Source: North Manchester Journal, Feb. 1, 1883

The Old American House Burned to
the Ground last Thursday morning!
LOSS ABOUT $4,000 !
Notes and Incidents of the Fire!

Last Thursday morning at about half past eight o’clock the alarm of fire was sounded on Main street. As soon as the cry was heard the attention of the people was attracted toward the old American House. Great volumes of dense black smoke was seen i8ssuing from the north-east corner of the building. The fire was first discovered and the alarm given by David Hamilton. A reporter who happened on the street at the first outcry hastened to the spot. The old American House was situated on the northeast corner of Main and Walnut streets. It was a large two-story frame building and fronted 92 feet on Main street and 70 on Walnut street. This house had been used for a hotel up to a few months ago, when it was closed by the proprietor, Mr. J.C. Hoover, and was only used as a dwelling by himself and wife. Adjoining the house on the east is the new brick block put up last summer by Cook & Tyler. A room in the north end of the west wing of the house was used for a saloon by Ed Flanagan. In the east end of the south wing was a room occupied by Stiefel Bros.' grocery. It was in the garret at the back end of this grocery that the fire started.

It caught from a defective flue, and had evidently been burning some time when discovered. As soon as the alarm was given, a large number of citizens hurried to the scene of the conflagration with buckets. The fire burning on the inside of the house was inaccessible, and was gaining great headway. A ladder was put up on the old wood shed at the back of the grocery. Several men at once mounted to the top of this shed, and were making strenuous efforts to get at the fire. The shaky old shed was unable to hold up their combined weight, and came crashing to the ground with all on it. J.M. Cook and Lew McFann were hurt in the fall. Great clouds of smoke were now issuing from the roof all along the east end of the building. There was no way by which to get water on the burning part of the house so as to do any good. The flames had by this time burned off the weather boarding of the north gable. The wind was from the north-east and sucked into the hole made by the fire, rapidly driving the flames into the other parts of the building. The men saw that it was useless to attempt to extinguish the fire with inadequate means we now have for putting out fires. The crowd which had been constantly increasing, at this time contained not less than five hundred people. When it was seen that the house could not be saved, the attention of the people was given to removing the goods and to saving adjacent buildings. A number of men at once began handing out the furniture and household goods. The windows were taken out or broken, and every thing that was not yet in the grasp of the flames, was handed out into the street. The house was cleared in a very few minutes. Everything was removed with the exception of the goods in one or two rooms which were by that in flames.

A party of men were stationed on Tyler's building from where they dashed water on the fire, in order to save the wall of the building they were on from being crumbled by the excessive heat. In the mean time a crowd had spread carpet over the roof of Lutz's grocery, across the street, west of the hotel, and right in the face of the wind. This carpet was kept saturated with water. Lines of men with buckets were formed to the wells on Main street, and water was passed up and dashed over the roof and side of the house towards the burning hotel. Several parties took their stand on the outside stairway on the east side of the grocery, and held their positions regardless of the intense heat. A crowd of men commenced tearing down the west side of the burning house, with the view of keeping back the fire, but the heat soon drove them away, and the work they had done appeared to have a contrary effect to what was intended. At one time it was thought that Lutz's grocery and the adjoining frame buildings could not be saved. By almost superhuman efforts the men on the building held their places, with the flames licking across the street, and almost touching the house, till the fire had subsided, until it was out of danger. There were probably over a thousand men, women and children on the streets in the neighborhood of the fire at that time. Business was practically suspended, and everything was brought to a standstill during the time the building was burning. Although the time seemed long the house was burning, it was barely two hours from the time that the fire was discovered, and the alarm given, until there was nothing left but some smouldering ruins. The total loss by the fire has been estimated at between $4,000 and $5,000. The heaviest loss is to Hoover and Flanagan owners of the property. Each had a $1,000 insurance on the building. Flanagan had a policy in the Springfield Co and Hoover, in the Western of Toronto. Hoover had his hotel furniture insured in the Philadelphia Fire, in the sum of $2,000. The furniture was nearly all got out. Mr. Hoover is yet unable to make a correct estimate of the amount of goods lost. The part removed has been hurriedly stored away and has not yet been invoiced. They were somewhat damaged in removing, as on all such occasions. Steifel & Co. claim a loss of $1,000. Nearly everything was removed, though part of the stock was damaged. Their stock was insured in the Springfield Co. to the amount of $700.

When it was seen that the building could not be saved, and that the other buildings were in danger, a telephonic message was sent to Wabash for an engine. They responded that an engine would be sent at once. In about one hour and a quarter after the message, was sent, a special train arrived from Wabash, with an engine, two hose carts and a hook and ladder truck, accompanied by over one hundred men. The train consisted of two flat cars and one coach. The report had got out at Wabash that all Manchester was on fire, and several hundred people were at the depot at that place, anxious to come over, but could not get on the train. Although the fire had spent its force when the train arrived, the machinery was hauled up town. The engine was stationed at the cistern, under the sidewalk, on the south side of the house, and the hose was turned on the mass of burning timbers. After remaining about one hour the Wabash delegation returned home.

Mr. Hoover's policy on his goods was taken out at his former home, Ligonier.

The heat melted the solder on the galvanized iron cornice at the west end of Tyler's brick room.

John Ballinger handed all the water up, through a scuttle hole, that was used on Cook & Tyler's brick.

A lot of debris from the fire is still scattered over the streets close by. It should be removed and cleaned up as soon as possible.

Stiefel & Co. moved their stock, after the fire, into the room formerly occupied by Stiefel & Bro's dry goods and clothing house.

The fire did not damage the wall of Tyler's room very much. It was slightly cracked at the joints where the front was joined on to it.

Ed Flanagan got everything out of his saloon, but he estimates his loss in breakage of glassware and spilling of liquors at about one hundred dollars.

Although the Wabash fire brigade arrived too late to be of much service at the fire, it would have come in good play had any of the neighboring buildings caught.

John Shilts, Ed Murphy, Newt Van Camp and Shirley Walter watched the dying embers of the Old American House on Thursday evening, to preclude any chance of the fire catching from them.

The door at the foot of the outside entrance to the cellar under the grocery was not burned. That part of the building being town away, and water constantly thrown on, kept the fire from burning it.

Alvin Leffel was struck in the back of the head with a bucket which fell from the top of the Lutz grocery. He was stooping down when it fell, the rim hitting him and cutting a severe gash in his scalp.

A spark from the fire alighted in among the robes and straw of a sleigh hitched in front of Jenning's grocery. It was discovered after it began to send up smoke, and was put out before much damage was done.

Mr. W. McLean, loss adjuster of the Springfield Insurance Company, was in the city Tuesday, settling the losses of those insured in that company, occasioned by the fire. He paid the policy of Mr. Flanagan on the building in full giving him a check for $1000.

The Warsaw fire department was telephoned for but message reached the proper authorities too late for them to come on the morning train from the north. They answered and said they would have come had the dispatch been received in time for the train.

Cinders and burnt shingles were scattered all over the south-west part of town and were picked up in D. Strauss' yard, fully a half a mile from where the fire was. If this had occurred in dry weather the whole south-west part of town would have been destroyed.

The credit for work at the fire does not belong to the men alone. The ladies of this city come in for a good share of the praise, for the excellent service they rendered on that occasion. They assisted very much in removing goods out of the reach of the flames, and also in carrying water.

A lot of boys tho't the fire excused the act, and tapped some of Flanagan's rock and rye bottles, that were removed from the saloon and set in the old barn, on the north part of the lot. Fortunately for the boys, perhaps, they were discovered and choked off before they got enough to get them "full."

Ora Gladden had his face burned by the heat. He took his station on the to of the brick block at the east end of the burning house, and held it all the time the flames were in progress, throwing water off over the side of the building. At one time he slipped on the tin roof and came near falling into the fire.

J.M Cook and Lew McFann were hurt in the fall of the shed roof  behind the grocery. In the fall Cook caught one of his legs in the ladder and sprained it. McFann also had one of his legs slightly sprained, and the finger on his right hand badly bruised. These injuries did not however stop them from working until the fire was under control.

Just what the proper authorities will get for protection against fire has not been determined. This is a question that should be well weighted and the pros and cons discussed before settling on any definite scheme. It is a matter that should not be rushed into blindly, nor do we believe it will be, and something purchased that may prove inadequate is not what we want.

Had this fire broken out in the summer time, when everything was dry, or even during the night, this place would have been the scene of a large conflagration. Nothing could have saved Lutz's corner, and the other frame buildings adjacent to it, every circumstance being the same as it was on the morning of the fire. Many other houses also might have been consumed in the grasping flames. It was very fortunate indeed that the fire occurred at the time and under the conditions that it did.