Chicago, IL John Hartley's Pork Packing Co Fire, Aug 1881

A Million-Dollar Fire

Destruction of a Chicago Pork Packing Establishment.

A Great Quantity of Provisions Destroyed-Insurances Almost Cover The Losses-A Wide-Reaching Calamity to Insurance Companies.

Chicago, Aug. 27.-A fire broke out about 8 o’clock last evening in John Hartley’s pork-packing establishment at the Union Stock Yards. It smouldered for nearly three hours and the firemen thought they would have no difficulty in subduing it, but about 11 o’clock the flames broke out from every part of the building. Alarms were sent out which brought to the scene a large portion of the Fire Department of the city. The stock yards are about a mile and a half south of the city limits, and six miles from the business centre of the city, and there being no telegraphic communication with them at night, it was difficult to get reliable information until a late hour. At 1 o’clock A.M. it was learned that the fire was confined to Hateley’s establishment, in which 4,000,000 pounds of meat were stored. Hateley’s loss is $150,000 on the stock and $100,000 on the building and fixtures. Peter McGeoch, of Milwaukee and Chicago, was the other principal loser, his stock in store being valued at $500,000. Other smaller losses will bring the total up to $1,000,000.

The property destroyed was situated at the corner of Forty-Fourth streets and Packers’ Avenue, and occupied a block of ground. The main building was a three-story structure, and extended about 275 feet north and 175 feet east and west. At the south-east corner was a three-story ice-house, about 175 feet by 150, and at the southwest corner was another addition about half the size of the main building, which was used for cattle-pens. The men employed in storing meats in the basement were accustomed to use candles as lights, which they fastened to the beams with nails. It is supposed that some splinters caught fire from a candle, and that the flames were communicated to the boxes and the walls. The scenes at the fire were exciting, and several firemen narrowly escaped death from suffocation, being dragged from the building insensible by their comrades. The provisions burned were held by a large number of firms on warehouse receipts, and it will probably be several days before the names of all the losers can be ascertained. Mr. Hateley says about 500 men are thrown out of employment. James A. Miller of the insurance firm of McCormick & Co., said he did not know a company doing business in Chicago which was not represented in this fire except perhaps, the Phoenix of Hartford, Conn., which had but recently recommenced doing business here.

The south wing of Hateley’s Packing establishment caught fire this afternoon and is still burning fiercely. It contains ice and a large amount of meats, and will doubtless be a total loss. Its value is about $130,000, and it is fully insured in various companies. This will make the total loss, according to the latest figures, about $1,125,000. On account of the great drain on the artesian wells by this fire, the packers have decided to suspend further work until Tuesday, when it is hoped their water supply will have increased.

The New York Times, New York, NY 28 Aug 1881