Pittston, PA Fire, Dec 1917


Blaze Was Located in the Cash Store Block at Corner of Main and Broad Streets - Three Firms Lose Entire Stock - Victim Was Arthur Goulding

One death resulted to-day from the fire whcih early esterday morning destroyed the Cash Store block at the corner of Main and Broad streets, Pittston, causing a loss of $75,000 and for a time threatening to wipe out the entire business district of Pittston.

Arthur Goulding, aged 70, janitor of the building, died at 3 o'clock this morning at the Pittston State hospital from the effects of being overcome by smoke while sleeping in his quarters on one of the upper floors of the building.

When the fire broke out, the firemen and policement who rushed into the building discovered Goulding, his wife and daughter overcome in their bedrooms by the smoke. Efforts to arouse them failed and the rescuers were forced to cary the victims through windows to escape the flames.

Because of the advanced age of Goulding, he was the most seriously affected. He was removed to the hospital, where he did not regain consciousness. The large quantity of smoke that he inhaled, together with being exposed to the severe cold, combined in causing his death. His wife and daughter were revivied without difficulty and it was not necessary to take them to the hospital. They are now at the home of friends.

The fire was located in the Cash Store block at the corner of Main and Broad streets. Whipped by a high wind, and the firemen hindered by the zero weather from which they suffered terribly, the blaze raged from 1:30 o'clock until after 8 o'clock yesterday morning. During that time firemen were called from this city, Scranton, Exeter, Old Forge and West Pittston.

The Cash Store block is owned by the Howell & Hughes estate and the following stores on the ground floor were gutted and their stocks ruined:

Woolworth's five and ten cent store.
Sweetland confectionery store.
O. P. & C. O. shoe store.

The upper floors of the three story brick building were used for offices and the quarters of the Goulding family. Among those that were burned out were the headquarters of the Henry Grattan Society; the meeting place of the Jr. O. U. A. M.; offices of Dr. Brenton, Bennett & Mercur, M. L. Perrin, Attorney F. C. Mosier, John T. Flannery Company, Dr. Lewis, Gilroy Real Estate agency, Dr. Thompson, Hilbert - O'Hara Tailoring company and a photograph gallery. At the rear of the building on Broad street were the offices of the Pittston Transfer company and the Postal Telegraph company, both of which were damaged.

The fire was discovered shortly after 1 o'clock. It had been smouldering for some time in the basement of the Woolworth store. When the firemen arrived they discovered the interior of the store in flames. The cold weather greatly hindered the firemen although the water supply was good. The fire gave out great quantities of smoke and this also worked against the fire fighters.

The wind caused the fire to spread rapidly to the Sweetland candy shop and the O. P. & C. O. Shoe store and to the floors above. It was there that the Goulding family was found.

A dozen streams of hose were thrown into the fire but they seemed to have no other effect than to cause a cake of ice to form on the outside of the building, seemingly protecting the fire from the firemen. It was when the flames shot out of the roof and the wind gave indications of increasing, that a general alarm was sent in. At the same time the bells of St. John's Roman Catholic church and the Presbyterian Church began tolling for the purpose of informing business men who were at home of the danger to their business places. It was at that hour that it was believed the entire business section of the city would go.

With the sending in of the general alarm and special calls to this city and Scranton for help, the number of firemen fighting the flames swelled to more than 100. Twenty-one lines of hose were pounding away at the fire. It was just about seven hours after the discovery of the fire that it was extinguished and the firemen with their clothes frozen to them were ordered back home.

Chief Weber, of the Pittston department, slipped on the pavement while directing his men and was slightly injured.

Review of the Damages.

The damage falls heaviest upon the owners of the building, the members of the Howell and the Hughes families, in whose possession it had been for many years. Their loss is extremely difficult to determine. The building was old and far from modern, but it was very important as a business centre, housing a number of enterprises and offices.

The stock of the Woolworth store has been completely ruined. The fire did not burn all the way to the front of the storeroom, but where the flames did not reach the water played its destructive part. The damage to Sweetland and to the O. P. & C. O. shoe store is confined to that done by smoke and water. The shoe store, owned by Mrs. R. Markus, carried an extensive stock, and the damage there is large. The Globe Store, Charles K. Trumbower, proprietor, also suffers from smoke and water. The offices of the Pittston Transfer Co., the Postal Telegraph Co., and the store of Nicholas Dileo, on Broad street, were gutted by the flames, as was the vacant storeroom where the German Kitchen was once located.

On the second floor, the fire destroyed the office of William J. Gilroy, real estate man, Dr. Meriweather Lewis Dr. John R. Thompson, Attorney Joseph Cohen and the tailoring rooms of J. J. O'Hara, besides the Goulding apartment. A heavy sufferer from the fire is Stanley Radube, photographer with rooms over the Woolworth store. Offices flooded by water and smoke were those of M. L. Perrin, Pittston hospital, John T. Flannery, Attorney Frank Mosier, Dr. Richard Brenton and the rooms formerly occupied by I. L. Bevan as a tailoring establishment. The shoe shining stand next to Woolworth was considerably damaged.

The lodge rooms of the Jr. O. U. A. M., over Woolworth's suffered only from water and not to any extent. Those of the Henry Grattan society were gutted by the fire.

The main walls of the building were undamaged and the structure can be repaired. This course will undoubtedly be pursued as regards the section toward Main and Broad streets.

Cause of the Fire.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Fire Chief Weber was continuing an investigation today. The theory foremost in his mind is that it was due to an overheated chimney, to which the boiler was connected. The fact that Saturday was a business night, coupled with the intense cold, caused a strict demand for the maximum amount of heat, which was maintained until late hours. The heated chimeny may have ignited woodwork. At least the location of the baze when discovered supports such a theory.

The Wilkes-Barre Times, Wilkes-Barre, PA 31 Dec 1917