The Great Bellows Falls Fire – Bellows Falls, Vermont – March 26, 1912

Vermont Phoenix, 29 Mar 1912, Fri, Page 12
Vermont Phoenix, 29 Mar 1912, Fri,  Page 12

WHAT: City/Building Fire
WHEN: March 26, 1912
WHERE: Bellows Falls, Vermont
FATALITIES: Zero dead – three building and numerous businesses were destroyed

VT, Bellows

What proved to be the most disastrous fire as far as loss of property was concerned, that ever visited Bellows Falls, broke out Tuesday morning at 2 o’clock, and before It was extinguished, a loss of probably $150,000 to $200,000 was caused in three of the best business buildings in the village.

VT, Bellowss

Report From the Vermont Phoenix, 29 Mar 1912:

The fire started in Union hall. This building and the other two which were burned are located on the east side of the square. The fire department were on hand early, but the thermometer being about 10 degrees below zero, they met with several hindrances in getting water. The fire started in the large hall and the entire Interior was a seething mass of flames before the water reached it. From this point It spread both, ways, passing over the top of the firewalls both north and south, On the north was the “Arms block” erected by the late Otis Arms about 1886, a three story, brick building. On the south was the valuable four story Hotel Windham building. Union building, in which the fire started, was practically destroyed, although If rebuilt In the same Shape as before, some portion of the north part might be utilized. The upper stories of both the Arms building and Hotel Windham were destroyed, and many thousand tons of water was poured down through both buildings.
The progress of the fire had been stopped about 5 o’clock, and danger of its further spread was delayed, but the department continued to play five or six streams upon the ruins until late In the afternoon.

The firms burned out, beginning at the north end are as follows: Webster & Co. photographic gallery In the third story of the Arms building lost everything. In the second story, the occupants, C. L. Fletcher, tailors; H. C. Elliott, Insurance; and Dr. J. S. Hill, were badly damaged by water, as were the mercantile firms of Mason Brothers, pianos; J. B, Bronson, sewing machines; M. L. Holmes & Co.. ladles’ furnishings, and In the basement the Truax Printing company and the B & P express office. In Union building, Bodine & Co., plumbing; and Fuller’s drug store were not reached by the fire, but the stocks were seriously damaged, while the dry goods stores of D. F. Pollard and J. C. Day & Co.. and the boot and shoe store of Hatch & Bellows were entirely destroyed, and the debris lies In the basement. every floor of that section of the building having gone down, in me second story, besides Union hall, which was used as a public hall and as a drill hall for Company E, were the dental offices of Dr. O. M. George and the law office of A, I. Bolles. and a number of rooms in the rear which were occupied for storage. The third story of Union building, aside from the part In which union nan ex tended, was used for armory purposes by Company E. V. N. G. From the second and third stories of this building, nothing was removed. The floor of the third story Ml to the second, but not below. The fire communicated over the wall to the roof of Hotel Windham, which was one-story higher than Union building and extended the whole length of Hotel Windham and destroyed the roof and fourth floor. The furnishings of the fourth story were entirely destroyed while the stories below were damaged by a deluge of water poured over them. The hotel was full of guests, practically every room being occupied, but all escaped. The north store In this building was that of Hodgdon & Shaw, and the fire reached down Into that, and with the fire and smoke entirely destroyed the stork. The next store south, Richardson Brothers, was entirely flooded with water, but no effort was made to remove the stock. In the next store, the Jewelry store of Collins & Floyd, the entire stock was removed to the store of J. J. Fenton &Co., with a very slight loss, which was renumerated for liberally, because of the excellent care given, when the adjusters arrived yesterday. Next south was the dining room of Hotel Windham, and then the office and reading room on the corner, none of which were reached by the fire, but damage is principally by water.
The property was as a whole well covered by Insurance, and the adjusters are making good head way In settling with the claimants. Only the best and most hopeful feeling exists, there being many features in connection with It that will tend to the probable improvement of Bellows Falls In the end, although at the present It seems very disastrous. The origin is very mysterious.
The fire evidently started under the stage in Union Hall. Company E had occupied the hall the evening before until a late hour in drilling, some members staying until nearly midnight. It is possible it originated from a cigar stub or lighted match left to smoulder, but the actual fact will never be known.
The same ground covered by the buildings involved In this fire was burned over March 14, 1860, and a second time July 28, 1868. The buildings at both times were small wooden buildings and the loss was not serious, although large for those years. If we remember rightly., the white man’s burden wasn’t a load of money.
In the early morning on a freezing cold Tuesday morning, a fire of mysterious origin erupted underneath the stage in the large hall area of Union Hall and spread rapidly throughout the building. Within minutes flames jumped to adjacent buildings. The fire department arrived within minutes, but struggled to fight the flames in the 10 degree below zero weather.
The flames tore through several businesses before arriving at the Hotel Windham, where it destroyed the upper floors of the opulent hotel. There were no casualties but three buildings, numerous businesses and the hotel were damaged or totaled.