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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.
- 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
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
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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
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