New York, NY Business Section Fire, Dec 1835
On the South, a desperate struggle was made at Hanover Square, but it was unsuccessful. How could such an avalanche of fire be checked, when water could not be thrown upon it, and seemed of no avail when it was ? A last resort was had to gunpowder -- but none, in sufficient quantities was to be procured in the city -- not being allowed as an article of merchandise. An application to the Fort on Governer's Island was unsuccessful; but a supply was ultimately procured after daylight from the Navy Yard, Brooklyn, with a corps of marines, &c. and the demolition of a few buildings contributed materially to the subjugation of the flames, which was finally effected at Coenties slip, about noon of this day (Thursday) after an awful and uninterrupted devastation of fifteen hours.
It will be readily understood that the destruction is not even yet complete. As we write, twenty-five hours after the first alarm of the fire, a dark cloud of smoke rises over the vast scene of ruin, revealed at the distance of a mile and with a considerable elevation intervening, by the lurid flames which still flicker and glow at its base. They may not be extinct for weeks, but the limits of their desolation are, we trust, distinctly defined. And yet the possibility of a gale from the south or even the southwest cannot at this moment be contemplated without a shudder. Had the wind which prevailed on the night of the calamity reached us from a southerly or even easterly direction, we believe half the city must have sunk beneath the overwhelming devastation.
We shall not attempt to give a statement of the individual losses, a bare catalogue of the sufferers would fill a column. Seventeen of the most valuable blocks of buildings in New York are totally destroyed and three others nearly so. The Merchant's Exchange is destroyed, including the Post Office. Six hundred and seventy buildings have been burnt, principally occupied as importing and wholesale stores, many of them by such firms as Arthur Tappan & Co., Bailey, Keeler & Remsen, &c. &c. with a stock of goods even at this season of $300,000 each. The South side of Wall Street is half destroyed; William, Pearl, Water, Front and South Sts., from Wall St. to Coenties Slip, are in ruins; Exchange Place, Hanover Street, Merchant Street and Hanover Square entirely destroyed. Stone St. from Pearl to Broad St. nearly so. Some of the buildings on Broad St. were slightly injured, but throughout the night this noble avenue was universally regarded as the only efficient barrier against the entire destruction of the First Ward.
Of the six large morning papers, only two escaped the general wreck -- the Mercantile and the Courier & Enquirer. The Daily Advertiser, Journal of Commerce, and Gazette, were burnt out of both printing and publication offices, the Times, of printing office only. The American among the evening papers, is entirely destroyed. All Mr. Minor's periodicals -- Railroad Journal, Mechanics' Magazine, &c. &c. are included in the wreck. The printers of the Knickerbocker also, which will probably delay the publication of the next number. The other periodicals of the city were mainly exempted from immediate suffering.
We cannot pretend to give an estimate of the total loss sustained by this dreadful calamity.
$15,000,000 seems the average of current opinions, but we esteem it decidedly too low. The Insurance Companies are generally ruined -- some will not pay fifty per cent. There is, however, a considerable amount insured in Boston and other cities.
Every measure has been taken to alleviate the pressure of this affictive dispensation. A meeting of the Common Council was immediately held -- several apartments in the City Hall appropriated to the use of the merchants and other sufferers -- the city watch doubled -- and a volunteer guard of one thousand citizens called out for the protection of the city -- the firemen being completely exhausted, incendiaries and plunderers still plentiful in every street, their appetites sharpened by success -- and city insurance being no longer worth any thing. Our citizens must continue to exercise the sternest vigilance.
The loss of human life has been great -- but we can give no account of it. There is little doubt that the devestation is the work of an incendiary, and it is said that a demon was caught applying a lighted torch to buildings after daylight of Thursday morning !! Seventy thieves were committed yesterday.
Huron Reflector Norwalk Ohio 1835-12-29