Portland, ME Wholesale District Fire, Jan 1908


Damage of $265,000 to Building in Wholesale District.

Chief, Hurt, Directs Firemen by Telephone From Sick Room.

Biddeford Sends Help Which Fortunately Is Not Needed.


PORTLAND, Me., Jan. 27.--At 1 o'clock this morning the flames broke out again and spread to that part of the building occupied by A. P. Fox & Son, destroying their entire stock and bringing the total loss up to nearly $800,000. Of this, $175,000 is sustained by Cox. The flames are still spreading.

PORTLAND, Me., Jan. 26.---With the ruins of the City Hall still smoldering and the city barely recovering from that disastrous blaze, the firemen were called out tonight to fight another conflagration of almost as great proportions and which for a time threatened the destruction of a large part of the wholesale district of the city.


After the fire was discovered it grew with such alarming rapidity that the Portland department, fearing inability to cope with it, sent a call to Biddeford for assistance. Engines wwere sent by special train, but when they arrived the fire had been controlled and they were not unloaded.

The totol loss is placed at $625,000, of which $500,000 falls on one firm, Milliken, Cousens & Co., wholesale dry goods, to whose five-story building at 184 and 163 Middle street the fire was confined.

Gives Orders by Telephone.

Chief Eldridge of the fire department who was injured at the City Hall fire, was not able to answer the alarm tonight, but he directed from his home. The working force was in charge of Assistant Chief Thomas Payne, and at intervals he conferred with his chief, for Eldridge knew the territory by heart. His inability to answer the call to duty, to which he has responded for years, was one of the chief's greatest disappointments of life and he chafed under his compulsory confinement. But to him will go the credit for preventing a more disastrous fire.

Both the firemen and policemen have been doing double duty for days and few of them were really in condition for the work required of them tonight. But they turned out, did their duty manfully and everyone of them proved himself a true hero.

Several times during the course of the fire the lives of both fire fighters and onlookers were endangered by falling walls, but all escaped without injury.

Other Blocks in Danger.

At one time the postoffice building and the First National Bank were in grave danger, as was the Court square block in which the city officials have taken temporary quarters since the fire of Friday.

The fire was discovered just after 9 o'clock, and before the firemen had really got to work the three upper stories were ablaze and the fire was gaining momentarily. it took but one look on the part of Assistant Chief Payne to decided that heroic measures must be adopted, and he immediately ordered a general alarm, calling out all the available apparatus, and at the same time dispersed the thousands of people, who literally clogged the streets and for a time interfered seriously with the work of the firemen.

Walls Topple Over.

Before the fire was under control, four hours later, the entire building was practically in ruins, the walls on the Market street side had fallen in and there was little left to mark the spot where early in the evening the massive five-story brick block had stood.

The greater part of the building was occupied by Milliken, Cousens & Co., wholesale dry goods dealers, a firm which is headed by Seth N. Milliken, president of the Mercantile National Bank of New York city. Their loss is estimated tonight at $500,000, but this is practically all covered by insurance.

The only other occupants of the building was A. F. Cox & Co., wholesale shoe dealers, whose loss is placed at $25,000, the damage being largely by smoke and water. The firm carries a stock valued at nearly $200,000.

The building is owned by Seth N. Milliken and the Deering estate jointly. It was built some years ago at a cost of $125,000 and had recently been valued at $100,000.

The Milliken, Cousens & Co., is the Maine branch of Deering, Milliken & Co., of New York, who carry on an extensive wholesale dry goods business throughout the country. Since the first of January the Maine store, which sells throughout New England, stocked, up with about $500,000 worth of goods, as is usual at this season of the year, when heavier stocks are carried than at any other time.

The first sign of the fire was discovered by Mrs. Harry L. Ryder, wife of the janitor of the First National Bank, across the street, from the dry goods house. At that time, the flames were already shooting out of the third story-windows. Running to the telephone she at once notified fire headquarters.

The Boston Journal, Boston, MA 27 Jan 1908