Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Chance Discovery

Most people know that this remarkable building--Farmers National Bank, which stood on the north side of Warren Street in the 500 block--was destroyed by fire decades ago, but they may not know exactly when. After yesterday's news that the City was looking to demolish the former Colored Citizens Club, I decided to do some research on the organization.

My search on the Fulton History site uncovered this article from the Evening Register for November 22, 1941, which reprinted an account from fifteen years earlier of the spectacular fire that destroyed the Farmers Bank building. At the time of the fire, in 1926, the Colored Citizens Club had rooms on the second floor of the bank, as did "the Rossman insurance agency, and that of the Rice Insurance Co. of Craig Thorn."   

Flames Had Great Headway
The flames started in the rear end of the bank building and made rapid headway, sweeping the entire third floor and breaking out of the roof near the front of the building, on the Warren street side. They quickly undermined the cupola, which fell with a crash, 30 minutes after the fire started, landing in the middle of Warren street.

Cupola Comes Tumbling Down
With the falling of the cupola, the entire third floor was a roaring furnace. This fire worked from the top down. Sheets of flame shot out in Warren St. The second floor soon caught fire, and the flames were not stopped until the entire interior of the bank building, which was one of the tallest in Hudson, and presented an imposing appearance, with its three stories surmounted by a cupola, on which was a flag staff. When the cupola crashed to the street, the flag staff went through one of the windows of Leavitt & Smith drug store. This was the only damage done to the stores along Warren street across the way. The fact that the high wind, which was blowing in the opposite direction, and away from the stores saved many plate glass fronts from being cracked by the heat.

Sparks Flew for Blocks
The firemen under Chief Petry continued their work of fighting the flames in the bank which was a seething furnace from the first floor up. When the roof fell in the sidewalls remained for some time, making it a veritable crater. The huge sparks created a big hazard, and the air was full of them. The high wind carried them over as far as Carroll Street, and Colarusso brick yard. Fortunately about this time, sleet and rain fell for around a half hour.

Bank Wall Falls on Harder Building
In about an hour's time the west wall went down, falling on the Harder building. The roof of the Harder building was made of asphalt, but it was crushed like an eggshell and fire started in that building, which extends to Prison alley. . . . The firemen then turned their attention to this building, as well as the bank, and fought the flames with unabated energy. The blaze in the Harder building was confined to the second and third stories. . . .

Pride of Hudson a Heap of Ruin
By 7 a.m. the bank building, the pride of Hudson, was a mass of smoking ruins. The front of the bank was of brick, faced with steel plate. The iron front was made in Hudson, at the old Gifford foundry, and represented the acme of building construction of its day. The bank was erected in 1873 by Amiel Folger, contractor. The structure was designed and planned by a firm of Albany architects, and at that time, Michael O'Connor, local architect, was working for this firm.

The interior was rich and massive. All the beams that went into the construction in the days when steel girders were unknown in building construction, were 18 inches square and of chestnut. The structure was well built, with brick walls. The interior was not fireproof, but good and substantial.

1 comment:

  1. I continue to be awed at the quality of the writing in these old reports -- and spurred on by them to fix our current public education system.