Champaign, IL Devastating Downtown Fire, Mar 1915



Champaign, March 17. -- Fire which for a time threatened the entire business district of Champaign was brought under control at 11 o'clock Wednesday morning, after the flames had destroyed property estimated at $400,000 in value. The loss was well covered by insurance.
Burned To Ground.
The Illinois building, occupied by the WOLFE LEWIS department store, was burned to the ground with a loss estimated to exceed $200,000. The interior of the PRICE block, across the street, was swept by the fire, leaving only the walls standing. The Odd Fellows' temple, a large structure on Neil street, was saved by the firemen after a hard fight.
High winds carried blazing wreckage away from the fire and kept the firemen busy protecting nearby buildings. The Champaign firemen were given efficient aid by the Urbana and Decatur departments.
Started In Basement.
The fire started at 6:30 o'clock Wednesday morning in the basement of the LEWIS store at the southwest corner of Park and Neil streets. A tank of kerosene was kept near the freight elevator shaft and it is thought that spontaneous combustion might have caused the conflagration. When discovered, the flames were beyond control and the four-story structure was soon a mass of ruins.
On the south of the LEWIS store were the Illinois building annex, the FRANK CAMPBELL building and McFADDEN brothers' feed and grocery store. These made but a mouthful for the flames which had begun to assume large proportions.
Leaped Across Neil Street.
The fire then leaped across Neil street to the buildings of the PRICE estate. These were mostly two-story structures, containing small business firms, and they were practically wiped out. The flames burned buildings on both sides of Neil street, Chester to Taylor and Park streets.
Appeals were made in Bloomington, Decatur and Danville for assistance. Danville refused to send aid, but help was immediately dispatched from Bloomington and Decatur. The Decatur department, headed by Chief C. W. DEVORE, was the first to arrive, and it did some efficient work in helping check the flames. The Bloomington department was notified while on its way to turn back for the flames were then under control.
Firemen Overcome.
Practically no one was injured in any way by the fire. Fireman EARL PHIPPS of the local department was overcome in the smoke but he was soon revived.

The Daily Review Decatur Illinois 1915-03-17