In the "cellar" or second floor below the street level were the boilers. These generated steam for heat, to power the elevators, and to run the water pumps which developed 400 pounds pressure per square inch---equal to six steam fire engines---to send the water through the building and to the two roof reservoirs.
Illustration from the REPORT ON FIRE IN THE EQUITABLE BUILDING, January 9, 1912, issued February 29, 1912, by the New York Board Of Fire Underwriters, which purports to be a "Plan showing Beam, Girder and Column Arrangement," with "Principal Floor Openings."
Plate 4.10, found on page 74 of Rise of the New York Skyscraper: 1865-1913, by Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl W. Condit (Yale University Press, 1996) is captioned "Ground floor plan of Equitable Building as enlarged 1886-89." It depicts massive masonry piers on the ground floor running through the major collapse zone centered on Broadway. It is unlikely that the top floors "Collapsed above Basement" as indicated on the Underwriters' drawing, without meeting stiff resistance here on the ground floor. Likewise, a strongly indicated interior masonry wall flanking the ground-floor Mercantile vault would also provide resistance to a collapse, as would the slightly angled original rear wall to the 1870 building, which the Underwriters' plan fails to indicate at all, even in a vestigial state.
Most strange, is the location of the dumbwaiter shafts, indicated on the Underwriters' plan as a small enclosure filled with multiple flues, which the written narrative tells us was central to the rapid vertical spread of the fire. This area is not included in the plan published in the Landau/Condit book as being part of the 1886-89 enlargement, which would indicate it as being a subsequent development.
The full-block plot of the Equitable Building was assembled over several decades. The 1891 Bromley tax-lot map indivuates seven original lots in the block fronting Nassau Street. Comparing it to the plan in the Landau/Condit book which depicts the Equitable Building as enlarged by 1889, shows that at the corner of Cedar and Nassau Streets stood the separate Belmont building on lot Nos. 1173 and 1174. Mid block, on lot Nos. 1176 and 1175, stood the major extension of the main building running through to Nassau Street; while at the corner of Pine and Nassau Streets, on lot Nos. 1179, 1178 and 1177, stood a separate building, which by 1889 housed the Equitable Trust Company, but which is still being indicated as remaining distinct from the main building.
The Underwriters' report describes the dumbwaiter system as a "shaft connect[ing] the Cafe Savarin kitchen on the 8th floor and roof structure with store rooms in the basement, the restaurants and dining rooms on the grade and 1st, and the Lawyers' Club on 5th and 6th." These dining rooms, located at the corner of Broadway and Cedar Street, were nearly three-quarters of a block removed from this location of the dumbwaiters.
Even more questionable is how a use integral to the functioning utility of a building could stand outside the original parameters of that expanded building. How was food delivered between floors previously? Did a later relocation of the dumbwaiter system represent both a decrease in the efficiency of delivering hot food, and an increase in the fire-safty hazard presented?
On fact, the New York Times reported in 1893, that the building at No. 17 Nassau Street still wasn't under Equitable control. How could a dumbwaiter system located there serve the club and restaurants established several years in advance?
Nov. 22, 1893, New York Times, Down-Town Realty Sold; Purchases Of Much More Than a Million of Dollars.
John Anderson's Old Corner at Broadway and Pine Street Brings $400,000 -- A Twelve-Story Building to Grace the Site -- The Equitable Life Assurance Society Buys the Clearing House Building at Nassau and Pine Streets -- A Liberty Street Sale -- Money at 4 1-2 Per Cent. -- Sales at Auction.High Resolution Images:
Three notable sales of down-town real estate were had yesterday. One of these was the southeast corner of Broadway and Pine Street, the second the northwest corner of Nassau and Pine Streets, and the third the property at 45 Liberty Street. All were discussed with interest by real estate men. and two of them especially so, because these purchases mean improvement by buildings.
The larger transaction yesterday as regards the price obtained was the sale of the Clearing House Building and site at Nassau and Pine Streets. This is an old-fashioned brownstone building, five stories high. The lot measures 36.7 feet on Nassau Street by 80.3 feet on Pine. The property was bough by the Equitable Life Assurance Society. Exactly what was paid is somewhat a matter of conjecture. The lowest statement put the price at $600,000. Other figures given make it $700,000. There are in the plot about 2,800 square feet. taking the lowest statement, it makes the price at nearly $215 per square foot. The Equitable Society now owns the entire block bounded by Broadway, Nassau, Cedar, and Pine Streets, excepting the small building at 17 Nassau Street and the two at 23 and 25 Nassau, which, however, were leased a few years ago to it by John Egmont Schermerhorn and the Mead estate, through Mr. John N. Golding, for fifty years. It is expected that the Equitable will tear down the old structure which has sheltered the Clearing House and the Chase National Bank for so many years and put on the site an addition to its own large edifice, in keeping with the style and appointments of the latter.
The third of the sales was by Mr. W.E. Asten, of the four-story brick structure and lot at 45 Liberty Street. This is the third building to the west of the old fire-engine house, sold last week for $110,000 to the Lawyers'Title Insurance Company. Neither the terms of sale nor the name of the purchaser were made public yesterday, but it is known that Mr. Asten received more than $100,000. The lot is 17.5 feet by 75.3, containing about 1,300 square feet. It brought about $80 per square fot. Mr. Asten owned this property many years ago. He exchanged it for some up-town lots with the late Peter Lalor, while there were about $75,000 of mortgages upon it. After Mr. Lalor's death the property was sold at auction, and Mr. Asten was the purchaser at the sale.
Plate 1, General Plan of the Building, Exposures and Standpipes
Plate 2, Plan showing Beam, Girder and Column Arrangement--Principal Floor Openings and Collapsed Sections
Plate 3, Types of Floor Arches
Plate 4, Types of Floor Arches and Column Connections
Plate 5, Plan showing Location of vaults
Plate 6, The Equitable Building, Broadway and Cedar Street Corner---Two Days after the Fire--Water still being thrown on wreckage of Main Collapse over the Safe deposit Vaults
Plate 7, Hose Streams on Broadway--Note how the Steams were turned into Spray by the Wind. Throw of Upper Stream about 70 feet.
Plate 8, Operations of the Fire Department on Nassau Street. The Principal Stream Is from the Mast ot Water Tower No. 2, supplied by two three'Inch Streams from the High Pressure Service. The Direction of the Stream is too near the Vertical to be Effective inside of the Building
Plate 9, Operations of the Fire Department on Broadway from Street Level
Plate 10, Interior View of Main Collapse looking North toward Cedar Street, showing Debris on top of Safe Deposit Vaults. The floors above the Security Vault of the Equitable Life Assurance Society are shown standing in left of picture.
Plate 11, Main Collapse looking South toward Pine Street from No. 128 Broadway
Plate 12, General View of Light Shaft "O" and Fractured Cast Iron Columns "A" and "B" --see Plate 2. The construction of the heavy Floor Arch in left of picture Is detailed in Figure 3, Plate 3
Plate 13, Cast Iron Column "A" standing at Light Shatt "0 " —see Plate 2. Detail of Fracture at Seventh Floor Level, showing Thickness ot Metal one'halt Inch on One Side and one-eighth Inch at Opposite Side
Plate 14, Cast Iron Column "B" standing at Light Shaft "0 " —see Plate 2. Detail of Fracture at Seventh Floor Level and Deflected Brackets due to Softening of Metal. Also shows One Method of attaching Beams to Columns. Thickness of Metal at Fracture about one-fourth Inch.
Plate 15, East side of Middle Collapse, Third Floor. Partial Failure of Wrought Iron Column "C' at Light Shaft "N" ---see Plate 2. Deflected Floor Beams--Metal Stud and Lathing of Partions and Light Shaft Enclosure (apparent Fissure in Cast Iron Column Is in Plaster Covering)
Plate 16, Partial Failure of Wrought Iron Column "C," Third Floor, at Light Shaft "N "—see Plate 2. Note the Method of Fastening Wrought Iron Beams to Cast Iron Columns by Wrought Iron Straps Passing through Column.
Plate 17, Wall Failure, East End of Main Court, due to Broken Cast Iron Window Lintels and Spalling of Stone Facing, allowing Cast Iron Mulllons to drop out.
Plate 18, Cedar Street Wall, corner of Broadway, Inside View showing Pipe Channels.
Plate 19, Insurance Library on Gallery Floor, showing Collapse of False Ceilling made of Plaster on Wire Lath over a Wooden Frame, Wood Paneled Walls shown to right also Terra Cotta Furring.