Rochester, NY Steam Gauge And Lantern Works Fire, Nov 1888




Rochester, N. Y., Nov. 9 -- In the whole history of Rochester no more frightful calamity has ever taken place than was caused by a fire in the enormous factory of the Rochester Steam Gauge and Lantern Works to-night. Flames were observed issuing from the rear of the building at 7:30, and an alarm brought the whole Fire Department to the scene in short order. The fire was already raging furiously and the work of the Fire Department was for some time of little avail. The factory building was situated less than a quarter of a mile from the centre of the city on the banks of the Genesee and over what is known as Brown's Raceway. The structure was eight stories high and on each end, like two huge wings, were the buildings of WILLIAMS & HOYT, shoe manufacturers, and an enormous box factory, leaving between the two latter buildings a narrow alleyway cut off on all sides but one by buildings over 100 feet high and not unlike an enormous chimney. The steam gauge and lantern works were of stone and the two adjoining building of stone and brick. For some time past the employes of the lantern works have been working overtime, often as late as 10 o'clock at night. Consequently all the employes were busily engaged in the building when the fire broke out to-night. There were over a hundred of them, mostly men. When the cry of "Fire!" was heard a panic ensued. Men in the upper stories of the building ran for stairways and windows, and several in their mad haste, instead of making for the windows on the south side, which lead to fire escapes, jumped madly from the windows at the west end of the building, falling from 60 to 100 feet to the pavement below.
The scene shortly after the first alarm sounded was an appalling one. The high bank of the New York Central Railway, 200 yards from the burning buildings -- for the flames had spread to the adjoining edifices -- was covered by 5,000 excited human beings. Near the lantern factory the police, with several assistants who had come with the ambulance wagons from the several hospitals, were busy laying out the wounded and dying men who had rashly jumped from the doomed building, on temporary resting places, preparatory to their removal to the hospitals. The groans of the sufferers were pitiful in the extreme, and Police Captain KEITH'S comparison of the scene to a battlefield was not inapt.
Night Watchman JACOB ZEIHL was nearly overcome from inhaling the fire and smoke and may die. He was taken to the hospital, and, on recovering slightly, said: "I had just completed making the rounds of the building when I smelled smoke, and a few moments later flames burst up through the floor directly under my feet. The scene that followed in indescribable. Men rushed madly for windows and doorways. I with several others got down the stairs, but not until I was badly burned, as you see. There were 80 persons at least employed in the upper stsories of the building. The time book must have been burned, and it will be very difficult to tell exactly how many were in the building."
The night watchman was too exhausted to relate more. It is evidently the last watch he will keep in this world. He, with the score of others already in the City Hospital, are suffering excruciating pain, and are severely injured internally from having come down the stairway through the flames and smoke. An elevator well pierced the entire building, near which the flames were first discovered, and aided in spreading the fire from story to story with wonderful rapidity.
The known dead are JOSEPH DANZER, who jumped from the sixth floor; JOHN GALL, foreman; HENRY SNYDER; JOSEPH WEBBER, and FRANK O. OCHS. There are besides these at least 20 unaccounted for.
The seriously injured are RICHARD PARCE, hurt internally; JOHN GREENOVER; WILLIAM DEVLIN; FRANK FROEDLIN; ALFRED JOHNSON; S. BURKHARD; OSCAR KNOTTS; JOSEPH BURKHARD; FRANK CONNOLLY; CHARLES DIEHL, leg broken and hurt internally; JACOB DIEHL, internally burned; GEORGE KIPPART. Many of the injured are seriously affected internally and several of them will die. Those who are known to have been in the building and who cannot be accounted for and who are in all probability dead in the ruins are THOMAS MATTHIAS; FRANK CONNOLLY, JR.; STEPHEN FORBES; FRANK OAKES; JOHN GREENOVER, JR.; CON HOLLERAN; JOHN BALL; SAMUEL ROBBINS; CHARLES WEBER; PATRICK COSGROVE; RICHARD CANNON; GEORGE WALTERS; CHARLES SMITH; ROBERT POOL; FRANK REMISH; JOSEPH DIETRICK; ALFRED CANNON. On the sixth floor were 30 men. Several of them got out by sliding down a rope. Half of them are missing and are probably dead.
The fire escapes down the south side of the building were enveloped in flames, and the poor men who came down by them were badly blistered. Most of the wounded were taken to the City Hospital. The loss falls chiefly on the Steam Gauge and Lantern Works, and is placed at $225,000.
The death list will in all probability be over 30, and may reach 40. One fireman was seriously hurt. The cause of the fire is so far undiscovered. There was a quantity of waste and other inflammable material in the building and the theory of spontaneous combustion is a probable one.

The New York Times New York 1888-11-10