St. John's NF City Destroyed By Fire, July 1892
ST. JOHN'S SWEPT AWAY BY A FIELD OF FLAME.
NEWFOUNDLAND'S CAPITAL NEARLY WIPED OUT BY A BIG FIRE LAST NIGHT.
FIVE HUNDRED BUILDINGS BURNED.
SHIPPING HAULED OUT OF THE HARBOR -- SEVEN KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN KILLED.
St. Johns, N. F., July 9 -- (Special) -- Seven lives were lost in the fire that swept the city last night. A high wind was blowing and swept the flames with a force and rapidity which could not be checked by any power within the city, and it was simply impossible to obtain help from any other place.
The high wind, carrying live embers in every direction, ignited a score of fires at once, so that within half an hour from the first outbreak the fire department and people were utterly helpless and the center of the city was abandoned to its fate.
The first large building to become a prey to the fiery flames was the new Methodist college and boarding hall, recently created at a cost of $40,000, and the educationial headquarters of Methodism in the colony. From here the flames leaped to the magnificent Masonic temple, erected at a cost of $50,000 and a portion of which was used as the general Protestant academy.
Sweeping down the hills the flames next licked up the Gower Street Methodist brick church, the oldest and largest in the city. Then across the street to the superb cathedral of the English church, 120 feet in length and fifty-six feet broad. This was designed by Sir GILBERT SCOTT, was conceded to be the finest place of Gothic architecture on the continent, a large portion of the stone for which was imported from Europe. It has been a half century in building and not yet completed, though $250,000 has been spent on it. Next Orange hall and the palace of Bishop JONES were consumed. Containing its swath the next victim of its prey was the Supreme court house on Duckworth street; the police headquarters; the magnificent Atheneum building, containing the the government offices, law offices, government savings bank, a large public hall and reading room.
Proceeding along Duckworth street, the Union Bank building, an institution which has paid nearly 20 per cent to its shareholders for years; the Commercial bank, the fine brick and stone Presbyterian church, and the Telegram newspaper office were quickly destroyed. Then the flames took complete possession of the great business establishments and fish warehouse on Water street, soon extending to the wharves, from which the shipping had to haul out into the harbor for safety.
But long before this and while the fire was rushing with irrestible fury towards the water front it was also spreading easterly, toward its original starting point, and before the people were aware of it the majestic pile of freestone with its twin towers, the Catholic cathedral was ablaze. Two - thirds of the population of St. Johns are Catholic and are worshipers in this vast structure.
It was one of the largest and most magnificent places of worship in the New World, and was built of cut limestone and Irish granite. Its towers were 138 feet high, while its nave was 60 feet long, with an ambulatory 12 feet in breadth, connected with the main building by a screen of massive pillars and semi-circular arches. It was built in 1830 and was the pride of every Catholic who ever saw it. Only a few days ago it was the scene of the consecration of the new bishop of the west coast.
With the cathedral were alos destroyed the palace of Bishop POWER, constructed of cut stone and containing invaluable treasures of art, St. Patrick's and the schools of the Christian Brothers. There was little hope of saving the convent and the college of St. Bonaventure.
Three thousand people are homeless and will be absolutely dependent upon public assistance. The flames have reached the wharves and the shipping has been hauled out into the bay to be beyond the reach of the consuming element.
It is here that the greatest losses will occur, as the shipping interests of St. John's are on a most extensive scale, and the loss in this part of the city alone will reach into the millions of dollars.
This is the fourth great fire which has visited St. John's. In February 1816, a large part of the town was destroyed. In the following year there was another big fire, with losses of $2,000,000. But the greatest conflagration of all was June 19, 1849, when 2,000 houses were destroyed, involving a loss of $4,000,000.
Janesville Gazette Wisconsin 1892-07-09