Monday, April 18, 2016

Stove Works Fire – April 1907

Although last Friday’s post was about happy memories of the American Stove Company in Lorain, the first two posts of this week will dwell on unhappy events: the fire that gutted the Lorain plant in April 1907, and the plant's ultimate closing in 1954 (which I will get into on Tuesday).

(These posts are in the interest of being thorough, as my recent three-part series on the Stove Works did not mention the 1907 fire, nor offer any details on the 1954 plant closing.)

The Tuesday, April 30, 1907 front page of the Lorain Daily News (above) tells the whole sad story of the fire.

The front page noted that the stove works was one of the oldest industries in Lorain, having begun operations in February 1895 with only twenty-five employees. At the time of the fire, that number had grown to 300.

The fire started in a store room in the back of the tin shop and was discovered by a night watchman. As reported, “When the watchman discovered the blaze it was of insignificant dimensions.”

But various factors resulted in the flames becoming out of control, including a delay in the arrival of the fire department (due to a collision of one of the hose wagons with a trolley) and the numerous gasoline tanks distributed throughout the building.

One article stated, "The fire occurred at the worst possible time of the year. The plant was stocked to the roof and was in the midst of the busy season.

“Beyond the loss on buildings and material the company loses the balance of its business season and may not be able to turn out elsewhere the orders now on the books at the local plant or those finished but destroyed in the fire last night.”

Fortunately, there was an air of optimism about the future of the stove works. Plant manager Thomas Rath noted “that in all probability the company will begin the work of reconstruction as soon as the insurance has been adjusted."

Mr. Rath also felt that rebuilding would begin as soon as possible. He noted, “This is one of the most important plants of the company now and it is safe to say that it will not be abandoned.”

Also on the front page of the above newspaper: the announcement that the proposed new high school would be built in the south end of the city on one of two Kent Street (now Twentieth Street) locations (which as we all know did not happen).

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