Duluth, MN Opera House Fire, Jan 1889

Duluth, MN Opera House before the 1889 fire, photo from familyoldphotos.com

Adjoining Buildings.

Serious as the fire was, it looked several times as if the conflagration would be much worse. When the fire was at its height the St. Louis was in imminent danger. The front wall was smoking and the heat cracked nearly all the windows on Superior street. The firemen did good work here and saved the building. Had the wind held from the northwest as at the start the great hostelry must have gone. It veered to the eastward, however, and before the roof fell had gone down almost entirely. As it was the guests made a hasty exist with valises and trunks. One man was a bit startled to have a trunk come smashing down from a third story window to the Michigan street sidewalk at his feet. The Superior street exit was at this time impassable and the guests with fear and trembling were escorted through a dark passage to Michigan street. A memorial was drawn up last evening and largely signed asking the council to order better escapes.

The postoffice too was in danger. Postmaster Flynn was one of the first on the ground and the whole postal force was soon at work removing mails. The Opera house wall threatened to fall and crush the postoffice out of existence. The boys after getting out the mails with a batch of letters in one hand and their lives in the other, were called off. They soon went back and pulled out most of the office fixtures as well. The building was on fire at one time and one mailing case was burned, but the fire was suppressed. At 6 in the morning they set to work moving their traps back and at 7:45 the carriers with the Sunday mails and the large Monday morning budget, started on their rounds, fifteen minutes late. In consideration of their gallant services the men were not docked for being late.

The frame buildings on Superior street, unfortunately some will say, were untouched. C. F. Johnson's building, occupied at Albertson & Chamberlain's bookstore, was slightly scorched. The Howard house of course is a salamander. On the avenue above the postoffice, most of the furniture was moved from the two nearest Beneteau cottages, but the wind was not that way and they escaped. Over the postoffice John D. Gill in light attire was sowing papers, books and clothing on the sidewalk. He too was rescued.

Several windows in the Fargusson block, diagonally from the Opera block, were broken by the heat, but the building was not in serious danger.

The Losses.

As near as can be ascertained the losses and insurance outside of the building were as follows:

Insurance. Loss.
Boyce & Totman...................................................................$6,000 $14,000
J. T. Condon (store)............................................................... 4,000 9,000
J. T. Condon (rooms)............................................................. .... 1,500
W. C. Sargent...................................................................... .... 300
Wisconsin Central................................................................ 250 250
Partridge & Austin................................................................ 300 300
Osborne & Frazer................................................................. 2,500 2,500
J. E. Ennis........................................................................... .... 800
M. M. Gasser....................................................................... 10,000 14,000
Sig Levy............................................................................... 8,500 18,500
E. W. Markell....................................................................... .... 300
F. R. Webber........................................................................ .... 100
Munger & Markell (office)....................................................... 3,000 8,000
Myers Brothers..................................................................... .... 1,000
Baldwin & Willcuts................................................................ .... 300
H. Harrington........................................................................ .... 100
Duncan, Brewer & Co............................................................ .... 1,500
Shotwell & Noyes................................................................. .... 350
Monroe Nichols.................................................................... .... 100
Dr. Bowman......................................................................... 700 1,700
A. J. Whiteman.................................................................... 400 1,500
Chamber of Commerce.......................................................... .... 1,500
Professor Mountz.................................................................. 1,000 2,500
R. L. Virgil............................................................................ .... 500
Kitchi Gammi....................................................................... 6,050 9,000
Postoffice building................................................................ 2,000 2,000
Gill & Myers........................................................................ .... 300
Dr. Eklund.......................................................................... .... 400
Hotel St. Louis.................................................................... 1,000 1,000
Duluth Electric Light and Power company.............................. .... 2,000
Ladies Library association.................................................... 600 1,000
Misses Dow and Quilliard (studio)......................................... .... 500

Book Worms Cheated.

The best public library in town, kept alive by woman's devoted efforts, the Ladies' Library, was burned. They have $600 insurance for a nucleus and they should have public aid in gathering a far better library than the one destroyed. The best private library in Duluth was the Kitchi Gammi's. A collection of reference books and maps, unequalled in the Northwest went to ashes in the Chamber of Commerce rooms. Here were charts of the geological survey, an invaluable collection of directories of all the American cities, maps of which many can scarcely be duplicated, seventy volumes of the Congressional Records, and hundreds of pamphlets and reports, many of small value severally, but the whole inestimable in value and as a collection not to be replaced. Mrs. Shoemaker, the stenographer, loses four of five sits of Sheridan awaiting delivery Secretary Phelp's personal loss is about $150.

The Salvage.

Practically nothing was saved. John T. Condon trundled out his safe. About twenty more are in the ruins and will be pried open in a few days when they cool off. Sieg Levy had valuables worth about $10,000 which may be destroyed or not. A few of the tenants got their trunks out. Condon rescued the goods in his show windows and some of Boyce & Totman's cases were brought out. A knot of half a dozen was preparing to carry off the goods from the west window when something blew up with no provocation at all, shooting the window frame into the middle of the street and the crowd to the other side. The goods were suffered to burn.
Continued