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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 092

              [newspaper clipping]
  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
�Middle Men.�
  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
bows.
  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
City.
  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.               
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