Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Fire in Hudson a Century Ago

Recently I discovered this account of a fire in the 300 block of Warren Street. Because it contains some surprising and entertaining details, I decided to share it. The story appeared in the Evening Register for August 13, 1913. The picture did not appear in the newspaper with the story, but since it's more or less contemporary and shows many of the buildings mentioned, I decided to use it to illustrate the story.


The Fire Had Good Start When Discovered


Hold Young Man Seen Coming Out of an Alley

Fire of incendiary origin at about 10:45 o'clock last night destroyed the barn of Thomas Slauson, in the rear of his plumbing establishment at 344 Warren Street, and might have resulted in a big conflagration. Benjamin Shultis, aged 23, a Polander, is under arrest, charged [with] being implicated in the burning of the building.

Several persons discovered a blaze in the manure box on Prison alley alongside of Slauson's barn at about the same time. William Hibbert, a Robinson street young man, happened to be passing over North Fourth street, and seeing the flames springing up, ran to police headquarters, where he notified Sergeant Cruise, who rang in an alarm from Box 38.

In the meantime, Max Rosenfield, who resides in the rear of his tailoring establishment at 348 Warren Street, saw the fire, and cried out several times to attract the attention of the neighborhood, but this being of no avail, he fired his revolver in the air, attracting the men who were working in the Republican office, situated to the west of his building, adjoining the Slauson barn on the east.

Rosenfield hastily dressed and was one of the first on the scene. By the time the alarm stopped ringing Rogers' Hose company whose house is next to the Slauson barn on the westerly side, got into action. The fire was already burning fiercely, having eaten along the partitions to the second floor.

Nervy Rescue of Horse
Slauson was in Albany at the time, but it was learned that his horse was in the stable, and several fruitless attempts were made to get it out. Henry Langlois, a member of Edmonds Hose company, entered the building and released the equine after some difficulty. The smoke and heat was intense, and the exertion of getting the horse to the door bewildered Langlois considerably. When the animal appeared at the door, and no sight of Langlois could be had, President P. J. McCarthy, of Washington Hose company, rushed into the building and found Langlois groping about aimlessly. McCarthy brought the fireman out and Dr. Curran quickly revived Langlois.

The fire, fanned by a southwestern wind, burned fiercely, but the firemen did good work, preventing it from getting in the Republican's building, or from igniting any of the Traver lumber yard buildings across the alley. Considerable sparks, however, ascended high in the air and were carried for distances. This morning some of them were found on State street, some distance below Third. While the fire was [at] its height a blaze started in the old Levy blacksmith shop on Diamond street, being quickly subdued, however. Sparks undoubtedly started this fire.

Brick walls separated the Slauson barn from the structures adjoining, and these prevented the flames from spreading. The barn was totally destroyed together with a considerable quantity of hay, straw, harness, etc., also a second-hand automobile. The loss will be over $1,000, it is believed, partly covered by insurance.

Another Attempt Just Below 
While Chief Barry was running up Prison alley to the fire his attention was attracted to a little blaze in the rear of the barn of Frederick C. Hilderbrandt's upholstery establishment at 320 Warren street. A bundle of paper had been rolled up, and with some kindling wood and waste, had been placed along the barn. The blaze was quickly extinguished. This unquestionably had been touched off after the Slauson fire was started.

According to the persons arriving first at the barn of Slauson, the fire had crept from the manure box to partitions, and the door leading into the alley had been broken open and straw laid carefully about as a trail for the flames. The Hilderbrandt barn is situated about 100 feet below the Slauson barn.

An Arrest Is Made
While the fire was in progress Herbert Rowe, janitor at the Presbyterian church, which had been set afire Saturday night, noticed a young man walking slowly out of Cherry alley, just above Fourth street. He questioned the young man relative to what he had been doing in the alley, and the latter denied emphatically that he had been there. The fellow wore rubber bottom shoes, called "sneaks," and pleaded with Rowe to be allowed to continue on his way.

Rowe turned him over to the police and he was questioned by Chief Lane and Sergeant Cruise. He admitted to having been in Prison alley, but not until after the fire bell rang, and that he went into Cherry alley on private business. There was nothing in his pockets but a large number of matches. He denied that he knew anything about the origin of the fire and stated he could prove that when the alarm rang he was in his home of South Third street.

He gave his name as Benjamin Shultis and occupation as a teamster. Several persons residing along the alley were brought before the Fire Commission and Chief Lane and Sergeant Cruise about midnight. Some say they saw a short fellow, wearing light clothes and "sneaks" walk rapidly up the alley a short time previous to the discovery of the blaze. The description of this man resembles that of Shultis considerably.

Shultis was only a short time ago released from jail here, where he had served time for non-support of wife. He was arraigned before Judge Whitbeck this morning, and held until to-morrow morning, pending further investigation.

NOTES: 344 Warren Street, where Thomas Slauson's plumbing establishment was located, is now Marx Home. In 1913, police headquarters were located in the Hudson Opera House, in the room to the left of the main entrance, now used for HOH offices. 348 Warren Street, where Max Rosenfield's tailoring establishment was located, is now the antiques shop Henry. The Republican was a daily newspaper in Hudson, published from 1909 to 1923. Its offices were located at 346 Warren Street, which is now divided into apartments. Rogers Hose Company was located at 342 Warren Street where American Glory now is, Edmonds Hose Company was located on Park Place, and Washington Hose Company was located at the far western end of Warren Street, at the entrance to Promenade. Among the Traver lumber yard buildings that were spared is the building now known as the Cannonball Factory. 320 Warren Street, where Frederick Hilderbrandt's upholstering establishment was located, is now Kennedy Fried Chicken.  

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