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Illustrated History of the Dayton Fire Department
Dayton's Biggest Fires




But Two of them Reached Enormous Sums. Several Instances of Loss of Life.


Dayton has been fortunate in that she has suffered very few great conflagrations, when considered from the standpoint of financial loss.  There have been instances of fierce fires, difficult to manage, but the loss invariably has been kept at the lowest possible notch.

The greatest fire the city ever suffered was the Turner Opera House fire, on the corner of Main and First streets, where the Victoria Theatre now stands. The loss there exceeded that of the great fire on east First street, in 1900, by more than $75,000.  The last mentioned was the second greatest fire in point of financial loss, but the burning of the Winthrop House, which stood on Ludlow street, near Fourth, resulted in the loss of two lives, and the burning of the Eighth Ward House, which stood on south Main street, near Washington street, in the death :of a mother and five children. The former occurred in 1869, shortly after the great Opera House fire, where one life was also lost, and the latter a year later.  In neither of the last cases was the financial loss very great.

The following is a complete record of the large fires Dayton has suffered for the past thirty-six years:

June 16, 1864, Zwick, Bookwalter & Co.'s hub and spoke factory, located on the corner of Third and Wayne avenue. It occurred at midnight, and was always thought to have been set on fire. The loss was 316,000.

July 26, 1865, T. A. Phillips' cotton factory, located where the Computing Scale Co.'s factory now is, was destroyed. Loss, $12,000.

March 8, 1866, Babbitt's residence, corner First and Bridge streets, was destroyed, the result of an accident with a lamp. Loss, $6,000,

June 4, 1867, the Montgomery House, Third street and the canal, was burned. The fire originated from an accident. Loss, $5,000.

February 2, 1868, at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets, J. R. Paullis' livery stable, D. Meyers' clothing store, J. Payne's fruit store, Rott & Kropp, clothing, Reeves, jeweler, Stauffer & Weckesser, clothing, and P. Hern's billiard hall were burned out.  The loss was $24,000, and the fire supposed to have been incendiary.

May 21, 1868, the Tower Varnish Works, on the upper hydraulic were set on fire and destroyed. Loss $6,000.

August 6, 1868, Thresher's Varnish Store on Third Street, between Jefferson and St. Clair Street, was destroyed. Loss $5,000.

January 29, 1869, Crawford & Coffman's Peg and Last Factory, located just east of Fifth Street, along the railroad, was damaged by an accidental fire to the extent of $5,000.

May 16, 1869, date of Dayton's greatest fire—The Turner Opera House. It was discovered after one o'clock in the morning, two hours after a performance, and an hour later had spread over the entire neighborhood. The Opera House Building, the finest in the city at that time. Turner's rectifying house, Schwab's, Estabrook's and A. Kuhn's residence, all on First Street, and M. Ohmer's building on Main Street, occupied by himself and Herman Sandmeier's Grocery, were destroyed. The Opera House contained a wholesale grocery, wholesale china establishment, sewing machine agency and Lange's restaurant. All were destroyed, the loss reaching $550,000.

Herman Sandmeier lost his life in attempting to save some of his goods. A piece of falling timber caught and held him to the floor, and he was held there until burned to death.

Assistant Chief Kirby and Henry Swalem are the only two men now in the department, who took part in fighting that fire. Kirby volunteered to rescue Sandmeier, and entered the burning building with Patrick Garrity, with a rope to fasten about the big piece of timber lying on Sandmeier, in the hope the people on the outside could pull it off the unfortunate man, so that he and Garrity could carry him out while yet alive. He got the rope adjusted, but the timber was so wedged in it could not be moved, and when the walls began falling Kirby gave the signal to pull. He got out in the open, but Garrity fell unconscious, when Kirby rushed back, picked him up, and managed to carry and drag him far enough to the outside for others to aid him, when he also succumbed to the heat, smoke and exhaustion. Both men were laid up with their injuries from being struck by parts of the falling walls for some time. Garrity has since died.

May 20, 1869, just four days later, Dayton recorded another fatal fire, that of the Winthrop House, then on Ludlow Street, between Third and Fourth Streets. The fire occurred at night, while the guests were asleep. One man was burned to death, and nine other persons seriously injured one of whom died the next day. The hotel was destroyed; loss $12,000.

October 18, 1869, the Hominy and Grist Mill then at the foot of Ludlow Street was set on fire and destroyed. Loss $6,000.

February 17, 1870, the firemen were called to the B. C. Taylor, Western Shops, then located near the corner of Fifth and Perry Streets. A fire was in progress, but was easily controlled. But the building was a complete wreck. The boiler had exploded, and the structure collapsed, killing five of the workmen and injuring nine others. Loss $25,000.

May 28, 1870, the Eighth Ward House, then on Main Street, near Washington Street, was destroyed by fire at night. The structure was a massive frame building used as a boarding house, tenement house and grocery. The fire was attributed to carelessness. It spread rapidly, but was quickly controlled, and the loss was estimated at only $2,000, but when it was all over. a mother and her five children were all found dead in their rooms, burned and smothered to death.

July 19. 1870, Stewart & Co's, Sash, Door and Blind Factory on Wayne Avenue and the Canal was set on fire and destroyed. Loss $25,000.

September 30, 1870, Bidleman’s Tannery, located on McDonough Street, near Third Street was destroyed. Loss $6,000.

January 6, 1871, the Beckel House was discovered on fire over the kitchen. A panic ensued, and a number of guests were injured, but none fatally. Loss S6.500.

January 18, 1871, O'Dell's Book Bindery on Jefferson Street, near Third and a number of offices were destroyed. Loss $7,000.

June 9. 1871, an alarm of fire during a terrific storm called the department to the German Lutheran Church, on east Third Street. There was no fire, but the church was destroyed by the storm. Three persons were killed and a number of others injured. A bridge north of the city was also destroyed, and two boys killed.

There was no detailed record of fires kept for the years 1872 and 1873, but no great fires occurred. The total loss for the two years amounted to $83,000.

May 13, 1874, Gebhart & Co's Bagging Factory on the upper hydraulic was destroyed by an accidental fire. Loss $6,600.

August 19, 1874, Burkhardt & Mack's Packing House in North Dayton was destroyed by upsetting a candle. Loss $7,000.

January 12, 1875, DeCamp Bros' Carriage Factory, G. B. Lyman & Co's Table Slide Factory and Berk & Waymire's Undertaking Establishment, on Fifth Street were destroyed.

April 10, 1875, Lautenschlager & Co's Furniture Factory, located on Second Street, near the Canal was destroyed. Loss $7,000.

July 5, 1875, Bruggeman's Livery Stable on Second Street was burned, and the horses and carriages of a number of wealthy families were destroyed.

August 15, 1876, the First Presbyterian Church, corner Second and Ludlow Streets was destroyed. Loss $16,000

September 25, 1876, Adam Schantz Slaughter House on River Street was destroyed by the explosion of a tank of lard.

November 7, 1877, Crawford, Coffman & Co's Peg and Last Factory on Shawnee Street was destroyed by the agency of a hot journal.

September 17, 1878, Mead & Nixon's Paper Mill on the upper hydraulic was damaged to the extent of $10,000.

April 4, 1879, J. R. Johnson's Machine Shop and I. L. Baker's Sealing Wax Factory on Wayne Avenue and the Railroad were destroyed. Loss $40,000.

November 7, 1879, W. P. Callahan's Shops on east Third Street were damaged to the extent of $8,000 by the explosion of a gas stove.

March 18, 1880, Gebhart. Pope & Co's Linseed Oil Mill was damaged to the extent of $8,000.

May 20, 1880, R. R. Dickey's large power building. First and Mill Streets, occupied by Thos.-Nixon's Paper Bag Factory, Wolf & Co's Tobacco Ware-house, and the Ansonia Stove Co. was destroyed. Loss $30,000.

July 17, 1881, Schiml's Brewery & Ice House, Wayne Avenue and Hickory Street, were destroyed.

September 1, 1881, the Farmer's Friend Mfg. Co. suffered a S30,UlK) fire from spontaneous combustion.

September 10, 1881, the Baptist Church that stood on the corner of Fifth and Wayne Avenue, with six houses and five stables were destroyed. Just twelve days later a similar fire occurred in the same section, when three houses and two stables were destroyed. Both fires are thought to have been from incendiary causes.

October 26, 1881, the explosion of a boiler at Pineo & Daniel's Spoke Factory,

First and Madison Streets, resulted in four deaths and several being wounded.

March 18, 1882, R. R. Dickey's three story structure on Third Street, just cast of Jefferson Street, occupied by M. B. Parmely's Dry Goods Store and William Kiefaber & Bro's Fruit Store, was destroyed. Loss $42,000.

March 13, 1883, the four story building corner of St. Clair and Third Streets, occupied by Sachs & Pruden's Drug Store, S. F. and G. A. Gebhart and Chas. Wuichet & Co. was damaged to the extent of $10,000.

November 3, 1884, the T. C. and St. L. Round House on east First Street was destroyed by a lamp dropping into the waste receptacle. Loss $14,000.

July 23, 1884, John Dodds' Rake Factory, Stephen Wolf's house and stable Dittman's house and stable, M. F. Fackler's house and stable, Mrs. S. Heige's house and stable, Joseph Clark's stable and woodshed, J. Landis' stable and 0. A. Crabb's stable were destroyed. The fire started by a spark from a locomotive. Loss $26,000.

December 16, 1884, G. Stomps & Co's Chair Factory, corner of First and Canal, was damaged. Cause of fire unknown. Loss $14,000.

January 20, 1885, Reynolds & Reynolds' Book Bindery, located then on the corner of Second and Jefferson Streets, was destroyed. Loss $25,000. Accident.

June 23, 1885, Lowe Bros. Paint Store on east Third Street, was damaged. Cause spontaneous combustion. Loss $3,000.

April 24, 1886, Cattle Pens of the Syrup Refining Co., foot of Cincinnati Street were destroyed. Cause unknown. Loss $8,000.

August 6, 1886, C. L. Hawes Ware House in North Dayton was destroyed. Cause incendiary. Loss $6,000.

October 9, 1886, stables belonging to Kramer & Wilson, Andrew Waters and Wm. H. Wilson, on Shartel and Pulaski Streets, were destroyed by an incendiary fire. Loss $3,000.

December 7, 1886, DeWeese & Bidleman's Dry Goods Store on Third Street was damaged to the extent of $3,500. Cause of fire unknown.

December 8, 1886, Focke & Sons Slaughter House on Springfield Pike, was set on fire by the upsetting of a lamp. Loss $10,000.

December 15, 1886, Dayton Spice Co., then on north Main Street, suffered a $14,000 loss.

December 17, 1886, Wight & Sons' Saw Mills, at the junction of Star and Canal Streets, were destroyed. Loss $8,000.

January 18, 1887, McHose & Lyon's Shops, at the foot of Ludlow Street, were destroyed. Loss $11,000.

August 6, 1887, C. P. Palmer's Flour Mill in Dayton View, was destroyed. Loss $17.000.

November 12, 1887, Schaeffer & Mumma's Grain Elevator on Perry Street, destroyed. Loss $5,000.

January a, 1888, G. Stomps & Co's Chair Factory on First Street, was set on fire from a gas jet. Loss $8,000.

April 23, 1889, the Barney Block on Fifth Street, occupied by F. Cappel, was damaged to the extent of $5,000. Cause spontaneous combustion.

April 24, 1889, the Lumber Yards of A. Gebbart &Co. on Wayne Avenue, were damaged to the extent of $5,000.

May 12, 1889, N. Thomas' Brewery, corner of First and Beckel, caught fire from the smoke stack, incurring a loss of $10,000.

June 3, 1889, Pierce & Coleman's Lumber Sheds on Dutoit Street, were set on fire. Loss $8,000.

July 3, 1889, Tivoli Hall on east Fifth Street, was destroyed. Loss $9.000.

September 12, 1889, J. R. Brownell & Co's., Foundry and Machine Shops on east First Street, were destroyed. Loss $21,000.

April 30, 1890, stable, carriage shed and warerooms of Micheal Walter's, stables belonging to Mrs. Hahne and Katherine Zwisler on Franklin Street. Loss $5,200.

November 13, 1890, Dayton Spice Mills, corner of First and Foundry Sts., suffered a loss of $9,000. Cause unknown.

December 30, 1890, a Natural Gas Explosion at Gem City Stove Co's Shops in the east end, resulted in a loss 311,500.

May 2, 1891, Leidigh Buggy Co., on Front Street, suffered a $7,000 loss from a fire caused by spontaneous combustion.

February 18, 1892, Jas. Mclntire, Candy Manufacturer, on Second Street, suffered a loss of $6,000. Cause unknown.

March 14, 1892, Dayton Whip Co., located along the Canal in the Gebhart Power Building, was destroyed by fire. Loss $12,500.

June 4, 1892, the shops of C. W. Raymond & Co, First and Webster Sts., were destroyed. Loss $9,000.

January 18, 1893, Natural Gas caused a fire in the store of A. W. Gump, on east Third Street. Loss $7,500.

June 16, 1893, Bauer & Forster, located on east Third Street, suffered a loss of $7,500. Fire caused by Electric Light.

December 16, 1893, the Dayton Carmel Co., on Bacon Street, was destroyed by fire. Cause unknown. Loss $35,000.

February 11, 1894, the Linseed Oil Mill of H. L. Pape & Co., on Canal Street, was destroyed. Cause, friction in machinery. Loss $13,000.

March 4, 1894, the Clothing Store of Phillip Brown, located on south Jefferson Street, was destroyed. Loss $10,000. Cause unknown.

July 23, 1894, Aull Bro's. Paper Warehouse, located on east Second Street, was destroyed by spontaneous combustion. Loss $12,500.

December 13. 1894, the Famous Laundry, located on the foot of Ludlow Street, was destroyed by spontaneous combustion. Loss $8,000.

August 8, 1895, F. A. Requarth Co., located on Pine Street, was destroyed. Loss $5,000.

June 27, 1896, the Standard Sign Co., corner of Fourth and St. Clair Sts., was destroyed. Cause spontaneous combustion. Loss $5,500.

April 5, 1897, the Phillips Hotel was set on fire by a gasoline explosion. A panic ensued among the guests, and one person was fatally injured. Loss $18,000.

February 7, 1898, the Bradley Cordage Co. on Huffman Avenue, was set on fire by a spark from a picking machine. Loss $30,000.

March 23, 1898, the Craig-Reynolds Co. plant in North Dayton, was damaged to the extent of $13,500 by fire, originating from an acetylene gas explosion.

April 18, 1898, Samuel Margolis' Dry Goods and Notion establishment, on south Jefferson Street, was set on fire. Loss $12,500.

May 26, 1898, the Sweetman Printing Company was burned out by an incendiary fire. Loss $7,500.  

August 14, 1898, the Pasteur-Chamberland Filter Co. was destroyed. Loss $20,000.  Cause unknown.

April 30, 1899, the Lumber Yards of A. Gebhart & Co. on Wayne Ave., was set on fire by a spark from a passing locomotive. A high wind prevailed, and sparks from this fire set the St. John's Lutheran Church on Third Street afire, totally destroying it. The loss to A. Gebhart & Co. was $15,000 and to the Church $19,600.

July 15, 1899, the Globe Plaining Mills on the west side, were destroyed. Loss $13,000.

October 7, 1899, Dayton Spice Mills Co. in the extreme east end, was badly damaged. Loss $12,800.

January 30, 1900, A. Gebhart & Co's Lumber Yards, suffered a second destructive fire within a year, supposed incendiary. Loss $20,000.

February 1, 1900, this date will remain a memorable one to Dayton firemen. It was a bitter cold morning with a high wind blowing, when they were called to J. p. Wolf & Sons tobacco warehouse, on the corner of First and Foundry Streets. The flames spread rapidly, and for a time it looked as if the department was unequal to the task of extinguishing them. Aid from Cincinnati, Columbus and Springfield was asked for. but before either Columbus or Cincinnati reached here the fire was under control. The men fought the flames heroically for hours, always at a great disadvantage, due to inadequate water pressure, the intense cold and high wind. The establishments of Wolf & Son, Benedict & Co., Dayton Paper Novelty Co. and E. Bimm & Sons' were destroyed, while other firms sustained minor losses.  George Coy, one of the firemen was seriously injured, but no lives were lost.  The total loss was $471,313, divided as follows: J. P. Wolf & Son, $383.000, Benedict & Co.. $30,000, Dayton Paper Novelty Co., $47,800, E. Bimm & Sons', $8,800, other minor losses, $1,713. This was the largest fire Dayton has suffered since the Turner Opera House fire in 1869.

George Coy, the fireman, seriously injured at this fire by a falling wall - it was at first thought fatally - four months after the fire was again able to be about.


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