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Tuesday Evening edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
5 May 1885

"Glass House" Catastrophe

HEADLINE is as follows:

THE FIRE.  This Morning's Calamity in State Street.  A Complete Man Trap.  
Many Lives Lost, but the Number of Fatalities Still Unknown - 
The Disaster Caused by the Bulging of a Wall - Work of the Firemen.  
At The Smoldering Ruins.  The Flames Break Out Again - 
What the Authorities Say About the Catastrophe - 
The Death Roll as Far as Ascertained - The Losses and Insurances.

Some Of The Scenes and Incidents:
At twenty minutes past nine this morning an alarm was sent out to Fire 
Headquarters for the South Ferry station.  Within half an hour after there 
were four alarms and two special calls, which hurried eighteen fire companies 
to the scene of a disaster, the extent of which will probably not be known 
for some days.  Fronting 200 feet on State Street is a building known as the 
"State Street Machine Shop," but it is in fact only a portion of a series of 
irregular but connected buildings which occupy most of the space of the 
interior of the block bounded by Atlantic Avenue and State Street and Hicks 
and Columbia Streets.  The principal entrance to these buildings is on 
Atlantic Avenue.  It is a gateway which passes beneath a two story frame 
building.  The left portion on the ground floor is occupied by Mr. George L. 
ABBOTT, the agent of the owner of the property destroyed.  The annexed 
diagram, which is a facsimile of the one in Mr. ABBOTT'S office, gives an 
idea of the location and size of the structures which are now in ruins:

Mr. ABBOTT, the agent, was at first declined to talk about the occurrence, 
and refused to state the name of the owner until he was impressed with the 
fact that it would have to be divulged.  Fire Marshall THORNE informed him 
that the best course he could pursue was to give the reporters all the facts 
that he could.  He thereupon stated to the Eagle man that the buildings were 
owned by Mr. Nathan CUSHING, at Boston, who has been telegraphed and is on 
his way to the city.  All of them were furnished with steam power, and 
according to Mr. ABBOTT, Mr. CUSHING'S insurance on the buildings and 
machinery is about $70,000.  

This is the third time that a fire has occurred on these premises.  The 
buildings stand upon the site of the old glass house, which was burned down 
some years ago.

The following is a lit of the missing, so far as could be ascertained up to a 
late hour this afternoon:

Daniel LOUGHERY, aged 42.  He was the engineer of the building and lived in 
it with his wife, Mary and one child aged 6 years.  The wife and child were 
not in the building at the time of the crash, but LOUGHERY was.  His remains 
were subsequently discovered beneath the debris.  He had held his position 6 

Edward BUTLER, aged 25 of State Street.  He was employed on the third floor 
and is believed to have fallen through and to have been killed.  His brother 
Daniel, was at the fire making inquires about him, but nothing could be 
ascertained concerning him.

Edward LANGTRY, aged 42, employed by William Durst, metal skinner on the 
fifth floor, believed to be in the ruins.

John MITZ, aged 26, residence not known, reported missing.
Henry DURST, aged 55 of 31 Marion Street, New York.  
Adolph MARTIN, aged 25, married one child.
Fred EGGLER, aged 22, WIlliamsburgh, worked for Mr. HINE.
John McGRATH, aged 15, residence unknown.

Among the INJURED are the following:

Bernard STORK, fireman, No. 4 Engine Company, severely injured about the head 
by falling bricks and removed to Long Island College Hospital.  His injuries 
are not necessarily fatal.

Michael F. GROGAN, fireman, 4 Engine Company, burned about the face, hands 
and body.  Removed to Long Island College Hospital.  Injuries are not of a 
serious character.

Patrick DOUGHERTY, fireman, Hook and Ladder Company No. 3, severe internal 
injuries, received by being caught under a piece of timber.  Doubts of his 
recovery are entertained.

Henrietta HAAS, aged 58, of 55 Atlantic Avenue, severely bruised about the 
body.  She was caught under some falling bricks, and would doubtless have 
been killed had not Dr. PALMER, of the Health Department, together with 
fireman DUFF, rescued her.

Mary MOORE, residence unknown, slight injuries.

Samuel DUFF, fireman of No. 8 Engine Company, bruised about the body; 
injuries not serious.

James FAY, fireman, severely burned.  His hair, eyebrows and mustache were 
taken entirely off.  Removed to the Long Island College Hospital, where 
doubts of recovery are entertained.

Emma HAAS, daughter of Henrietta HAAS, of 55 Atlantic Avenue, left arm 
injured.  She could easily have escaped, but went back to get a bird and was 
caught beneath a piece of timber.  Removed with her mother to the Long Island 
College Hospital.

Mary WATTS, aged 18 of Union Hill, NJ, worked for Milo HINE, left leg badly burned.

James PAFF, worked for H.L. JUDD.

Rose PARTRIDGE, employed in the button factory.

It is impossible at the time of writing to estimate the number of people who 
are under the ruins.  The general impression is that there are about twenty, 
but in all probability there are more.  At one o'clock, Firemen RUDDY and FAY 
were taken out, and the firemen were searching for more bodies.

On the East side of the gateway entrance is a row of flats running from 57 to 
63 Atlantic Street.  They are owned by Mr. LINDENBERG, and are mostly damaged 
in the rear, where the wings from the main building on State Street almost 
connected with them.  Building No. 5 on the diagram is where the accident 
occurred through some mismanagement of the jacks, as it is alleged, but the 
careful investigation which will be made in the case will probably elicit 
some clearer information on the subject.  

HENRY L. JUDD & CO., window shade roller manufacturers, had the whole of the 
top or fifth floor.  They also occupied floors in the main building which 
fronted on State Street.  They alone employed about three hundred hands.  The 
fourth floor was occupied by C.W. BUTLER & CO., tin dealers, who had 
one-half, and BENJAMIN MOORE & CO., calsom finish makers, who had the other 
half.  WILLIAM DURST, metal spinner, had half of the second floor, the other 
portion was not occupied.  GEORGE YOUNG had half of the first floor as a 
machine shop, and WILLIAM DANIELS, a machinist, the other half.  Those were 
all the occupants of the building where the calamity occurred.  Those who 
rented space in the other portions, according to the statement given to the 
Eagle reporter by Mr. George L. ABBOTT, the agent, are:
Thurber, Whyland & Co., scouring soap.
Charles Schwitter, watch cases.
J.U. Gerow, pencil cases.
The Columbia Rubber Works.
George Whittaker & Co.
Roy & Co., watch cases.
Frank Whitner.
Howard and Mohl, gold refiners.
C. W. Butler & Co., tinsmiths.
William Durst, metal spinner.
Baker & Monroe, machinists.
P.H. McGann, oleo margarine (not occupied).
Albert Hinrichs, metal specialties.
Elliott & Ludlam, rod trimmings.

Despite the many wild rumors about those injured, but few person could be 
found under medical treatment.  At the Long Island College Hospital the 
reporter ascertained the following facts:

Mrs. HAAS, a German woman sixty years of age and somewhat infirm, was in her 
apartments at 53 Atlantic Avenue with her daughter when without any warning 
the wall fell in on her and she was crashed through the first floor.  Here, 
after some moments she was reached by Foreman Samuel DUFF, of Engine 3, with 
some firemen and extricated.  In assisting the old lady out from the debris 
Foreman DUFF was considerably burned on the head and hands and sustained 
great risk in his efforts as the bricks and burning wood was falling all 
around him.  Mrs. HAAS was shortly after conveyed to the Long Island College 
Hospital where it was found that her collar bone was fractured, as was one of 
the bones of her right arm.  She may recover, but her age may militate 
against it and make treatment difficult.  Coroner MENNINGER was in attendance 
in case of any fatality, and believed Mrs. HAAS would recover.

Mary MOORE, a girl employed at Hinde's button factory was led by a police 
officer to the dispensary of the hospital, suffering from injuries to the 
knee.  To a reporter she said:  There were about seventeen of us working in 
the room on buttons.  I was making eyelets.  Suddenly Mamie RILEY cried out, 
"There's fire somewhere!" and pointed to black smoke coming through a little 
window at the end of the room.  We all got scared and began to shout "FIRE!"  
The flames, she continued, come first from a tenement house.  She herself was 
burned about the knee in escaping, and when the walls began to fall the girls 
rushed out.  She is confident that Mamie RILEY, Mary Ann McGRATH, Annie 
HIGGINS, Aggie DOWNS and Katie McKEON fell in the ruins.  She herself was one 
of the first out of the ruins, and saw all the others come out but those.  
After persistent questions she remained steadfast in her assertions that they 
had not escaped from the building.  She was able to walk home after surgical 
treatment, her chief injury being a burn on the knee.

Four young men walked into the Long Island College Hospital at one o'clock 
inquiring for missing friends.  One of those was Henry ROESSLES of 96 Elm 
Street, who was engaged as foreman for William DURST, the entrance to whose 
metal spinning factory was at 55 Atlantic Street.  The related the following 
experience:  "I had ten men at work and the first thing we knew of anything 
wrong was that the wall caved in on us.  There was a shout and a rush and 
everyone ran for safety.  We didn't see any fire, nor any smoke either, but 
simply hard a rumble and then down came the walls on our work.  The only way 
I could see to escape was to tear up some flooring which I did, and dropped 
through to the floor below, where I got out.  The others got down by the 
stairway, then out of windows on Columbia Place.  As soon as we got together 
we watched for each other and could only muster five men, and we were the 
first out. Those who fell in the ruins are Fred EGER, 22 years of age, 
single; Adolph MARTIS, 25 years of age, married; John McGRATH, 15 years of 
age, and Henry DURST, 55 years of age, an uncle of the proprietor of the 
works, who did laboring work about the shop.  I saw all who were in the room. 
 They were near the wall that caved in and I don't see how they could escape. 
 We have searched everywhere and can find no trace of them.  As that part of 
the floor where they were fell in directly after I got through the floor, 
they must have gone down in the ruins."  "Have you any idea how the fire or 
accident originated?" asked the reporter.  "Yes.  They were raising the 
building 55 Atlantic Avenue, and were taking out old and rotten posts and 
putting in new ones.  Last week they raised the building three inches.  One 
of the posts that they were putting in must have given way, from the location 
of the cave in, and then the fires from the tin shop, which were upset, set 
fire to the wood or stuff laying around."

LOWRY, the engineer of the building, who made periodical visits to the 
various floors, was on the third floor at the time of the crash, as nearly as 
could be learned, and ran to the roof to see what was the matter.  That was 
the last seen of him.  He lived in the building 55 Atlantic Avenue.

Fireman Michael F. ROGAN, of Engine 4 occupied a cot in the accident ward in 
the hospital with his head bandaged.  His body is much bruised and at two 
o'clock the surgeons had not made a close examination into his injuries.  He 
could not move his left leg, and believed both his arms were broken.  He was 
running through an archway when it collapsed and the brickwork and masonry 
fell on him.  His head was abraised, but not seriously.  ROGAN was able to 
converse and seem to be in good spirits.

An elderly man, without a hat on, was inquiring wildly at the two hospitals 
for James PAFF, who worked in the hardware factory of H.L. JUDD.  At the 
Third Sub Station House he was reported missing.

Rose PARTRIDGE, a girl working at Hinde's button factory is reported as 
missing.  None of the girls who escaped have seen her, and her friends have 
searched for her everywhere in vain.

Statements of Persons Who Escaped.

Milo HINE, who occupied the top floor for the manufacture of buttons, made 
this statement:  "At nine o'clock I was in my room directing the work of my 
employees of whom there were forty, mostly women.  The first we hared of the 
accident was when we heard a crash, and this was followed by part of the 
flooring giving way.  In one of the corners of my room there was a ladder 
leading to the roof and all the employees made a rush for it because they saw 
it was useless to attempt to escape in any other way.  There was a panic 
among the women for a time and two or three of them fainted, but the men 
succeeded in restoring order, and then in a single file, the employees 
climbed the ladder and gained the roof.  After that but little difficulty was 
experienced.  The girls marched out in good order, gained the roof of the 
adjoining building, which was not injured, and reached the street by 
descending the fire escapes.  The women who fainted were carried out by two 
of my men and myself.  They recovered by the time we gained the roof and went 
down the fire escapes themselves without any assistance.  I am sure that we 
all escaped, and that not one of the persons of my room may be classed among 
the missing."

William GILDERSLEEVE, of 135 Atlantic Avenue, who was working in the shop of 
G.A. Young & Co., on the ground floor, when the crash occurred said:  "I was 
standing in the shop between 9 and 10 o'clock this morning when seven or 
eight bricks fell from the ceiling at a point a few feet from where I was.  
Then the timber began to spread.  There were with me in the shop at he time a 
man named William SANDFORD, who lives on Bergen Street and a youth who come 
to work this morning for the first time and who was known as George.  The 
three of us made a rush for the boilers over which we climbed and succeeded 
in gaining the window facing on State Street, through which we scrambled in 
double quick time.  We had no sooner got out than the whole building came 
down with a mighty crash.  I am sure that if we had been int he place one 
minute longer we would at this time be under the ruins.  It was the most 
miraculous escape I ever heard of, and you can rest assured that I am by no 
means anxious to undergo another such experience."

William SANDFORD, who was with Mr. GILDERSLEEVE, made a statement as follows: 
 "Ten tons of silica which were to be used in the manufacture of Pride of the 
Kitchen soap, were brought into the building yesterday.  The structure was so 
rickety that it is surprising that it did not tumble long ago.  It was a 
common saying among the people who worked in it that they risked their lives 
every time they entered it, and when the silica was brought in we joked each 
other as to whether the old place was strong enough to stand the heavy 
weight.  It would have been all right if the propping up of the ceiling on 
the ground floor had been done in a decent way, but it was not.  You see one 
of the "jacks" was bigger than the others and when driven into place the 
effect was to life the ceiling somewhat and render the other supports 
practically worthless.  It was the clumsiest piece of work I ever saw.  In 
our wing of the building there were at least sixty persons employed and I 
will be very much surprised if more than forty of that number made their 
escape.  In my opinion, at least twenty were caught beneath the falling 
timbers and buried beneath the ruins.  Most of them, I should say, were 

Mr. Charles SCHWETTER, who manufactured gold watch cases on the third floor 
of the rear extension, running through to State Street had seen the fire when 
the flames struck his own portion of the building.  "There was no difficulty 
experienced," he said,  "in securing the safety of the one hundred persons in 
my employ.  They all filed out in good time and were on the sidewalk before 
that portion of the building occupied by them had caught fire at all.  The 
smoke was dense and the stairs rickety, but otherwise there was no 
inconvenience.  As to the stock, which was valuable, I could not save any of 
it.  An attempt was made to secure some specially valuable articles, 
particularly a large burnishing arrangement, but it got too hot to be handled 
and had to be left to its fate.  I don't know, of course, about the other 
portions of the building, but I think I can say that there was little 
likelihood of any lives being lost."

WIlliam BRADLEY, who lives at 322 Hicks Street, right in the rear of the 
burned building, was at his window when the fire broke out.  "It was just 
twenty-five minutes to nine," he said, "and I had looked out of the window to 
see if the day was clearing when the flame from the third floor of the 
extension immediately opposite to my house, burst through the window and 
quickly spread from its woodwork to the adjoining  brickwork.  It fell in 
after a quarter of an hour's burning.  It was ten minutes afterward when the 
first engine arrived.  Everybody who knows anything about the origin of the 
fire says that the department was very slack in responding to the call.  It 
was a full twenty-five minutes after the fire broke out before the engines 
arrived.  When the fire had made good headway I saw Mr. WESTON grab some 
tools or something from the floor and run down the stairs.  It looked to me 
as if all the employees had got out in good time.  There are half a dozen 
stories as to the way the fire broke out and no two of them agree, 
substantially.  There was some plumbing work being done in the rear and it is 
possible that the fire from the furnaces used may have caused the fire."

Mr. WESTON who had escaped from the burning building at great peril, was 
found in the immediate neighborhood in a borrowed hat and coat.  He did 
contract work for the Judd Manufacturing Company, and employed a number of 
hands on the third floor of the building.  His premises were int he extension 
abutting in the rear of the western portion of the burned building:  "I don't 
care to have my name in the papers," Mr. WESTON said, "and would prefer not 
to say anything about the fire at all.  I know that all my employees got out 
in good time.  When I saw the fire most of the girls jumped to their feet and 
were about rushing pell mell for the door.  That would have caused a panic 
and possibly loss of life, but I quieted them without much trouble and got 
them all out before the fire struck our part of the building at all.  My own 
escape was undertaken in quicker fashion.  My coat and hat were not nearby 
and I had to get out without them."

From another source the reporter learned that the building had been partially 
burned last August; that it was entirely without fire escapes and was 
constructed of flimsy materials.

Inspector McKELLAR said that he would leave to the Fire Commissioners the 
work of arranging for the searching of the ruins.  While they were talking a 
fireman ran out and saluting the Chief said:  "We've just found the body of 
the engineer, LOWRY.  The man is all smashed up."  The body, when taken out, 
presented a ghastly appearance; the features were discolored and distorted.  
The wounds on the head and body bore evidence to the fact that the 
unfortunate man's death must have been almost instantaneous.  The remains 
were taken away to the Morgue.

7 May 1885
Thus the work progressed.  At noon the laborers rested for an hour, and 
then went at it with renewed vigor.  Reinforcements arrived, bringing the 
total working force up to forty-seven men all under Superintent GOFF, who 
urged them energetically, and saw that no one lagged.  A little after 
1 o'clock a charred and shapeless mass was brought to light.  Drs. PAGE and 
COCHRANE, who were on the ground all day, said it represented human remains.  
It was utterly unrecognizable, but from the place it lay Mr. DURST Thought it 
must be the body of Frederick EGGER, one of his missing wormen, a young man of 22.
A little later what seemed to be the charred trunks of two bodies were disinterred 
from under all that was left of a beam which had once upheld the tinshop floor.  
For the moment no on thought they were bodies, but the two physicains held that 
there could be no question about it.  For half an hour more the diggers delved, 
then between a broken girder and the western wall they found another body, wholly
unrecognizable.  The remains were gathered up, wrapped in canvas and place beyond 
the gaze of the curious crowd, and the work went on.  A moment later the spades 
unearthed a shattered lathe, such as the metal spinner used.  Beneath it lay a 
body but little burned, as compared with the other.  It was recognized at once
as that of Adolph MATTES, another of William DURST'S workemn.  He was a young man 
of 26 years of age and lived with his wife and little child at No 372 Hicks street.
He had just started the machine when the crash came, and went down with it.  This 
was a little af!
ter two o'clock.  The body had hardly been removed when the gang working in the 
northeast corner found another.....
.... Superintendent GOFF instructed the men to proceed with care, and they dug 
quickly down in the soapy mass to find in the center of it the body of Henry DURST.  
He was uncleof the man who owned the metal spinning shope, 56 years old and a bachelor. 

STATE Street FIRE..Part 2 
STATE Street FIRE..Part 3 

Transcribed by...
Nadine Demczyszyn
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