Windsor, NS Fire, Oct 1897

Windsor NS King Street after fire 1897.jpg Windsor NS Post office ruins 1897.jpg Windsor NS ruins of Albert St. 1897.jpg Windsor NS ruins of fire 1897.jpg


Territory a Mile Square Swept by Flames and Barely Half a Dozen Buildings Left Standing.


Practically All the Inhabitants of the Town Homeless---Conflagration Started at 3 o'Clock in the Morning.

WINDSOR, N. S., Oct. 17.---Historic Windsor, one of the most beautiful towns in the provinces, was devastated by fire this morning. The fire raged for six hours, beginning a little before 3 o'clock, the flames all the while being fanned by a violent northwest gale.

Long before noon the town had been almost completely destroyed, the area covered by the flames being almost a mile square. Of the four hundred or more buildings occupying this section barely half a dozen scorched structures remain. All is a waste of ruins.

The buildings that escaped include the Windsor cotton factory, King's College, the Anglican Church, Edgehill School for Girls, and the Dufferin Hotel. The Dufferin Hotel is the only hotel left standing.

No other Nova Scotia town ever has been visited by a conflagration of such dimensions.

Over 3,000 Homeless.

Of the 3,500 people inhabiting the place there are few who have homes of their own to-night. Over 3,000 have been taken in by the residents of the surrounding country and neighboring towns, while the remainder of the sufferers have gone to Halifax or are sheltered in army tents erected in the vacant plots this evening by a detachment of British troops from the garrison city.

The fire started in a barn behind the Marine block, in the heart of the business district. The high gale prevailing carried the flames to other buildings before the firemen had time to get to work, and in a short time the showers of sparks carried in all directions had ignited a score of buildings.

The occupants of dwellings had time enough to hurry on some clothing and to drag some household goods into the streets but there was no place of safety to which anything could be removed quick enough to save it from being destroyed or damaged.

The flames cut a deep gap from the water's edge on the business front to the forests in the rear, bounded by Ferry Hill on the south side and by Fort Edward on the north.

During the past few years many handsome brick structures have been erected, but these were, generally speaking, contiguous to old wooden buildings, and all went down together before the furious flames.

Origin of the Fire.

The origin of the fire is somewhat mysterious. A severe lightning storm passed over the town before the flames burst forth, and some think the barn in which the fire started may have been struck by lightning, but many strongly suspect that the conflagration originated through the carelessness of some drunken man.

When morning broke the site of Windsor was a scene of desolation, with hundreds of frantic, thinly clad, and destitute men and women and children rushing back and forth through the smoking streets.

Fortunately, no lives were lost, although the streets were perilous with flying bricks and slates, which the fierce hurricane drove like thunderbolts from the roofs.

Horses and Cattle Burned.

In the hurry and excitement, horses and cattle in the stables were forgotten, and many perished in the flames or were suffocated from smoke. Others were turned loose, and they are to-night roaming the streets, almost mad with cold and fright.

The ruins of the fire are ablaze to-night. The smoldering embers have been fanned into a blaze, catching the piles of coal which are lying all around the burning premises, and the heavens are lighted with the flames which cast their reflection across the river as far as the eye can see on either side.

No effort has been made to quench these fires, and naturally the occupants of the few houses that remain are afraid that the fire will spring up again.

The wind has moderated somewhat and there is no likelihood of further disaster.

Relief measures were started in Halifax at an early hour, and this afternoon a train load of provisions, tents, blankets, &c., arrived from the provincial capital. Aboard the train were Gen. Montgomery Moore, Gov. Daly, Mayor Stephen, and 100 men of the Royal Berkshire Regiment and Royal Engineers, who were brought to attend to the erection of the tents and aid in the relief work.

The total loss is estimated roughly at $3,000,000. While a number of the heaviest losers are partially insured and some of them pretty well covered, the total insurance is calculated to be not more than $500,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 18 Oct 1897