History Record View

Title: Court House Entirely Consumed By Flames
File Attachment:
Attachment Type: image

Last Sunday morning at 4 o'clock the frightful alarm of fire was given and the soundly sleeping citizens were awakened to learn that the County Court-house was in flames. Central tried to sound the alarm on the water plant whistle, but the water from the steam exhaust had fromzen in the whistle and it was impossible to give the alarm. Some attempted to get in the tower of the Methodist church to ring the bell, but the fanitor had so securely fastened the doors that no entrance could be made. Finally some one rang the bell on the burning building and another cried aloud "fire, fire."

At the time the wind was blowing a gale from the west which fanned the flames and caused them to spread rapidly through the entired structure. Persons in different parts of town had seen an unusual light at the court-house but never suspicioned that the building was on fire. How long the fire had been burning no one knows, but it seems there was fire in the east end of the house several hours before it broke out, and then it was too late to check it, as it was confined to the garret and floors which burned out in turn and dropped to the next. The walls and west end stand in tact, but the east end is considerably damaged which shows that the fire started in that part which is over the furnace and jail. But where was the night watch and what was he doing that he saw no fire about the building, while it was seen by persons in different parts of the town long before the alarm was given?

The vaults in each office came through the fiery ordeal intact except one-the office of the County Auditor. This part of the building was crushed by the falling tower and completely demolished. About one-half of the papers and records in the vault were destroyed. Had there been no high tower to fall the Auditor's vault would have remained intact. The County Surveyor with his willing helpers removed the entired contents of his office to a place of safety. Everything in the county Superintendent's office was lost. The large law library on the second floor, in the rear of the Court-room, was destroyed. This entails a loss of at least $5,000 alone.

Upon opening the vault of the County Clerlk a box of matches were found standing near the door which had passed safely through the fire, showing how perfectly fire proof the vaults had been made by the contractor. In the other vaults even the smell of smoke was not upon the papers and records.

The original cost of the Court-house when built in 1871 was $75,000. In May 1885 it was moved to the present site, being completed January, 1886, about 20 years ago. The contract price of removal and rebuilding was $48,000. The style of the building was left the same as the original, but material changes were made on the inside. The jail was built in the basement, and also the jailer's residence. The Sheriff's and Surveyor's offices were also located on the first floor and basement. But the old bell whose familiar sound we shall hear no more, was a relic of the old square, brick 2-story court-house that stood in the public square "under the hill." It was the bell of the days of Col. J. R. M. Bryant, R. A. Chandler, B. F. Gregory, Jos. Brown, Judge Bryant, Judge Larue and Judge Corwin.

From the best information obtained from several the fire started in the basement or on the first floor in the southeast corner of the building. Here was located the sheriff's office and a winding stairway from the basement to the garret. The flame in this stairway reflected a lurid light upon the walls of the Masonic Hall. Across the street in the State Bank building Dr. Porter has his office and sleeping room up stairs. He was awakened by the light and got up, looked at his watch and it was then 4:15 a.m. He gave the alarm to central, who tried to give the alarm on the fire whistle. Failing in this she notified the livery barn people and gave the general alarm through the phones. It was 4:30 a.m. before the fire department got on the ground. During this time the fire worked its way up the stairs into the sheriff's office, to the Judge's room on the second floor and into the garret where there was quite a lot of old papers and books deposited. Soon the entire roof was in flames. From the Judge's room the fire quickly spread into the Courtroom and in a short time fire was coming from every window.

Sheriff Tague saved all his house-hold effects except some carpets, bed clothing and all his vegetables. Some of the furniture was damaged in getting it out, and the organ is probably ruined. His total loss is probably $50. He had no insurance.

The County Commissioners were called together Monday and during the week have been busy arranging for temporary offices, cleaning away the debris, having the walls inspected, etc. They have rented the large room of True High across the street from the Auditor and Treasurer, and rooms in the old Boston Store room for the Clerk and Recorder. Rooms up-stairs in the same building have been secured for the County Superintendent, Surveyor and Sheriff. All these officials are getting their respective papaers and books into these rooms.

The work of cleaning away the debris has been given to Mr. Ed. C. Livengood Sr., who has put a force of ment to work inside the walls. It will require several days to clear away the brick, mortar and partially burned timbers.

Mr. Ira Collyer who was the guest of Sheriff Tague lost two suit cases containing clothing, an overcoat and a pair of fur gloves. He had left them in the Sheriff's office and it was the first to burn.

The building was insured for $20,000, divided among four different companies-The Royal, Norwich Union, Continental, American, and Glens Falls, each for $4,000. These same companies also carry $5,000 on the law library and the office furniture, $2,500 on each. These policies were written by the agemts here, Mr. J. C. Stephens and C. G. Rossiter.

There were no cob piles nor rubbish lying in the basement, as Sheriff Tague a short time before had cleaned up in that part of the building. A week or then days before he had found at different times two tramps, intoxicated, who were going to stay all night in the basement, but he took charge of then and locked them in the jail.

All the county officials are now ready for business so that the business of the county will go on as usual.

The Warren Circuit Court will be held in the old room of the Boston store, on the second floor used as a carpet room. The jury rooms will be in the two other rooms on same floor.

Superintendent Bader before starting for the fire was required to solemnly promise his wife that he would not do anything rash. Upon getting on the ground the first thing he tried to do was to go to his office on the second floor to save his papers and books. A couple of men caught him and held him. In a few minutes the room was full of flames and the stairway cut off. He loses personally $125 by the destruction of valuables he had in the office for safe keeping.

The County Commissioners will hold their sessions in the room with the Auditor and Treasurer. They have called the county council to meet Monday, Fefruary 4, for the purpose of making the necessary appropriation for the repair of the building.

Four architects, two from Danville, Ills., one from LaFayette and one from Indianapolis, have examined the walls. Three of these were employed by the Commissioners. They pronounce the walls in good condition except the east end where the heat was most intense and the wall cracked. A full report of these men will be published later.

Every day this week the Commissioners have been busy and they do not propose to go home until they have everything provided for and in good running condition.

Treasurer Stephens was so anxious to get to the fire Sunday morning that he did not take time to fully dress and arrived on the spot in his under shirt, pants and shoes minus socks. He went to work to save the contents of his office hwne he had to be taken to the hotel and a physician called. The wonder is that he is not sick from cold.

[Picture Caption: Court House Before The Fire
Two pictures were included, but "After the Fire" is not visible due to the detioration of the article.]

Date: 1/24/1907
Origin: The Warren Republican
Record ID: 00002599
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Warren County Historical Society
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Court House
Entered By: Leslie J. Rice

Information in this record is provided for personal research purposes only and may not be reproduced for publication. If you have questions about copyright issues contact the archive source listed above.