The most destructive fire that has ever occurred in Brattleboro, took place this afternoon. At about two o'clock P. M. the cry of fire was raised, and hardly had our citizens rushed into the streets to answer call, when the roof of the Vermont House was seen to be on fire for nearly the whole of its length.
The firemen and citizens generally rushed to the scene of the disaster, and the Fire companies of this village and West Brattleboro had their engines on the ground and ready for operation in the briefest possible time.
But it was soon found that no supply of water at all adequate to the emergency could be had, and while the fire companies and a small portion of the crowd did what they could to check the progress of the flames, the attention of the multitude was chiefly directed to saving the contents of the Vermont House and of those buildings so intimately connected with it, that its destruction would also ensure their ruin.
All hope of saving the Hotel seemed to be at once abandoned, and while the devouring flames were steadily making their way through the devoted building, our citizens were engaged in carrying from the House its furniture and fixtures, and in emptying of their contents the dwelling house of Mr Asahel Clapp immediately North of and connected with the Vermont House, and the store of Messrs Townsley & Son, immediately South of and also united with the burning building. By the most active and energetic exertions all the movables in the buildings except those which were very bulky were removed.
It was thought possible at first to save the store of Messrs. Townsley & Son, notwithstanding its immediate contiguity to the Vt. House, and we now think the fate of that building might have been averted if suitable means had been used. A very heavy solid wall of brick intervened between the two buildings, and afforded a protection which, if well aided by water, might have proved effectual.
But the water was not to be had, or rather was not had, though it was but a few rods to the river, and hundreds of able bodied men, who might have formed two or three double columns to and from the water, stood calmly and looked on, whether ignorant what to do or too lazy to do it, we know not.
In less than an hour from the commencement of the fire, the walls of the Vermont House began to fall, and the heat from the mass of burning matter was so intense that the store yielded to the fury of the fire. Immense volumes of flame were soon pouring from every door and window, the dry wood-work of the interior burning like so much tinder.
At the same time the fire was extending Northwardly to the house of Mr. Clapp, and Eastwardly to the barns and out-buildings of the Vt. House, which were soon enveloped in flames. All efforts were now needed to prevent the spread of the fire to Williston's Stone Block at the South, and the Bank and Congregational Church at the North, all of which were in imminent danger.
The store of Messrs. Fisher & Haven, in the Stone Block, was emptied of its contents. The wood work of that building caught fire once or twice, but was extinguished without difficulty. When the Townsley store fell, water was applied as liberally as possible and the progress of the fire in that direction was checked. In the meanwhile the fire was intensely hot at the North end of the Vermont House, and in the dwelling house of Mr Clapp. The roof of the Bank was covered with carpeting torn from the floor of the hotel, which was kept well soaked with water.
The engines were also brought to play upon the Church which by this time was scorched almost from sill to steeple-top, and in momentary danger of bursting into flames. Ten or fifteen minutes drenching of the church accompanied by an active pouring of water on the ruins of Mr Clapp's house, prevented any farther progress of the fire, and by half past four the flames were checked, so that fears of a greater calamity were allayed.
The buildings burned were the Vermont House, a splendid structure of brick and wood, three stories high, built and furnished with new and costly furniture in 1850; the store of Messrs Townsley & Son, also of brick, and three stories high, built about five years ago, and Mr Clapp's house, a wooden building two stories high and rather old.
The Vermont House and out-buildings cost Capt. Lord $25,000; the store was worth between $4,000 and $5,000; and the house not far from $2,000, so that the whole damage to buildings cannot fall short of $30,000 and perhaps exceeds that. The Vermont House and the store were well insured---the precise amount we do not know---Mr Clapps house was lightly insured. The damage to goods, furniture, &c., by removal is great but how much cannot now be estimated.
The streets, stores, houses, and offices in the vicinity of the fire are full of the property which was hurriedly deposited in the most convenient place. The river bank is also loaded with goods which were thrown down in a confused heap. Quite as much to be deplored as the destruction of property is the injury to the business of the village.---The Vermont House will probably never be rebuilt, and though the enterprise of Messrs. Townsley & Son, will soon rise superior to this misfortune, their large business must necessarily suffer greatly. The origin of the fire is unaccountable.
As we write the Aurora is streaming brilliantly above the ruins, like hope hovering over the couch of despair. We accept it as an omen of a speedy restoration of that part of our village to its former beauty.
This is a reprinting of the Extra for the Semi-Weekly Eagle which was released on Thursday Evening---the night immediately following the fire---Monday, February 19, 1852.
The full account of this calamity in our Extra of Thursday evening, republished today, leaves but little for us to add by way of details. Although the destruction of so large an amount of property is a calamity greatly to be deplored, there are not a few things to alleviate the severity of the blow. Nearly if not quite all the actual loss upon the Vermont House, and the store of Messrs Townsley will fall upon the Insurance Companies, and the loss is divided among so many that it will not fall oppressively on any.
The whole amount of insurance on the Vermont House, its out-buildings and contents was $15,300---as follows, $3,000 on the buildings, in the N. W. Insurance Company, Oswego, N. Y., $4,000 in the People's Mutual, Worcester, Mass., $2,000 in the Mercantile Union, Concord, N. H., and $1,300 in the N. E. Mutual, Concord, N. H.---$1,000 on the furniture in the North Western Insurance Co.; $2,000 in the Union Mutual, Johnstown, N. Y., $1,000 in the Windham County Mutual, and $500 in the AEtna.---$500 on the contents of the barns in the AEtna. The store was insured for $3,300, and the back store and other connected buildings for $700 in the AEtna, and the goods for $5,000 more in the Vt. Mutual.
Mr Clapp's house was insured for only $1,000 in the Vt. Mutual, and he had no insurance on his furniture.---The injury to goods and furniture is more from breakage and other damage in the hurried removal than from fire. How much that injury is cannot be well ascertained, but it is certainly quite large. Much of the property was removed to so short a distance that it was much damaged by the heat, and some goods were wholly destroyed by fire after removal from the building.
There are reasons not a few for gratitude to Providence for the favorable circumstances under which the fire took place. It was at mid-day, when the village was thronged with citizens of this and the neighboring towns. Not a breath of air was stirring to augment the fury of the flames. Had the fire occurred in the night, or had there been as much wind as there was the afternoon preceding, the destruction would have been immense.
We regret however that there were not a hundred or two more women on the ground. If there had been, and they all possessed the same spirit with those who were present, we should not have seen the Townsley store crumble to the ground. They worked with a zeal and alacrity which ought to put to the blush though it did not, the crowd of stout broad-shouldered men who gazed idly on the fire, with their hands in their pockets, while women were pumping and carrying water, and removing goods and furniture from the approaching flames.
After the fire wardens had long endeavored but in vain to form a double column of men to the river, the women volunteered, and promptly filled the wide gap which men could not be found to occupy. The fire companies of this village and West Brattleboro and the Hook and Ladder Co. did all that was in their power. It will not be bad policy however to have a thorough re-organization of the fire department, and more copious supply of water secured before the next fire occurs.
It is now supposed that the fire originated from a chimney at the South end of the East side of the roof. This chimney burned out, about 10 o'clock A. M., and it is probable that fire was in some way conveyed between the roof and the chambers under it, and the plastering prevented it from making its appearance till it had spread through almost the entire length of the space in which it first took.
No injury occurred to any one, with the exception of some slight scratches or flesh wounds, received in the hasty handling of heavy goods.
Front And Back Sides
This heavy wooden sign, with its fire-blistered gray paint still intact, remained for long years in the attic of the Rev. Lewis Grout house on Western Avenue, owned by the Stockwell family. Later housed in the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, it was quietly removed by the so-called "Brattleboro Historical Society", where it was vandalized by being used as a target in an improvised game.
The Proprietor of the Vermont House, kept by Capt. Lord, has recently erected in connection with that establishment, a spacious Hall, which has received the sobriquet of Wantastiquet Hall. Wantastiquet is we believe, the Indian name of the place where our village now stands; and we are glad to see it preserved.
The Hall was opened on the evening of the 1st instant by a Cotilion Party, and was most merrily christened and consecrated to joyous and happy gatherings, by music and the witching dance.
The Hall is 68 feet long and 30 wide, and is well finished, warmed and ventilated, and will we doubt not furnish a point of attraction to many a party of pleasure, both from in and out of our own town.
We understand too, that it is to be well provided with moveable seats, and opened for lectures and other public meetings. Our village has long needed a more spacious and airy room for such purposes than either of our present Halls, and its convenience will be highly appreciated by all.
The undersigned take this opportunity of expressing their gratification at the promptness manifested by the North Western Fire Ins. Co., last week, in paying an insurance of $4,000 which was effected in that Company in Sept. last on the Tavern House belonging to the Estate of T. C. Lord. They deem it a pleasure on their part, as well as an act of justice to the Company, that they commend it to those wishing insurance, as an honorable and prompt Comapny in adjusting their losses and in every respect worthy of patronage.
Calvin Townsley, }
Chas. Chapin, } Admrs.
Brattleboro, March 17, 1852.
Thomas Chandler Lord was born on November 24, 1805 in Athol, Massachusetts, to Thomas Lord, Jr. and Dezier (Desire) Ward. Thomas, Jr. was a tavern keeper in Athol who, in 1811, swapped with Zachariah Field for his farm in Northfield. He lived and died on Northfield Street.
Capt. Thomas C. Lord was also a noted tavern keeper. The opening of the railroad created a hotel boom in Brattleboro, and Lord was positioned well to profit from it, with land along the Vernon Road, and property out the old road to Newfane near the Asylum, as well as the considerable land on the east side of Main Street, purchased from Calvin Townsley.
The former Olive Sherwood of Waterloo, New York, was Capt. Lord's wife. Thomas Chandler Lord died on Thursday morning August 21, 1851, with his advertisement in the Semi-Weekly Eagle for the opening of the Vermont House still in mid-course.
There is a stone with this inscription in the Old Cemetery at Northfield---
Thomas C. Lord
born Nov 25 1805
died Aug 21 1851
He is not dead but sleepeth.