New York, NY Business Section Fire, Dec 1835
AWFUL CONFLAGRATION !!
Our city has just been the theatre and the victim of the most disastrous visitation ever known to this Continent !! The heart of her business, her commerce, and her wealth, is now a blackened mass of smouldering ruins !! New York has received a blow, from the effects of which the utmost exertion of her fearless enterprise, the most liberal and beneficent application of her yet unbounded wealth, will hardly suffice to restore her. The homes of her 'merchant princes' are desolate, the citadels of their strength are in ashes !!
The appalling conflagration, which it is our melancholy duty to record, commenced at 9 o'clock on Wednesday evening, at which time the flames burst from the store of Comstock & Andrews, 25 Merchant St. near the Exchange. In twenty minutes, the whole block of wholesale stores, in the very center of the mercantile business of the city, was in a blaze, and the destroying element was rapidly extending its ravages in every direction. It would be vain to attempt giving the distant reader, an idea of the spectacle presented. The weather had been unusually severe for several days, but on the night in question the cold had increased to an intensity which had seldom been exceeded. The thermometer stood below zero, with a breeze from the N. NW. amounting nearly to a gale, an the fire had obtained a tremendous advantage in the most compactly and loftily built portion of the city, filled with silks, cloths, liquors, and other combustables, and intersected only by narrow streets which could interpose no barrier to the progress of the flames. The rally of the Fire Department was not made with its accustomed alacrity, owing to the unparalleled severity of the weather, and to the fact that there had been so many alarms within the week, and so large an amount of harassing service required of the firemen.
The effort to check the ravages of the conflagration in the quarter to which the wind was vehemently urging it proved utterly unavailing. The water so plenteously thrown upon it by hydrants and engines was blown black in the faces and fell congealed at the feet of the firemen, or seemed only to aid to the fury of the elements. William Street was passed. Pearl Street overleaped -- next Water Street -- then Front Street -- and the very shipping in the docks of the East River was endangered, and only saved by strenuous exertions, and its removal into the stream. No barrier but that of nature could be interposed on the east; and it was with great difficulty that the fire could be prevented from extending its ravages across Wall Street. The Tontine building (Hudson's News Room) was indeed once on fire, but happily extinguished. The extraordinary strength of the Wall Street buildings -- many of them resisting firmly the assaults of the destroyer, and none of the walls crumbling and falling into the street, as is too generally the case -- did more for the safety of those north of the street than any thing within the power of human effort. For hours, it was doubtful that the flames could be arrested here, and if not, there was little hope that they could b before reaching Maiden Lane.
Onward -- still onward, swept the bosom of destruction !! The hydrants were exhausted, the engines had long been frozen up, with their hose like cannon. Westward, the South Dutch Church, which had been made the hasty depository of stores of precious goods, was in flames, which threatened to extend to Broad Street throughout.
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