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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

BLACK'S OPERA HOUSE - 1903

UPDATED JUNE 2013
 

'Black's Opera House Fire'

February 1903

THREE DEAD IN A FIRE.

Caught Under Falling Walls at Springfield, Ohio -- Others May Be in Ruins.


Springfield, Ohio, Feb. 19. -- One of the most disastrous fires in the history of the city and the one resulting in the greatest loss of life, broke out at 3:30 o'clock this morning in Mitchell Bros.' plumbing establishment and in less than three hours it had destroyed the building in which are situated M.M. Kaufman's clothing store, the Fountain Square Theater, S.J. Lafferty & Sons' hardware store, Mitchell Bros.' plumbing establishment, J.H. Mulholland's jewelry store, a blacksmith shop, and the new Y.M.C.A. building.

(Washington Post - Washington, DC - Feb. 20, 1903)
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On Feb. 19, 1903, a general alarm fire destroyed Black's Opera House, the YMCA and other downtown buildings at Main and Fountain streets - about a year after the conflagration at the East Street shops.

A wall collapsed, killing a jewelry store owner - J.H. Mulholland - and two employees removing merchandise from the premises, and injuring three others.

The search for the victims went on until nightfall even though the fire was declared under control by midday.

Several firefighters suffered injuries ranging from frostbite to smoke inhalation.

Perhaps somewhat unusual for the early 20th century, the initial alarm for the fire at Black's Opera House was received by telephone instead of the street box, and the fire alarm operator struck Box 12 to alert the city's firehouses.

Like the East Street Shops, firefighters encountered water problems.

Snow and ice delayed firefighters from locating the street connection for their ``Lowry Hydrants.''

Lowry flush hydrants ``were generally carried on the back of fire engines and other apparatus and attached to a connection in the street which when attached provided water for fire protection,'' according to the web site FireHydrant.org.

Additionally, the Springfield Press Republic newspaper questioned Follrath's tactics, according to Benjamin. ``No ladders were used and the firemen were wasting energy as well as water in the lack of a competent leader,'' the Press Republic said.

In the aftermath of the second conflagration, the city replaced Follrath. Samuel Hunter, an outsider and a veteran of the Columbus Fire Department, was apppointed chief in March 1904 and he introduced a sweeping program of reforms.