Ardmore, PA School Fire, Sept 1900

Flames Destroy Ardmore School

Suburbanites Turn Out in Force to Battle With Fire, But City Departments Is Finally Called Upon

Ardmore Public School Destroyed by Fire Yesterday

Ardmore’s pride, her beautiful public school building, was entirely destroyed by fire yesterday. The loss will amount to between $48,000 and $50,000, which is only partly covered by insurance, to the extent of $28,500. It being Saturday, there were fortunately no children in the building, and no lives were lost.

The fire was discovered at about 10:20 o’clock in the morning by the janitor and a few citizens, who was the smoke issuing from under the eaves of the roof just over the windows of the laboratory, on the third floor. Joseph Sheldon immediately made a dash upstairs, followed by the rest, while the janitor ran to turn in an alarm of fire. On entering the laboratory the crackling of timbers in the roof could be plainly heard, and the men proceeded to smash open the ceiling in order the better to get at it. The room soon filled with smoke, and they found themselves unable alone to extinguish the fast spreading flames.

In the meantime the local fire department had arrived, but their efforts were equally useless. And was accordingly summoned from Narberth and Merion, and two chemical engines were soon on the scene. The fire had now gained so much headway that it looked like utter annihilation.

So soon as it became generally known that the school house was on fire dozens of willing hands set to work to save as much of the school property as possible, and in a very short time the pretty green lawn was littered with desks, books, blackboards, physical apparatus and other paraphernalia.

Meantime Mrs. Horatio Yocum, daughter of J. W. Clarke, president of the Board of School Directors, had mounted a horse and had ridden hither and thither, summoning aid. It was she who telephoned to the Philadelphia Fire Department, and at half past 11 out came Engine 41 from Sixtieth and Thomson streets and Hose wagon 16 from Belmont, below Girard Avenue. Foreman John Blee and Albert Hartman didn’t waste more time than was necessary to find water. But Ardmore has not a single fireplug to its name, so finally the hose was attached to the standard pipe from which water carts are filled.

Fire had by that time extended over the whole second and third floors and the main roof was about to fall. The Philadelphians got to work rapidly and endeavored to save the lower part of the building and basement. It is, however, pretty well understood now that as soon as they cool, the stones will part and it will be necessary to pull the whole structure down.

Among those soonest on the ground were President Clarke, of the Board of School Directors, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Robb. They immediately sized up the situation and set to work to find rooms for the accommodation of the six hundred children who receive their education at the grammar and high school. They succeeded partly, and hope by Monday to have all the children located.

After fighting the fire for nearly five hours the Philadelphia men were fairly exhausted, but a committee of public-spirited men consisting of David Dallas, William Hughes, William J. Clarke and Daniel Shelmire, was hastily formed and a good, substantial dinner for the firemen was prepared.

The school house which was destroyed yesterday was of stone and was built in 1895 at a cost of nearly $50,000 by Architect D. Judge Nean. It has two scholarships, one at Bryn Mawr and one at Haverford, and its pupils have made the highest averages for some years past.

The lesson of the fire is that Ardmore needs fireplugs and a more efficient fire department.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 7 Oct 1900