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BUSINESS BUILDINGS BURNED
BY BECKLEY'S BIGGEST BLAZE

Property Loss Of Nearly One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars Incurred; Majority of Loss is Covered by Insurance

This article appeared in a special edition of the Raleigh Register and Raleigh Herald on April 15, 1912.

The most destructive fire in the history of Beckley broke out early on Sunday morning, and before it was gotten under control had cleaned up both sides of Heber street for a distance of about two squares, destroying some thirty buildings, containing some forty business establishments and entailing a property loss estimated at from $130,000 to $150,000. The properties destroyed are:

  • Rose & Turner, furniture and undertaking.
  • Taylors Cash Grocery Co.
  • Mary V. Conway, millinery.
  • Odd Fellows Hall.
  • City hose house.
  • W. T. Lemon, residence.
  • J. Conway, shoemaker.
  • Miller & Stanley, feed and ice.
  • Beckley Electric Light and Power Co., office and wareroom.
  • Dr. [illegible].
  • H. T. Calfee and Son, undertakers.
  • Lloyd's restaurant.
  • T. M. Keirn, City Restaurant.
  • John F. Burgess, clothing and furnishings.
  • Quincy Stover, jeweler.
  • The Messenger.
  • Dr. S. S. Sutphin.
  • Quesenberry's Pool room.
  • Dunn Brothers, ladies' furnishings.
  • Campbell Hospital.
  • J. M. Anderson, residence.
  • Wm. Dennis, residence.
  • Mrs. A. B. Lloyd, boarding house.
  • B. O. Houchins, restaurant.
  • Kay & Grass, grocers and meat market.
  • Salem Sheen, dry goods and clothing.
  • Miss Cooper, dressmaker.
  • Miss Jennie Smith, millinery.
  • Postoffice.
  • J. R. Anderson, jeweler.
  • J. V. Walsh, tailor.
  • Posie Wray, cleaning establishment.
  • White's meat market.
  • D. L. Rhodes, grocery.
  • Corey Brothers fruits and confectionery.
  • W. M. Taylor & Co., dry goods, clothing and furnishings.
  • Harris studio, photographers.
  • Dr. Ward Kidd, dentist.
  • Southern Bell Telephone exchange.
  • Williams, Stansbury and Scott, attorneys.
  • M. C. Brackman, attorney.
  • Painter & Shrewsbury, attorneys.
  • Hal M. Scott, city engineer.
  • Thos. H. Wickham, eight buildings on Heber and Neville Streets.

The fire was discovered about two o'clock on Sunday morning by night watchman McDowell, in the rear of the Rose & Turner Company's building, on the corner of Heber and Neville streets in which there was a large stock of furniture and other inflamma- gotten under way and it was seen that work by the fire department could be gotten under way it was seen that the entire block on that side of Heber street was doomed. [This paragraph is defective in the original newspaper article.]

From the point of its origin the blaze spread rapidly in all directions, speedily catching the building on the opposite corner, occupied by the Taylor Cash Grocery, Miss Mary Conway's millinery store and J. Conway's shoe shop, and to the Odd Fellows building, which was occupied by the Odd Fellows Daughters of Rebecca, Knights of Pythias and Modern Woodmen all of whose paraphernalia was destroyed.

In the other directions there was a solid block of frame buildings reaching to the Campbell Hospital, beyond which was the residence of attorney John M. Anderson, which was the last building destroyed on that side of the street, it having been blown up by dynamite, thereby preventing the further spread of the flames in that direction.

On the opposite side of the street, the postoffice building was among the first to catch the flames spreading from it in each direction to the Lloyd boarding house, where dynamite was also used and the flames checked before they had secured sufficient hold on the Willis Hotel to render efforts to save that structure and prevent the further spread of the flames in that direction unavailing.

On Main street, the first brick building in the pathway of the flames was encountered at the store of W. M. Taylor & Co. which was totally gutted, only the walls of the first story which were of stone, being left standing, the fire being finally checked by the stone wall of the Bank of Raleigh, the substantial construction of which undoubtedly saved the balance of the business portion of the city.

[Illegible] that it was stopped in its westward course by the stone building owned by the Virginian Railway Co., on the south by the stone jail building, and on the east by the solid stone walls of the Bank of Raleigh.

During the conflagration the heat was so intense that the concrete sidewalks in many places were split into fragments, and the bricks in the street pavements went the same way in numerous instances.

The electric light wires were burned out early in the action, as well as many of the telephone wires, the Bell Telephone exchange being put out of business about four o'clock, but thanks to the energy and adaptability to circumstances of Lineman Keyser, within two hours communication with the outside world was restored by six o'clock, and early in the afternoon a temporary exchange had been established in the Register building, and the best service possible under the circumstances was being rendered to the patrons of the company.

The Trap Hill telephone company, whose exchange is also in the Register building had its force of linemen, under the direction of George Willis, at work stringing lines to replace the ones destroyed by the fire while the flames were still raging, and that system, too, was in working order within a few hours after the first alarm had been sounded.

The losses and insurance, as nearly as definite information could be obtained up to a late hour last night was as follows:

  • Mrs. Lloyd, $900; no insurance.
  • Miss Leola Cooper, $400; no insurance.
  • W. M. Taylor & Co., $22,500; $18,000 insurance.
  • Salem Shaheen, $5,000; insurance $3,300.
  • Willis Hotel damaged $150; insured.
  • Rose & Turner Co., $25,000; insurance $15,000.
  • Beckley Electric Light & Power Co., approximately $1,000, with no insurance.
  • T. K. Laing, damage to records, library and furniture, $500; covered by insurance.
  • B. O. Houchins, restaurant, $300; no insurance.
  • Henry Miller on household goods, clothing, etc., $300; no insurance.
  • Wilkes Insurance Agency, damage to furniture, etc., $500.
  • T. M. Kiern, City Restaurant, $2,000; insurance $1,000.
  • Posey Wray cleaning establishment, $150; no insurance.
  • Quincy Stover, jeweler, $600; insurance $200.
  • Joe L. Smith, City Restaurant Building, $2,500; insurance $1,000.
  • J. T. Holandsworth, Lloyd's Restaurant, $1,500; insurance $500.
  • M. M. and Albert Corey, the Beckley Fruit and Confectionery Company, $3,000; insurance $2,300. They also lost household goods valued at $700, on which there was no insurance.
  • Williams, Stansbury & Scott, attorneys, $400; no insurance.
  • Geo. Williams, law library and office equipment, $5,000.
  • Bank of Raleigh, damage principally by water, $500; fully insured.
  • T. E. Combs, $10,000; insurance, $5,000.
  • Taylor's Cash Grocery, $4,500; insurance $3,500.
  • Miss Jennie Smith, millinery, $800; no insurance.
  • H. T. Calfee & Son, $1,000; no insurance.
  • Harris studio, $700; insurance $500.
  • Messenger $7,500; partially insured.
  • H. T. Wickham, two buildings on Heber street, and two on Neville street $6,300; insurance $2,500.
  • Campbell Hospital, $20,000; partially insured.

One of the most encouraging features of the situation is the optimistic view taken of the fire by the sufferers. In addition to those already mentioned the Southern Bell Telephone Co., who have temporary headquarters in the Register building have established a long distance station at the Hotel Hull where messages will be received for points on Piney and the Gulf, and permanent headquarters will be established and full local service resumed by Wednesday morning.

The postoffice is temporarily located in the grand jury room at the court house, and will be removed to the Deepwater building as soon as the necessary equipment can be installed.

H. T. Calfee and Son had a considerable shipment of undertakers' supplies en route and will be ready for business by tomorrow.

Taylor's Cash Grocery store will open up this morning in the old Beckley store room, as soon as their new stock can be opened up.

The Beckley Fruit and Confectionery Co. also have a stock of supplies en route and will open up as soon as a location can be secured.

There were but five patients in the Campbell Hospital, and these were removed to the court house and later to the Beckley residence, which will be its headquarters pending the erection of a bigger, better, busier and more substantial building on the old site.

T. M. Kiern, of the City Restaurant whose place was close to where the fire originated, and whose family escaped only with their night clothes, will resume business as son as he can secure a room.

The Beckley Electric Light & Power Co., will open offices in the Deepwater Building, as will the Rose & Turner Co., Painter & Shrewsbury and M. C. Brackman, attorneys.

Miss Mary Conway, whose millinery and ladies furnishing store was in the Calfee building, will be found ready to wait on her friends this morning on the second floor of the Deepwater building.


The Bank of Raleigh [illegible] Defense - the stone wall.


The fire demonstrated several points to the satisfaction of our citizens, one of which was that the fire fighting equipment of the city is utterly inadequate - a fact which has been frequently called to the attention of the council and citizens as well, the agitation having at one time reached the point of calling a public meeting to devise means for the procurement of better equipment, which would have come in might handy on Sunday morning.

Another point proven was that the waters supply, with proper equipment, is ample to take care of a worse fire than this one, the water in the reservoir after twelve hours of constant flow through every fire plug that could be utilized, only having fallen between four and five feet.

In addition to this the light and power lines, which were broken or cut during the fire, were repaired and both light and power turned on early Sunday afternoon.


Has its Compensations.

While Sunday's fire will undoubtedly work hardship upon many of our citizens, it cannot be disputed that it will in the end prove beneficial to the city as a whole, in view of the expressed determination of the owners of the property destroyed to erect substantial buildings on the sites of those destroyed, and in justice to the property owners of the entire city, it is to be hoped that those who may feel inclined to erect frame structures to replace those burned, will be restrained form so doing. It would not be amiss for the city council to get together and decide upon building regulations for this section while the ground is clear.


Hard on Fire Department.

In addition to the destruction of the hose house, which was in the pathway of the fire, a couple of sections of hose which were attached to the fire plug at the corner of Heber and Neville streets, were burned off close to the plug during the progress of the fire, rendering them useless and at the same time making it impossible to shut off the two streams of water from the plug thus materially reducing the pressure at the other plugs which were in use.


The fire of Sunday morning was checked by the excellent stone wall of the Bank of Raleigh building. This wall was built by the late David Robertson whose sterling Scotch honesty will live long in the minds and hearts of those who knew him and loved him.


Kay & Gross

The grocers and meat marketmen will open for business as usual this morning, though they were unable to state last night just where they would locate. However, they will be ready to wait on their regular customers as well as any new ones who may favor them with their patronage, and will announce their new location in the regular issue of the Register later in the week.


"The stone wall - the Bank of Raleigh - stands for conservative banking. Fair treatment to all. The wise conservation which provided the safe and sound building which stopped the big fire Sunday morning, prevails at all times with this institution..


The Messenger.

The only printing office in the city to suffer in the fire was the Messenger office, whose plant was totally destroyed. The use of the plant of the Register was promptly tendered to Editor Ellison for the publication of his paper until his plant could be replaced, and it is probable that the paper will appear as usual.


Estray Kitten

During the excitement attendant upon the fire Sunday morning, one of A. G. Meade's pet wildcats made its es- [illegible] finding the little pet will confer a favor on Mr. Meade by returning it to his jewelry store, which is still in the same place.


The late David Robertson when he had completed the Bank of Raleigh Building, remarked to more than one person that the wall would "stop a fire right here some day." How prophetic.


Doing Nicely.

Mrs. Pruitt, who was operated on at the Campbell Hospital a week ago last Sunday for a very severe case of appendicitis, is doing remarkably well and will soon be able to return to her home.


Which Was It?

Was the adoption of that B City slogan prophetic, or was it simply blamed, blind, blundering luck?


Don't fail to attend the entertainment to be given on Wednesday night by the Orchestral Entertainers, at the Opera House, being the last of the Lyceum course and considered the best. A handsome diamond ring will be given to the one holding the lucky number on that night.


Don't allow yourself to be carried away by enthusiasm - unless you have a return ticket.


It is well to know thyself - and it is also well to know that the commercial agencies speak well of you.


As a fun producer a comedian isn't in it with a henpecked man when he starts out to assert himself.


It is difficult to acquire a satisfactory reputation on the strength of what you are going to do some day.


If the Chinese women are fully emancipated the shoe industry should become very prosperous until that numerous nation is shod.


A workable theory for the Anglo-German mutual sentiments of enmity and distrust is that it keeps the shipbuilding highly active.


The beef packers will, of course, now continue that fierce competition which has characterized their business heretofore.


Just being acquainted is peaceful; being intimate is a storm.


The Bank of Raleigh was a Rock of Defense in the great fire Sunday morning. Had it burned the entire business end of Beckley would have been destroyed.

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