Hoboken, NJ Terminal Fire Destruction, Aug 1905

Terminal before Fire Ruins of Terminal After the Blaze Fighting the Fire





New York, Aug. 8. -- Inside of three-quarters of an hour fire swept away the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company's terminal in Hoboken, seized two ferry boats and practically ruined them, and for half an hour threatened the destruction of the entire water front in the vicinity, including the Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd steamship docks, at which several big ships were lying. But, so far as known, no lives were lost.
For over an hour huge tongues of flame leaped from the wooden structures on the Lackawanna docks, lighting the New Jersey and New York water fronts. For a time it threatened a loss greater than that of the big dock fire of several years ago when the North German Lloyd piers were destroyed with a great loss of life.
Blazing ferry boats, cut from their docks, floated in the river, wandering fire ships, which for a time endangered shipping in the river. The fire started on an old wooden ferry boat and, swept by a northerly breeze, communicated with the ferry house, spread to the main building of the Lackawanna, and then to the Dukes House, a famous Hoboken hostelry. The hotel was a frame structure, and was a ready prey to the flames.
By this time the flames were spreading in all directions, utterly beyond the control of the few first fire fighters who had responded to the first alarms.
Following the hotel, the structure of the public service corporation -- the street car operating company of Hoboken, Jersey City and nearby places -- went down before the flames.
At 1 o'clock this morning the fire was under control, the big steamship piers had been saved, and a rough estimate placed on the damage at between $400,000 and $500,000.
A remarkable feature of the great blaze was that inside of 20 minutes after its start it had seized upon the Lackawanna's terminal and swept its 600 feet of train sheds, dooming them.
The flames started from an unknown cause on the old wooden ferry boat Hopatcong which had been tied up in the open slip between the Hamburg docks and the Christopher street ferry slips. The fire was discovered about 11 o'clock. It was then leaping from the boiler room below the main deck through the engine room, and attacking the wooden superstructure.
A watchman on the ferry dock turned in calls for the city department, and also for the Lackawanna fire brigade. Almost before the company's men could lay a line of hose, and before the city firemen could reach the scene, the flames had leaped to the ferry office building between the piers, and then to the brand new ferry boat, Binghamton, which was lying in the northern slip of the Barclay street line. From these it leaped in a few seconds to the high frame structure above the waiting rooms, and in five minutes after the fire was seen the entire buildings, covering many acres, were burning. Twenty minutes after the blaze was first seen the high tower, which surmounts the building, crashed down, all ablaze. Twenty minutes after the alarm it looked as if the entire lowerr part of Hoboken, including the Hamburg piers, would go.
There were four slips with high pilings, and these burned firecely and sent the fire southward into the freight holds. These had been destroyed for the most part by a great fire on May 29, 1904, and had just been rebuilt.
From the waiting room the flames leaped into the train shed, and so rapid was the spread there that engines which were drawing out the cars there to be ready for use in the morning had to be hurried out. Seven coaches were left behind, but there had been time enough to save about 30 others.
The two burning ferry boats were towed out into the stream by tugs. The Hopatcong sunk later.
The Hopatcong, when she took fire, was tied against the Hamburg-American dock 3. The flames licked the side of the pier, but did not set it on fire.
The wind was blowing somewhat out of the north, and that carried the flames on the Hopatcong away from the pier and into the superstructure of the ferry terminal.
Fire aid was quickly summoned from Jersey City and New York, the former city sending all available engines, and the latter despatching two fire boats. With this extra force the Hoboken firemen were able to prevent the fire from spreading through lower Hoboken, while the fireboats held the flames in check along the water front.
While the fire was held by the firemen to the north and west, it was spreading along the freight piers to the southward, where only tugs and fireboats from Manhattan could attack it. Here it caught the new immigration station. This building was of brick and stone, and had been occupied only two weeks. It cost $70,000 to build, and was supposed to be fireproof, but was soon a mass of fire, the interior, burning rapidly. Only a few persons were in it at the time of the outbreak, and they were hurried out.
Just as the alarm was given the men on the rail roads terminal bridges were making ready for the arrival of boats from New York. The captains of the approaching ferry boats, however, saw the fire and stopped their heavily loaded craft.
There were few persons in the waiting rooms at the station, and they fled through the train shed into Hoboken. GEORGE ROBINSON, a Hoboken fireman, had one of his hands caught beneath a falling blazing timber, and so crushed that he was taken to a hospital. This is the only accident reported.
The destruction of the trolley terminal involved the burning of the wires, and that tied up a large section of the trolley service in Hudson county.
The railroad company has arranged to run its trains into its wards outside the burned district today.
Thousands of persons saw the fire from the docks and buldings of Manhattan. The crowds became so great that it was necessary to turn out the police reserves. An alarm was turned in Manhattan, and Chief CROKER ordered the fire boats New Yorker and McClellan to the scene.
The blaze in the Hopatcong spread so fast that when she got out into the river and began to slowly up stream she was burning from end to end.
The ferry boat Binghamton was pushed over towards Christopher street, where she was beached.
The ferry boat Musconetcong, loaded with several hundred passengers, was reported to have had a narrow escape, just backing out and missing the burning Hopatcong.
The Lackawanna operates its ferry boats between Barclay and Christopher streets, Manhattan, and the burned docks and 14th street, Hoboken. When it was no longer possible to get near the main Hoboken docks, it was decided to use 14th street, Hoboken, which is more than a mile north of the burned property, for its principal and main temporary station.

Tyrone Daily Herald Pennsylvania 1905-08-08



The postcard on the far left depicts the completed in 1907 DL&W terminal that replaced the one lost in the fire. The building is still in use as a busy transportation center operated by NJ Transit, tying many of the suburban commuter rail lines (except the Northeast Corridor and Atlantic City Line) together with the PATH, NY Waterway ferries, Huson Bergen Light Rail and buses.