Major Fires

Shinglehouse. Pa., Potter Co.

Submitted by PHGS Member Mike Henderson

Oswayo Valley Mail, Shinglehouse, PA, Potter County, June 28, 1956.
Major Fires That Changed Picture in Business Section

While fires are not the best approach to the history of the business section of a town, they do supply vital information as to who owned and occupied the various places at the time of the fires.

The first major fire to visit Shingle House came on Thursday morning, April 2, 1903, and wiped out a row of ten business places on Honeoye street at the Oswayo street intersection.

According to a report in The Oswayo Valley Mail of the same date, published as a extra from the Breeze office in Bolivar, the fire started after midnight in the poolroom of Ernest Eicher following a poker game.

A scuffle resulted at the end of the game and it is believed that gas pipe connections were loosened and the fire resulted. The loss was estimated at $30,000.

Buildings standing on Honeoye street and destroyed at the time were as follows:

On the bank of the Oswayo creek, Hotel Atherton livery barn was saved by a bucket brigade.

Hotel Atherton, two stories and basement valued at $3500. Portion of furniture and liquor
stock saved. Owned by W. W. Atherton who purchased from Rance Munger about nine months previous.

Ernest Eicher's poolroom where fire started, owned by Dodge & Cole. Second floor occupied by John Hixenbaugh. Total loss $2,000.

One story structure owned by John Cole and occupied by Mrs. Lucy Carpenter as a millinery store. Total loss $1,300.

Next building was also owned by John Cole and occupied as a dwelling by Frank Thomas. Loss $800.

Large dwelling owned by George W. Dodge, formerly the Central House. First floor occupied by Harry Merrick and second by Charles Ferguson. Loss $2,000.

Large general store building owned by Dana Drake and operated by L. C. Kinner. Loss $12,000.

Two story building owned by C. A. Harrick. First floor used as a drug store by Fred Rhodes and second floor housed The Oswayo Valley Mail. Total loss $3,700.

Dan Fox Restaurant, owned by John McNamire. Fixtures saved. Loss $200.

Two story clothing store owned and operated by Abe Soloman. Total loss $7,500.

Two story structure owned by Charles Warner. Housed cigar factory and pool room of Charles Parmenter. T. F. Pierce lived alone in the basement. Loss $1,500.

Interesting comments on the fire taken from the Fire Extra of The Mail include the following Notes:

The fire was discovered by the coughing of the children of Mrs. Hixenbaugh when smoke from the poolroom seeped up through the floor.

There was no fire protection except the Oswayo Creek and the Town Pump located in the triangle at the junction of Honeoye and Oswayo streets.

The old wooden buildings burned like straw and all ten were a smoldering mass in less than two hours.

The Nichols & MacGregor store (present Red & White store) caught fire from the intense heat but was saved by a bucket brigade.

Two months previous Shingle House had voted in favor of a water works but, because of the time of the year, work had not even commenced on the project.

"Main" Street moves to Oswayo.


Fire which started on the second floor of the W. A. Nichols store building on Oswayo street at 7:30 o'clock Tuesday evening, March 30, 1909 in one hour wiped out four buildings, entailing a loss of about $23,000.

The buildings were the W. A. Nichols & Son block, the C. C. VanDeBoe building, the G. C. Hawley residence and the E. T. McDowell building.

The first floor of the Nichols block was occupied by the W. A. Nichols & Son general store, the M. A. Presher meat market, and the R. C. Baker barber ship. The second floor was divided into three sets of living rooms, one occupied by B. F. Nichols sand wife, one by Mrs. Dell Humphrey, the other by Mrs. Carrie Atkins.

The VanDeBoe building, one story was occupied by Miss Mabel Humphrey's news room.

The Hawley residence was occupied by two families, G. C. Hawley, the owner, and David Rounds and family.

The McDowell building one story, was occupied by C. A. Herrick's newspaper and printing Plant.

The losses are as follows: W. A. Nichols & Son building $5,000, stock of merchandise, $10,000. B. F. Nichols, household goods, $1,000. Mrs. Dell Humphrey, household goods, $500. Mrs. Carrie Atkins, household goods, $400. M. A. Presher, meat market, $200. R. C. Baker, barber tools, $25. C. C. VanDeBoe, building, $900. Mabel Humphrey, stock, $50. G. C. Hawley, dwelling $2,500, household goods $150. E. T. McDowell building, $800. C. A. Herrick, printing plant, $2,000. E. T. McDowell store across the street damage to front, $150.

The fire is believed to have started in the living rooms occupied by Mrs. Humphrey, likely from a gas jet. It was a cloth and papered building on the second floor and once the fire started it spread with great rapidity. Mrs. Humphrey was not in her rooms when the fire started and Mr. and Mrs. Nichols were obliged to hurry to the front porch and reach the ground on a ladder.

The pressure on the water lines was so weak when the fire started that the hose company could do nothing. There was a gate valve closed somewhere. Word was sent to the Palmer Window Glass factory and their pumps turned on.

As soon as the pressure arrived the firemen did splendid work, saving the Commercial Hotel, just west of the VanDeBoe building, the Dodge barn, and prevented the fire from crossing the street. Had the pressure been normal when the fire started it would have been held in the Nichols & Son block.

The fire burning so swiftly made it impossible to save scarcely anything from the wooden building. Nichols & Son saved few hundred dollars worth of goods; M. A. Presher saved some of his market stock and tools; R. C. Baker saved most of his barber tools; Miss Mabel Humphrey saved most of her news room stock; G. C. Hawley saved most of his household goods; David Rounds saved all his household goods; C. A. Herrick saved his office desk, the newspaper forms, mailing list and files. Nothing was saved from the three suites of living rooms on the second floor.

The mud was five inches deep on Oswayo street and it was no fun working as a fireman.

It is just seven years ago tonight that the big fire wiped out the long row of wooden buildings on Honeoye street, entailing a heavy loss. Twice in seven years is enough for this newspaper to be burned out.


The Fritz building was discovered on fire at about half past two o'clock this Wednesday morning, January 5, 1910, and the alarm sounded, but the strong wind that was blowing gave the fire such a start that that building and the W. W. Martin drug store, which was within three feet of it, were burned to the ground within an hour.

The hose company boys who were early on the scene did good work in confining the fire to the building. The wind was from the rear end of the Hawks and Hyde livery barns and away from the buildings across the street.

The stores of G. W. Lyon and Fred Gibson got pretty well warmed up, but didn't catch fire.

Some of the household goods and stock in the Martin building were carried out. Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Fritz had just moved into the living rooms over the bakery, and just had time to get out Themselves.

Mr. Fritz's loss was about $3,000 with some insurance on the building, but none on his household goods, or stock.


Shinglehouse was again visited by fire early Monday morning, March 5, 1910, when the Arlington Hotel was damaged to the extent of about $25,000. At fifteen minutes past one o'clock the citizens of this Boro were aroused by the whistle of the window glass and heading factories and the WN&P locomotive blowing the alarm of fire. It took only a few minutes to locate the fire as it was blazing up through the roof of the big Arlington hotel, the tallest building in Town.

The hose cart from the Elk Flint Bottle Company's factory and the hose from the window glass factory were all brought into action soon after the alarm was sounded. But the fire had gained considerable headway and the fire streams that played on the burning structure seemed to have little effect at first, but the boys who handled the hose, began to get the upper hand and at about 2:30 a. m. they had the fire under control. They did well to keep the fire from spreading to adjoining buildings. The thunder storm of the evening before helped wonderfully in keeping the roofs of other buildings from catching fire. It was a most difficult fire to fight as it had such a wide surface.

There were 30 boarders in the hotel an the landlord, J. H. Whitton, and family and the hired help all made their escape from the building without accident, although some of them were quite thinly clad. The fire started in the attic, and its origin is a mystery. It was discovered by a young man named Joy who was in the street.

Landlord Whitton purchased this property five and a half years ago and has conducted it ever since.

It was a well built building and one of the largest in town. The fire and water damaged the structure and contents to the amount of about $25,000 so the owner told a Mail reporter Monday. There was an insurance of $19,400 on the property, the Mandeville agency of Olean carrying the largest part of it.

To rebuild the hotel at once is the intention of Landlord Whitton. The barbershop of Ken Trask, located on the north side of the hotel was slightly damaged.

AN $85,000 FIRE

The largest and most disastrous fire that ever visited Shinglehouse since the writer came here in 1901, was that of yesterday morning, March 2, 1926, when the Dodge Hardware Company's big store and the First National Bank block were totally destroyed by fire, entailing a loss around $85,000. Four families are homeless and without household goods.

The fire was discovered by Mrs. William Evans, who was taking care of Mrs. Frank Freeborn, who was ill and who lives just across from the Dodge store where the fire originated.

The fire was first seen about 1:00 o'clock in the back end of the Dodge store and before the alarm could be given and the volunteer fire fighters get on the ground with their three lines of hose connected up, the store building was a mass of flames and burning like tinder.

The store was of wooden construction and with an immense stock of paints, oils and varnishes, it went up in smoke like a tank of crude oil.

The fire fighters very quickly saw that there was no use trying to put the fire out, and not being able to get close to the building on account of the intense heat they turned their attention to the Keir dwelling east of the Dodge store and also the Model Bakery and the Babcock grocery store on the opposite side of the street, all three of which were either on fire or ready for the flames to break out.

About this time the brick bank building which stood within two feet of the Dodge building on the west caught on fire at the rear and on the roof and soon ate its way into the building.

In the mean time Olean, Bolivar and Richburg were called to rush their fire engines to the scene and Bolivar and Richburg were on the scene with their engines within a short time and a few minutes after two o'clock had three streams of water on the bank building and the Keir building, and thus the banking rooms on the first floor of the bank building were saved although badly soaked with water.

The entire upper story was burned away and Reed & Gross hardware and the K. E. Newton drug store on the ground floor were destroyed. The front part of the Keir building was saved but the back party, where Mrs. Susie Keir and daughter, Miss Lulu, lived, was a total wreck and most of the goods destroyed.

There was not much wind stirring during the fire or nothing could have saved a dozen other buildings on the street from being destroyed.

Although Shinglehouse has no regular organized hose company, it has a bunch of real fire fighteers and no mistake -- they never give up fighting no matter how big or how hot a fire they are up against.

The Dodge Hardware Company's building was 50x70 feet in size, two stories with basement, and a large store house at the rear, filled with the best assortment of hardware in the county and one of the oldest establishments in the boro. Their loss was about $30,000 with an insurance of $10,000.

On the second floor was the Masonic lodge and club rooms and their furnishings, records and regalia were all destroyed, entailing a loss of $1,000 which was fully insured.

In the Bank Block was the Reed & Gross hardware store, whose loss was around $8,000, partially covered by insurance. The K. E. Newton drug store loss on stock, fixtures, furnishings and a fine library was about $8,000, which was partially insured. The Bank's loss on their building by water and smoke will be around $30,000, which was partially covered by insurance.

On the second floor of the Bank building three families resided, and also the law and real estate offices of C. C. VanDeBoe. Very little was saved from any of them.

John Conner's loss was $1,400 with $250 insurance. Mrs. Fendora Terwilliger and daughter, Miss Mollie, suffered a loss of about $2,000 with an insurance of only $600. Roy Lunn and family's loss on household goods was around $1000 with not a cent of insurance. VanDeBoe's loss on his furniture and fixtures, law library, etc., was around $3,500 and was partially insured.

The loss on Mrs. Keir's building and goods was around $3,000, with a small insurance policy in the Grange.

The Model Bakery, the Babcock grocery and the R. J. Clark buildings had their glass fronts broken and the paint badly scorched on the front of the structures.

The small shoe repair shop of Alex McClure was also destroyed entailing a loss of $200 to $300.

Oswayo Street Scene of Disater in March 1909
Lack of Water Pressure Runs Loss High in East Oswayo Street Early Evening Fire

Academy Street Blaze Destroys Two Business Places

Fritz Bakery and W. W. Martin Drug Store Destroyed By Early Morning Fire, January 5, 1910

Bank Block Scene of Most Disasterous Fire in 1926

The morning after -- Dodge Hardware building is gone and the Bank block a mass of ruins in a few short hours.
Photo by Dr. R. W. Richards

Arlington Hotel Fire of March 5, 1910

Fire Starting in Attic of Arlington Hotel Burns Top off Top Floor of Huge Structure

"History of Potter County, Pennsylvania," by Victor L. Beebe, 1934, page 259

There was a big fire at Shinglehouse on March 2, 1926. The following were the principal losses: First National Bank and living rooms overhead, Dodge hardware, Reed and Gross hardware, Mrs. Susie Keir, Kate Newton's drug store, McClure's shoe shop; about $120,000 in all. Shinglehouse had then no fire department. Help was called from Bolivar, Richburg, and Olean, arriving in half an hour. Without this aid, the whole town would have burned. All the buildings destroyed were of wood, except the bank.

"History of Potter County, Pennsylvania," by Victor L. Beebe, 1934, page 35

A $20,000 fire occurred at Shinglehouse in March, 1909. Five buildings were burned, including the store building of C. P. Van De Boe, a news stand, barber shop, meat market, the general store of W. A. Nichols & Son, the printing office of the Oswayo Valley Mail, and one dwelling. Two stores burned in January, 1910. In March, 1910, the Arlington Hotel was badly damaged by fire.

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