WESTOVER'S WIPED OUT
Destruction of the Highest Building in Bay City by Fire Sunday Night
THE LOSS, $80,000; INSURANCE $28,000."
The Opera House, Postoffice, Second National Bank, and other Business Houses Completely Destroyed"
Sunday night was cold and piercing. The air was clear and still, and the alarm of fire that rang out at 9:45 o'clock from every hose tower in the city, was heard for miles away. Each peal seemed tempered with terror. The clangy strokes were listened to with awe. The presentiment that a conflagration of more than ordinary proportions was in progress, prevailed and thousands of citizens, who had settled down to an evening of rest beside their cheerful grates, were moved to look out of doors, and scan the heavens in hope of detecting an illumination that would direct their eyes to the scene of burning.
There was one brick building in the city taller than all the rest. It was a stately structure and had long stood as a monument of its own greatness and the city's pride. It had always been looked upon as being one of the most substantial and impressive in the state. Its lofty, majestic form.
its younger and modern styled neighbors, could be seen from any point in the cities at the mouth of Saginaw river. It was the Westover block, corner of Washington and Center avenues, and when dense volumes of blackened smoke arose from its roof and curled heavenward in the breathless air, they present a feeling of sincere regret through all who witnessed them, for the belief that the bold structure was doomed, was entertained by all.
Rattling down the ice covered thorough-fares came the hose carriages, and with the rapidity that could be had under the circumstances, couplings were made and the streams directed to the burning buildings, but these streams to have been of immediate benefit should have fallen upon the roof, and in this they failed, as they fell far
SHORT OF THE MARK
It was evident to all then that the structure must suffer the complete ravages of the devouring insatiable element.
At 10 o'clock the smoke gave way to the lurid flames which found escape through the upper story windows. They rushed out of the eleven windows in the front dozens of feet into the air, while the same sight existed on the side. The roof was intact and the seething mass as it roared and darted from the apertures, made a picture that would defy the artist's rarest skill to portray. The cornice and mansard roof were in flames in a moment, and embers fell crackling and illuminating their way to the sidewalk below. At 10 minutes past the 10 o'clock the roof whose support and burned away, fell with
A TERRIFIC CRASH
to the floor below, and dense black smoke, interspersed with glaring red cinders and sparks, arose high above the building and in the almost cloudless sky, looked like miniature stars. Twelve minutes later the south wall was razed, and the thud it produced was
HEARD BLOCKS AWAY
It was a sound that once heard, can never be forgotten. Following closely upon the heals of this came the falling of the west wall upon the two story frame building owned and occupied by Fred Simon, as a saloon and residence. As by the work of a mighty hand, the roof sunk in and the side was bulged out until it assumed shapeless dimensions. At about this time the first, second and third floors had fallen under the weight of accumulated debris, to the basement.
At exactly twenty minutes to 11 the east wall was seen to tremble and immediately is collapsed and a crashing, grinding, pulverizing, deafening sound reached the ears of the multitude. The two tall chimneys in the center, shook and tumbled over a few moments before and foretold the falling of their foundations.
By this time, the dire work of the destroying demon had been done. The departs of both cities which had been playing on the flames, had kept them confined to the one building, and Simon's frame on the west. The Bank block across Washington avenue smoked and steamed, under the influence of the intense heat, and the plate-glass windows cracked, while the white painted Y.M.C.A. building, directly across Center avenue, became scorched and brown. The Central block, diagonally across Center avenue, also smoked. Streams from the department were turned to these buildings to prevent their taking fire. In the first-named block the fear was manifest that it would ignite, and some of the attorneys who have offices therein prepared to move their books and valuable papers.
Simons's building, spoken of above, was reduced to a most
in the space of ten minutes. Its occupants had had timely notice and had taken refuge in places of safety while a goodly portion of the household furniture was also saved. Wm. McEwan's Center avenue block across the alley was protected by a number of streams, while his Washington avenue block escaped any serious damage, although it was apprehended for a long time that it must succumb to the leveler.
At 12 o'clock the scene of the fire was almost deserted by spectators. The firemen were yet directing streams into it. The north wall still standing and was past the danger of falling. Over on the southeast corner, a column of blackened brick stood up like a monument, while a similar shaped column stood on the southeast corner. And today, with simply a ragged portion of the east and west walls, the north wall and these columns are all that stand of the once massive Westover block.
The department withdrew from the scene early yesterday morning, having subdued all the fire, except a few smoldering blazes among the ruins in the basement.
The Westover, a picture of which is given in these columns this morning, was the best known business building in Bay City. It occupied the most prominent corner in the entire city. It was commenced in the year 1868 and was completed the following year. It consisted of three stores and wide entrances, as will be seen in the illustration, which fronted on Center avenue. The corner was occupied by the Second National bank, and in the basement directly underneath was the barber shop of Wm. Smith. The second store was occupied by Frank L. Westover, as the postoffice. This store was L shaped, having a private entrance on Washington avenue. In the basement on Washington avenue, under the postoffice, was the plumbing shop of John Young. The next store was occupied by Sirmyer & Edwards with a stock of clothing. Directly above this store were the dental rooms of Dr. C.W. Maxon, back of which was the tailoring department of Sirmeyer & Edwards. Over the post office was the lumber of E.Y. Williams, back of which was a lobby hall, and two stairways leading to the third floor. A hall also led from the lobby to the rear of the building where there was a stairway leading to Washington avenue. Over the Second National bank were the dental rooms of Dr. C.B. Porter & Son, and the residence of the former, which extended along Washington avenue from front to rear of building.
On the third floors was Westover's opera house. The third floor was devoted to the dress circle, parquette and stage. The fourth floor was the gallery. The dress circle and gallery were furnished with oil-finished pine seats. The floors and stage were also of pine. The opera house though not in use, had a handsome drop curtain, painted a few seasons ago by Walthew & Son of Detroit, besides considerable scenery. Some of the scenery was removed to the Washington avenue rink when the house was closed, and the chairs of the parquette were sold to Whitneys Princess skating rink in Cincinnati about the same time. The house was not condemned, but was closed by Mr. Westover on his own accord.
When the block was built it was far in advance of the city and the opera house was good enough, but the growth of recent years, made it inadequate and Mr. Westover voluntarily closed it. Above the opera house was an unoccupied attic into which the dome of the auditorium swelled.
ESCAPED JUST IN TIME
Dr. Porter and wife barely escaped with their lives. When the fire was discovered by them they hastily dressed, thinking there was plenty of time, but as their front rooms were full of smoke, they were compelled to beat a hasty retreat. Dr. Porter escaped hatless but while on his way grabbed an armful of tools and other materials. Mr. and Mrs. Portor took refuge at the Y.M.C.A. building.
Frank Drago, sixteen years old, son of Charles Drago, and a young German named Jacob Denkhaus report that they rescued a lady and little girl from a window on the second floor in the rear. They state that they were working at Simon's building when their attention was attracted by the cries of the woman. They ran to the hook and ladder truck, got a ladder, placed it to the window and brought the lady and child down in it. When at the bottom, the lady partially fainted and was carried by the young men to the library building steps. Young Drago says he did not recognize she was and does not know her name. Denkhaus says he was so excited that he does not know what occurred except that Drago caught him by the coat and dragged him up the ladder. How they got up or how they got down is a mystery to him.
to top of right column.