A disastrous conflagration last night in this
city, involving the destruction of West Washington
Market, and property to an almost incalculable amount.
At 10 o clock some of the watchmen on the dock of
the New-York and Hamburg line of steamers, at the
foot of Fulton street, discovered a slight fire in one of
the sheds near the river, and instantly raised an alarm,
but before the firemen arrived the fire had gained con-
siderable headway and in a little time became very
alarming in its aspect.
This portion of the market is built on made ground,
and existence from Vesey street on the north to Dey
street on the south and West street on the east. It is
composed entirely of shops, about one story high, and
covers nearly three acres of ground. The front
market on Washington street is occupied, mainly by
butchers, as is also the middle market, ending on
Coiter avenue, the remainder being occupied almost
entirely by fruit dealers, and hucksters known as
In less than twenty minutes after the alarm was
sounded by the City Hall and other bells, the lower
market, which is denominated West Washington
Market, was almost entirely in flames.
Owing to the large quantity of combustible material
about the premise the flames spread with astonishing
rapidity, defying the efforts of the firemen, who
poured copious streams of water over the burning
structures. The light caused by the conflagration
could be distinctly seen reflected in the sky from any
part of the city. St. Paul s church steeple, the spire
of Trinity church, and the tops of many high build-
ings in the lower part of the city were brilliantly
illuminated. So intense was the glare that any person
passing down Broadway could distinctly ascertain the
time by the City Hall clock.
The wind was blowing rather stiffly from the north-
west, and huge volumes of smoke and large quantities
of cinders were carried over the roofs of houses as far
as Greenwich street below Dey street.
The steamship Bavaria, belonging to the New-
York and Hamburg Line, and the packet ship Doc-
tor Barth, lying at the piers at the lower end of the
lower end of the Market, were at one time in great
danger of being burned from the intense heat emitted
from the burning buildings, and it was only by the
constant exertions of their respective crews that they
were saved from destruction. Their upper works
were badly blistered, and it became necessary for the
men to keep the sails and rigging constantly wet. On
the steamship the pomps were manned, and two
streams of water were poured over the bowspit and
Several other vessels that lay at this and the neigh-
boring piers dropped into the stream, and were thus
saved from injury.
From the market, the flame extended to the exten-
sive kindling-wood sawmill of Jonas Sparks, located at
the lower end of the Falcon-street dock. Seven hun-
dred cords of wood piled up on the dock at the lower
end of the saw-mill, also took fire and was nearly de-
stroyed only a small portion being saved by the fire-
men who tumbled it into the water.
The slips in the vicinity presented a curious appear-
ance, being filled with bales of hay, barrels and boxes,
forming a perfect raft from one dock to another.
Apprehensions were at one time entertained that the
flames would extend to the old market building on
Washington street, but by the energetic exertion of the
firemen the fire was confined to the lower market. In
order to prevent the conflagration from extending east-
ward a large number of sheds were taken down, under
the direction of the Chief and Assistant Engineers.
A barge at the foot of Dey street, belonging to the
New-York and Aloany Line of Propelers, took fire,
but was saved from sustaining much injury. All the
barges in this direction were hauled out into the
stream. The light from the burning sheds threw a
luried glare over the river, and vessels and buildings
could in consequence be easily distinguished in Jersey
This portion of the market was occupied by about
two hundred middle men, and the names presented
below are all that we could obtain, owing to the ex-
citement that prevailed.
The most intense excitement prevailed in the neigh-
borhood, and many persons residing near the market
made preparation to remove their household effects.
Every available place on the surrounding buildings
were crowded with people, and, at a rough estimate,
there were 15,000 people on the ground.
The fire continued burning until about 9 o clock
when the firemen obtained the mastery of it. All that
now remains of this part of the market is a vast waste
of rubbish and charred wood, with here and there a
stray beam or joist half burned.
|Title:||Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Thirteen: page ninety-two|
|Description:||Newspaper clipping regarding a fire at West Washington Market.|
|Subject:||Firemen; Fires; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Sparks, Jonas|
|Coverage (City/State):||[New York, New York]|
|Coverage (Street):||Broadway; Coiter Avenue; Dey Street; Fulton Street; Greenwich Street; Vesey Street; Washington Market; Washington Street; West Street|
|Title:||Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Thirteen|
|Description:||Includes descriptions of boarding house living, his freelance writing and drawing work, antics of New York literary Bohemians, Frank Cahill fleeing for England after spending money that was meant for ''The New York Picayune,'' visits to the Edwards family, the state of Charles Damoreau's marriage, a sailing excursion to Nyack with the Edwards family and other friends on the Fourth of July, a fight between Fitz James O'Brien and House at Pfaff's, witnessing a fire at Washington Market, the execution of pirate Albert Hicks on Bedloe's Island, an excursion aboard the ship Great Eastern, a vacation at Grafton with the Edwards family, his growing friendship with Sally Edwards, Lotty Granville's behavior with Brentnall and Hill at his boarding house, Frank Bellew's return to England, and visits to dance houses in the Fourth Ward with friends for an article.|
|Subject:||Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marriage; Publishers and publishing; Women|
|Coverage (City/State):||New York, New York; Grafton, New York|
|Note:||Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.|
|Publisher:||Missouri History Museum|
|Rights:||Copyright 2011 Missouri History Museum.|
|Source:||Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.|