carried them out on the square, and, while thus engaged, the goods took fire and were all destroyed."

"Claude Clark, who run the saloon for John Weir, saved only the license."

"Mrs. John Weir had to be carried from the building, because she did not want to leave her home."

"Dan Hayes had lost a car (railroad) of grain and hay he had unloaded Saturday."

"Frank McCloskey, the beer man, who was burned out, hired a place at the Junction and commenced business Monday morning."

"Thomas L. Weir, in his hurry, laid down his coat that contained $180, which was missing when the excitement was over."



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