Springfield, IL Opera House Fire, Mar 1876

Burning of a Theatre.

The Springfield, Ill., Opera House Destroyed By Fire-An Accident Which Probably Prevented A Serious Calamity In The Future.

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.

Springfield, Ill., March 17.-At an early hour this morning it was discovered that the opera house in this city was on fire. In a few moments Capt. John Freeman with his engine was on the spot, and the other steamers soon appeared, but the flames had already gained such headway that the fire department were powerless to save the building. The scene was a brilliant one, and notwithstanding the early hour, thousands of persons came from their houses to witness the work of destruction. At one time the entire block of buildings seemed in great danger, and the employees in the Journal office began moving out the more valuable portable articles in that establishment. Fortunately however the wind was from the east, and the sparks and flames were carried in another direction. But this fact placed the county jail in great danger, and it was found necessary to remove the prisoners to another place for safety. After a hard struggle the department got the fire under control, though not until the theatre was entirely destroyed. The building was erected some ten years ago by a German citizen, who soon after failed. Mr. Jacob Bunn, the rich banker, of this city, then came into possession, but it has never been considered a paying investment. For several years it has been looked upon as an unsafe building, and in any other city it would long since have been condemned as unfit for public use. Only a few years ago, at the time of a military reunion, one of the outer walls settled to a considerable extent and with such a noise as to create a decided panic in the large audience. United States Senator Oglesby, who, with his charming wife, was among the spectators, was among the first to gain the street but how he ever got there the Senator was never able to explain. Subsequently there was another scene of excitement on the occasion of a portion of the gallery giving way. It then became generally understood that the building was unsafe, and though several expert architects pronounced otherwise, the people believed the rumor and seldom ventured inside the structure. Its original cost was in the neighborhood of $150,000. It was the only decent hall in the city, and was used for holding state conventions for both parties. It was here the conventions were to be held this summer, but its destruction will doubtless compel the State Central Committee of either party to agree upon some other locality. The occupants of the stores on the ground floor lost everything, as follows: H.E. Mueller & Bros. Wholesale liquors and cigars, loss $25,000, insured for $2,500; F. Schultz Drugs, loss $3,000, no insurance; A. Spiers & Bro., Saloon, loss $1,000, no insurance; N. James Musical Instruments, loss $3,000, uninsured. The origin of the fire is unknown. There had been an exhibition in the hall last night by the children of the ward schools, for the benefit of the Centennial educational fund, and the custodian says that the gas and heat were turned off immediately after the close of the entertainment.

The New York Times, New York, NY 18 Mar 1876