New York, NY Ludlow Street Explosion, Mar 1889



There was great excitement among the Hebrew population in the neighborhood of Ludlow and Grand streets last night, caused by the explosion of a barrel of benzine in the paint shop of Levine & Ohlstein, in the basement of 75 Ludlow-street. The proprietors of the establishment were terribly burned and the paint shop was set on fire and completely wrecked.

The building in which the explosion occurred is an old-fashioned three-story and basement dwelling, owned by Moses Lemlein of 305 East Third-street. Samuel Levine is 25 years old and, with his wife and one child, lives in rooms in the rear of the shop. His partner, Philip Ohlstein, who is 32 years old, has a room on the premises. The first floor is occupied as a law office by Nathan S. Levy. On the second floor, Simon Simons, the proprietor of a saloon at 73 Ludlow-street, lives with his wife and five children, while the third floor is occupied by Marhs Gerofsky, his wife, mother, and eight children. In the rear of the dwelling is a tall tenement inhabited by 20 families.

The explosion occurred at 6:25 o'clock, and was doubtless caused by the ignition of a barrel of benzine, which was being emptied into a tank by Levine and Ohlstein. The fumes of the benzine ignited from a gas jet. The concussion of the explosion was felt for several blocks. The force was toward the front of the house, and a great body of flame shot out of the basement half way across the street.

Ohlstein was blown out through the front window of the basement into the street. With his clothes all blazing he ran toward Grand-street. He was overtaken by Emanuel Sloman, the messenger at the Essex Market Police Court, who seized him and threw him down. With the assistance of several bystanders he endeavored to put out the flames, but Ohlstein sprang to his feet and broke away from his captors. He ran back to the house and endeavored to force his way into the burning shop. He was restrained and taken to the drug store at the corner of Ludlow and Broome streets.

His partner, Levine, with his clothes burning, ran into the rear yard, followed by his wife, who carried their child in her arms. The man, maddened by the pain he was suffering, rushed up the rear steps into the hallway and thence into Levy's law office. Then he ran back into the yard, and there his wife caught hold of him and endeavored to extinguish the flames by throwing a coat over him. In doing so her hands were severely burned. Some of the neighbors went to her assistance, and Levine was carried into the drug store.

In a short time six ambulances came dashing up. Levine and Ohlstein were found to be very seriously, if not fatally, injured, and they were speedily conveyed to Bellevue Hospital. Mrs. Levine's injuries were attended by an ambulance surgeon, and she was taken to a friend's house near by. The only other person injured was John Huber, an upholsterer, of 334 Floyd-street, Brooklyn, who was passing the building when the explosion occurred. The flames enveloped him, and he was severely burned about the hands and face. After his injuries were dressed he went home.

The explosion was felt in the quarters of Engine Company No.17 at 91 Ludlow-street, and when the firemen ran out into the street to ascertain its cause they saw the flames belching out of the basement. In a moment the engine was hitched up and driven to the scene. Prompt work by the firemen extinguished the flames before they had extended beyond the basement, but the paint shop was burned out. The loss on stock and fixtures will probably reach $500. It will cost $200 to put the building in repair.

Leon Shapiro, a young clerk in the employ of Levy, was sitting by the front window of the office when the explosion occurred. He was lifted from his chair by the concussion, and the glass in the window at which he was sitting was smashed. Then Levine with his clothes ablaze came into the office. The young clerk, unnerved by the sight, ran out of the house and escaped uninjured.

The New York Times, New York, NY 13 Mar 1889