New York, NY Lightning Strikes Apartment House, Jul 1901

Lightning Strikes Building.

New York, July 2 – Lightning which struck an uncompleted brick and stone apartment house on 95th Street near West End Avenue, this afternoon, destroyed the house with an estimated loss of $150,000 The high wind prevailing carried the sparks to residences in the vicinity, causing damage to the extent of several thousand dollars more. The apartment house was owned by Lorena Weihr. Among other buildings destroyed was the old Riverside drive hotel, which, forty years ago was a resort of the elite of the city. St. Agnes Church Brooklyn was destroyed today by a fire originating from a lightning bolt. Only the walls of the church which was a fashionable one, are left standing. Loss $250,000.

Montgomery Advertiser, Montgomery, AL 3 Jul 1901


Lightning Strikes an Uncompleted Apartment House in New York and Causes Its Destruction.

An Apartment House in New York Destroyed.

New York, July 2. – Lightning which struck an uncompleted brick and stone apartment house on Ninety-fifth street, near West End avenue, this afternoon, destroyed the house, with an estimated loss of $150,000. The high wind prevailing carried the sparks to residences in the vicinity, causing damage to the extent of several thousand dollars more. The apartment house was owned by Lorenz Weihr. Among other buildings destroyed was the old Riverside Drive Hotel, which forty years ago was a resort of the elite of the city.

Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA 3 Jul 1901


They Destroy New Apartment House and Menace Many Others.


Store Carries Firebrands in All Directions – Panic in Riverside Drive and Upper West End Avenue.

Fire that is generally believed to have been caused by a stroke of lightning last evening completely destroyed the eleven-story brick and stone apartment house in course of construction in Ninety-fifth Street, near West End Avenue, spread to many apartment houses and private residences in the vicinity, and caused much excitement and fear among residents of those places.

The fire started just before six o’clock, at the time when the heavy storm was passing over the city. Although there was a high wind, but little rain fell in that neighborhood at that hour, and the flames had full sway.

The burned apartment house was to have been ready for occupancy on Aug. 1. It was being built by Lorenz Weiher of 77 East Eighty-sixth Street, who stated that the building would cost him $300,000 when completed, but who refused to place any estimate on the damage done. The building is a wreck, however, and the police place the damage at $150,000. There is only a portion of the walls left standing, and the ground will have to be cleared before the building can be carried on anew.

In addition, the flames spread to the Hudson apartment house at 227 Riverside Drive, where a half dozen or more apartments were damaged by fire and water, to the estimated aggregate amount of $3,000. The three-story brick hotel at 330 West Ninety-sixth Street, on the south side, occupied by Leonard Ratz and Charles Williams, was caught in the sweep of the sparks and flying firebrands, and suffered a loss of $200.


The old Riverside Drive Hotel, a two-story frame structure, standing on the north side of Ninety-sixth Street at 327, a house that was frequented by fashionable persons forty years ago, was also in the pathway of the flames, and was burned. The loss is placed at $5,000. The hotel was occupied by John Garrigan. It was one of the few remaining landmarks of the old Bloomingdale Road days.

Directly in the rear of the Weiher apartment house, on Ninety-seventh Street, were two stables, used by Max Ludecker of 102 West Ninety-sixth Street, an expressman. In these were about twenty houses, all of which were gotten out safely by Nathan Caskell and John Manheim, two stablemen.

Facing Riverside Drive, between Ninety-ninth and One Hundredth Streets, and standing in the centre of a big plot of ground, stood the old four-story frame mansion of the Furniss estate. This was surrounded by a quantity of locust trees. The mansion is now occupied by M. C. Stewart and James Trestin. Sparks from the burning apartment house and flying firebrands, carried for blocks by the high wind, dripped into the foliage of these trees in such profusion that in a minute half the trees surrounding the old house were burning.

Mr. Stewart and Mr. Trestin both climbed to the roof of the house, and with buckets of water handed up through the skylight fought the burning brands that fell on the roof. They thus succeeded in saving the house. The firemen when they arrived turned their attention to the trees.

The fire also communicated to the awnings on a number of private residences on the north side of One Hundredth Street, near Riverside Drive, known as the Livingstone Buildings. There but little damage was done, aside from the awnings. In one house sparks blew inside to some clothing; but this was quickly extinguished by a watchman.
Flames were first discovered in the Weiher apartment house by a boy, Edward Egan of 188 Amsterdam Avenue, who saw the smoke pouring out of the rear of the building. He notified August Gallenbacher of 211 East Eighty-ninth Street, the watchman, who on investigation found that the fire had started in the rear of the second and third floors of the building. The building stood on high ground in the centre of a big vacant space, about 325 feet west of West End Avenue. There were no windows in it, and the wind had a clean sweep through the house. Inside were piles of lumber, barrels of paints and oils, and quantities of rubbish, all lending fuel to the fire.

Egan was sent to turn in an alarm. He want to West End Avenue and Ninetieth Street. When Battalion Chief Gallaghan arrived he sent in a second and third alarm. In the meantime the flames had spread throughout the entire structure, and were leaping out through the roof and the windows.

It was but the work of a few minutes for the firemen to ascertain that they could not save the burning building. They then turned their attention to the surrounding structures.
The tenants of the Hudson apartment house were thrown into a state of panic. This building stands about 100 feet from the Weiher Building, with a vacant space between the building facing on Riverside Drive. It is owned by the Byington Realty Company of 127 East Twenty-third Street. George A. Dellar, the Superintendent of the Hudson, ran through the apartment quieting as best he could the alarmed tenants. He and the janitor then went to work to put out the various awning fires on the house.

The men of Engine Company 40 were between the Hudson and the Weiher building. They turned their attention to the former structure. Battalion Chief Binn, with a dozen men, went through the Hudson with hand extinguishers, putting out small fires scattered all through the apartments.


The first fire in the Hudson was in the apartments of Frank Gusse, on the first floor. The damage was $200. On the third floor the apartment of Joseph Johnson, a lawyer, who is now in Europe, was damaged to the extent of $1,000. E. A. McCaffrey, on the fourth floor, suffered a loss of $200, while R. H. Weber, on the fifth floor, and H. Peabody, on the sixth, suffered losses respectively of $200 and $300.

By the time these small fired had been attended to it was discovered that the flames had spread to the fourth floor awnings on the Bradford Mansion, a frame structure at 841 West End Avenue, at the corner of One Hundred and First Street. It is occupied by J. W. Osborne, who, with the janitor, John Hayes, put out the fire without the aid of the department. Mrs. Osborne was much frightened and fainted, but was revived by her family physician, who lives near by. She was said last night to have entirely recovered.
Sixth floor awnings on the building at 301 West Ninety-sixth Street became ignited from flying sparks. This fire was put out by Detectives McManus and Hughes of the West One Hundredth Street Police Station.

When it was seen that the flying brands would endanger nearby houses, Police Captain Schmittberger called out the reserves from the West One Hundredth Street, West One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, and West Sixty-eighth Street Police Stations. These policemen were instructed to post themselves on all sides of the buildings within the range of flying sparks and also go through the big apartment houses in the vicinity and quiet the tenants, many of whom were packing up their more precious belongings preparatory to beating a hasty retreat in case the fire got too close.

When the fire attacked the old Riverside Drive Hotel, the occupants carried the furniture out into the yard adjoining, and there it was piled up, only to be drenched by the rain that followed about 7 o’clock. This place was being run as a road house. It was badly damaged, and parts of the walls fell.

The origin of the fire was the cause of much conjecture. Many contended that the Weiher Building had been struck by lightning. There was incessant lightning at the time the fire started, and sharp claps of thunder, making it appear that lightning struck very close to the burned building if it did not touch it.

Although it was oppressively hot during the fire, and the firemen worked with great energy, there was none overcome by the heat. The only accident reported from any source was that to Daniel Cleary’s nine-year-old boy of 772 Columbus Avenue, who got too close to Engine Company 37 as it drew up to the fire. A rear wheel passed over his right foot, smashing his toes. He went home.

William H. Weiher, son of Lorenz Weiher, was in charge of the building during the afternoon, but left at 5 o’clock. Neither he nor his father would discuss the fire.

The New York Times, New York, NY 3 Jul 1901