Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jan. 9, 1912, The Evening Post: New York, Page 1

This is the lead article on page one, column 7, of the Last Edition of the January 9, 1912, The New York Evening Post, published on the day of the fire. The title appears likely to be erroneous. It was transcribed by me from a scan of the original page by a vendor of antique postcards, but obviously a spook operation designed to thwart just this act of information retrieval. Contains errors for sure.


Fire Causes a Loss of Nearly $20,000,000


Exchange's Governors Meet and Decide to Call Them Off, Except for Mutual Consent — Securities Worth $11,000,000 Tied Up, Exclusive of Those Destroyed — With Collateral Out of Reach, Money Dealing is Hampered in Financial District—A Dull Day in Wall Street Trading.

Banking and stock market business was paralyzed to-day because of the Equitable Life fire, which caused property damage estimated between $15,000,000 and $20,000,000. A dozen of the city's largest banks and trust companies were in the fire zone. The Clearing House was immediately opposite the Equitable building, while surrounding it were innumerable banking and brokerage offices.

The Chase National, the Fourth National, Hanover National, Liberty National, and American Exchange National Banks, and the Equitable, Mercantile, and Columbia

Trust Companies were among those immediately facing the different sides of the wrecked building. Customers at these banks did not know where to go, and even the officers of the different institutions were kept from approaching within several blocks of the fire.

Nothing was done in the way of usual business thereabout until long after ten o'clock, the usual hour for beginning. Then the banks with back outlets were permitted to open and admit their officers and clerks, but even after that their customers were denied access, so that banking transactions were perfunctory.

The Clearing House obtained temporary quarters in the Chamber of Commerce building on Liberty Street. Rare the ...clerks of the...banks and trust companies were... but the clearings were effected with great difficulty. In the absence of desks, the clerks sat or lay on the floor, checks spread out before them, and it required an hour to effect even a partial exchange of checks.

Estimating the property loss as between $15,000,000 and $20,000,000 is guesswork. It will be several days before any sort of reliable estimate can be made; the loss cannot be figured until it is known whether the securities in the vaults beneath the building have been destroyed.

There were bonds and private safes and safe deposit vaults worth between $8,000,000 and $10,000,000. The loss in securities depends upon the fireproof character of the boxes in which they were stored, but despite a statement that the outer steel vault had been cracked by the heat of the fire...anxiety was felt because of the strength of the inner vault. The building itself , valued at $16,000,000, is a total loss.


Between $300,000,000 and ... of securities belonging to the Equitable Society are stored in a vault which was constructed ten years ago over the main entrance of the old building, on the Broadway side. This vault was of the most...of its kind in the city, was erected at a great expense, and was located in such a manner as to make it quite impossible for the fire to harm its contents. Instead of putting it at the interior of the building, the company had it placed on the Broadway side, so that it would not be in the midst of flames, should the building be destroyed.

Possibly the securities stored in it aggregated more than $300,000,000, according to an executive director of the Society. No cash was kept there, owing to the fact that daily receipts were immediately deposited in downtown banks.

Gage E. Tarbell, a trustee, who was responsible for the construction of this vault, visited the scene of the fire for the purpose of looking over that portion of the

building. After his inspection, Tarbell expressed the opinion that the fire had not damaged the contents, and that when the fire cooled off everything contained would be found intact. He also asserted his belief the contents of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company would also be founnd unharmed.


Aside from the loss incurred to the Equitable Life Assurance Society through the destruction of office furniture and records, the loss ... law library...

(continued on page 2)

The Evening Post, January 9, 1912 Last Edition, Page 2, Column 1

is that of the Lawyers' Club. The club had a library of 40,000 volumes, covering the various classes of law, and was used by members... Some of the books were priceless and can never be replaced.

A valuable oil painting of Sir James Miller's horse Rockland, which won nearly 1,000...English turf with Danny Maker to the saddle, was saved from the offices of August Belmont.

Records of the life company are safe having been kept in an annex building at No. [ ] Albany Street.

It is estimated that in the three safes and vaults within the fire zone... of the fire-swept Mercantile vault, $18,000,000 worth of securities, representing collateral, were locked up. This does not...those destroyed. While these securities were safe from fire, they might as well have far as their usefulness for business within a few hours was concerned.

The Stock Exchange opened for business at the usual hour, but a special meeting of the governor was called to see how far the trouble effected the trading. The governors gathered at 10:30 o'clock and decided to have deliveries for the day suspended, except by mutual consent. There was strong sentiment among the governors in favor of closing the Exchange, owing to the difficulty in consumating deliveries, but despite the support of several governors, the board voted down the motion. Besides the securities locked up in the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company vaults, there were a number of transfer offices in the Equitable Building.

The action of the governors to suspend deliveries meant that securities which might have been lying unharmed beneath the fire could be bought or sold subject to delivery when the fire was out. In case the security had been destroyed, the sale, of course, would be declared void. The reason that the governors took this extraordianry action was to save a number of members of the Exchange from embarrasment and possible failure.


A quantity of securities believed to have been destroyed in the fire were scheduled for delivery to-day, or were held as collateral for loans which had matured, and which would have had to be met but for the Stock Exchange's action. The governors, therefore, probably saved a number of brokers from failure.

All of the records of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroad systems, in the offices on the fourth floor, were destroyed. Cancelled coupons were flying about in the street, and one on which $20 had been paid was picked up by an office boy near the Brooklyn Bridge. The legal branch of the system saved its records by moving all the papers of the company in its charge into the new quarters at No. [ ] Broadway yeterday. Many of the records had been packed ready for the movement, which was to take place this week.

Union Paciific holds...of treasury securities of other companies having a total ...but those securities were kept in a vault located at Jersey City. All their paper, etc. having actual money value were kept in a private vault in the basement of the Equitable Building. Papers of that character were sent to the basement last night as usual.

The records which were destroyed included ...minutes of directors' meetings...reports, etc.

Union Pacific had had its headquarters in the Equitable Building since the reorganization in 1891, and the vaults throughout the offices were loaded with stocks and records. On the stock exchange, Union Pacific shares declined abruptly at the...owing to fear that its might be irreparable.

The surrounding buildings on Nassau, Pine, Cedar and Liberty Streets were not damaged by the flames, but various ...sustained considerable damage from water. Nearly every building was overrun with firemen who fought the fire from the office or more hose was operated from every building close to the burning structure, and the leaky hose flooded the offices, and the business in them was interrupted, at least for the day.

Firemen thronged into the Mutual Life Building and the structure of the Fourth National Bank, facing the Equitable on the Nassau Street side. Those buildings were filled with smoke, most of the tenants were stand by idle. The home of the Chase National Bank and the Fourth National Bank directly opposite to the Equitable Building were too close to the flames to be open for business. Besides, they were iced by water carried by the high wind...directed toward them to keep away the flames, which also were blown across the street by the gale.

Of the thirteen hundred clerks employed by the Society, about six hundred used the home building at 120 Broadway. The senority were in the Hazen building, at Dey and Greenwich Streets. The Corridors of the Hazen building were crowded with officers and clerks employed in the home office. Temporary quarters for the officers were secured, and President Day called a hurried meeting of the executive committee.

Broadway and all its transverse streets in the vicenity of the fire were early filled with thousands of clerks employed in business houses. Few, because of the police lines were able to reach their respective places of activity until several hours after their usual time. Many of them did not reach their offices at all.

The seventeen-story structure of the American Exchange National Bank, at the Northeast corner of Broadway and Cedar Street, was singed by the flames, and while the interior was not affected by the fire, all the offices facing on the Cedar Street side were so filled with smoke and waterlogged that they will be unfit for business for several days.

On the Pine and Nassau Street side of the Equitable building, the structure abutting did not suffer so much from flames as from water, but with the total destruction of the Broadway side, this structure was also doomed.

In the other corner of the ...were the quarters of the Equitable Trust Company, which were deluged with water before the fire reached them. All the employees were pressed into service carrying bags of securities, ledgers, and documents into the offices of the Hanover National Bank on the opposite corner, ...the...Treasury. later, these were moved by a wagon to No. [ ] Broadway, where the Trust Company opened temporary quarters.

The high wind which blew all morning saved the adjoining Pine Street building from damage by fire or water, but the front and the street itself were a mass of ice formed from the spraying hose.

Another occupant of a neighboring building affected by the fire was the Guaranty Trust Company, which is putting up a new home at Broadway and Liberty Street. Its quarters were made unihabitable by water and smoke.

The Read building, at the northeast end of the Equitable block, occupied by the firm of August Belmont & Co. was not hurt by flames, but suffered water damage, and no one was permitted to enter the structure save employees of the firm kept busy taking out valuables. The Broadway front of the building and the body of the structure running back about midway between Broadway and Nassau Street, was an utter ruin. The heavy stone-work in the upper stories was badly crumbled, and seemed about to topple over at any moment.

Owners of nearby buildings with vacant office space on their hands tendered the rooms to tenants of the Equitable Life free of cost, until they could get new quarters. DeSelding Bros., agents for the building at No. 170 Broadway, placed the available space in that structure at the disposal of the Equitable lessees.

Stock Exchange business throughout the daay was of a holiday character. Brokers could not carry on business without knowing whether the securities they were dealing in had been destroyed, and the inability of brokerage customers to reach the different offices checked outside business. Not since the 1906 panic had the streets of the financial district been the scene of such excitement. On the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets was a solid pack of humanity, held back only by the police lines.


Those Who Rented Offices from the Equitable Society.

A complete list of the tenants of the Equitable Life building, according to the superintendent, follows:

Ardea. «*. L.. lawyer
Ackeruian, W. •*.., Agency Equitable Life.
Benton, O. W., treasurer
Brown. O. R.
Brown, A. C, lawyer.
Bailey. J. 8. C. lawyer.
Beal, B. A.. Agency Equitable Life
Bryan, C. A., Agency Equitable Life.
Beckley, H. R. M . Agency Equitable Life.
Condit, Albert R„ Agency Equitable Life.
Cormany, Cba*. C, c*f«
Cooper. O. S, lawyer.
Cum in l o g s. J. W., Agency Equitable Life.
Coone r, D. O., Agency Equitable Life.
Crura. O. L., Agency Equitable Life.
Caspe r, L, Agency Equitable Lite.
Campbell, R., lawyer.
Clausen, C. S., Agency Equitable Life.
Doretnu* A Lecuar, lawyer.
Diamond, W. C. lawyer.
Deming. ChM. C, lawyer,
Doremus, C, lawyer.
De Braekleer, O., lawyer.
Duane Realty Co.
Drumgold, W. L., Agency Equitable Life.
Bbert. L. V., lawyer.
Equitable Life Assurance Society of United States.
Blister, B. t ) .. lawyer
Brdtman, Emily, Agency Equitable Life
Bwald, Geo. Eriacla, lawyer
JJWaA.lfuliuA,^aAwBxyf Equitable L i t e
Fay, J. A., A Egan Co., machinery,
Ford, U. T.. Agency Equitable Life.
Hathaway, O. R„ lawyer.
Hendrick. P., lawyer.
Mat* A Boh, H, Agency Equitable Life.
Hensckai, O. F., Agency Equitable Life.
Herenden. A. I ., Agency Equitable Life.
Homan*. S„ AffSBoy Equitable Life
Hutchinson, W. P., Agency Equitable Life.
Hyman, D. H , real estate.
Ingraham, E, lawyer.
Lecour, Jr., J. II., lawyer
Jordan, Prank B., general Insurance.
Kouhtse Bros., bankers
Powel, H, J. H. lawyer.
Chambers, J. lawyer.
QhRtoa, H. Js umbrellas and canes.
Carman. T. U, lawyer.
Dr. J, Bayautn*kl, cblropodUL
Breen, M,, contractor.
Maboa As C*.. bankers
Rraman Law Co.. lawyers.
AB*ort*. 1. n„ mortgages
Battalion Oeaeral E. M. Burchard,
Alexander A OrMB. lawyers
Bternteld, C M„ lawyer.
Arata, John, fruit*.
Bachrach, J, insurance.
Agenbach. F. C. electrician.
Mecelhlnny. Jaa., lawyer
Burdick, I. B.
New York frananortBtloa Co.
MMR, 3., electrical engineer
Hamilton A Oravee, lawyers,
Arnold. W. C„ lawyer.
OwulA W, kt. lawyer.
Fitch. T.. *Utloner
Equitable Life Assurance.
Eaeton, Robert T. B. lawyer.
Potta, J., lawyer.
Polhwrnus, T. H. agency Equitable Life.
Page, W. H., agency Equitable Life,
Parkor, F., agehcy Equitable Life.
ProMer A Homens, agency Equitable Life.
Quina. J. P., ageacy Equitable Life.
Richards, O , Mercantile Trust.
Rubens. Charles, ageacy Equitable Life,
Rice. E. B . agency Equitable Life.
Ryan. J. N , agency Equitable Life.
Rice. O., agency Equitable Life.
Reiiiy. William P. agency Equitable Life,
Rootoeoa, E., agency Equitable Life.
Schalder. R, C , lawyer.
Sutherland, Clarence E , lawyer
Stromberg, Carlson, tel. fnfg
Stlltwagoa, F. H., lawyer.
Bcblmpf. Max, agency EquIUbl* Lit*
Selbert, A . aerenoy Equitable Life
Smith, Horace H.. agency EquIUbl* Llf*.
Sonneborn « B ag*Bcy Equitable Lit*
Sundelson. Mrs R W.. agency Equitable Life
StrauM, A. agency Equitable Life.
Stern. E., agency Equitable Life.
Stewart W. O , agency Equitable Life.
Schaefer, B., lawyer.
Scale*. D., lawyer
Thorn*. M. B . lawyer
Thorn**, Oscar B . lawyer.
Tucker, Jr. O. W., lawyer.
Toppln. John L., agency Equitable Life
Torren* Land Company
Textor, R , agency Equitable Life
Taylor P. K , agency Equitable Life
Van Llew. P T , agency Equitable Life.
Wlnthrop, H H., agency Equitable Life
Western Maryland Railroad Company
Wagner. L A . lawyer
The Charles Wake Agency, Inc
Williamson. C P . lawyer
Wilalow, M.. lawyer
Wight C It. agency Equitable Life
Wilson. .1 O . agency Equitable Life
Wettersu. P O. lawyer
Young C F. . agency Equitable Life
Yglealas. P. agency Equitable Life
tlreen William W.. lawyer
Oulllver William C lawyer
()*ndv Henry E lawyer
Dulick. A. A., lawyer
(irimn, John Jay. agency Equitable Life
(Jladstone Joseph, agency Equitable Life
Or**r, lawyer*.
Frederick W. Park, lawyer
O. Place, machinery.
Bankers Trust Company.
C. F. Phelps lawyer.
William F. Martin, lawyer.
N. A. Prentiss, lawyer
E. C. Fatter & Co.. banners and broken.
Halsted A Hodges, broker.
Equitable Trust Co. of New York
Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
August Belmont & Co . bankers.
Lawrence A. Lawrence, lawyers.
E. D. O'Brien, lawyer.
Proctor A Borden. Bankers.
Gilbert R. Haues. lawyer
K Straus Insurance
Western Union Telegraph Office.
Schmidt A Hahn. lawyers
F. Dickey, broker
Taller A Roblaaon. bankers and brokers


There was no insurance carried by the Equitable on its building. The Society has for years assumed its own fire risks on the Broadway structure. In its annual
statement for December [ ], 1910, there is a schedule of fourteen parcels of real estate, located in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which together with [ ] cash on deposit with the old Mercantlle Trust Company, and representing a total valuation of [ ] was credited to the Society's fire insurance indemnity fund. So far as the Society's statement shows, therefore this is NOT the indemnity fund that the Society had to pay for the loss of its great building, which some of the trustees declared was worth $16,000,000 on the basis of present valuation.

Some weeks ago the trustees appointed a committee to consider the advisability of taking out fire insurance on the old structure. The committee presumably consulted experts and then decided that no insurance was necessary as the building was considerably fireproofed. How any one familiar with building construction could make such a report is difficult to see. The walls were as thick as those of an old fort, and the building was the last great structure to be erected before the use of structural steel for office buildings. But the interior was of wood and comparatively flimsy, and burned like a tinder log as soon as the flames started.

January 9, 1912, The Evening Post: New York, Last Edition, Page 1, Column 3,

"Ice-Sheathed Fire Zone,"


Ambulance Surgeons Worked, While the Water Froze on Men and Engines—
Icicles Hung to Eyebrows of Chief Kenlon — The Coffee Brigade.

The double ruin of fire and ice gripped nine squares of lower New York in its hold for hours to-day, while the firemen fought in vain for the very life of the business
section itself. The story of the blaze is one of triumph for the fighters. Tens of thousands of people between Maiden Lane, Rector, Church, and William Streets, kept from their offices, caught only a glimpse at a block's distance of the streets, thick with whitened fire-towers, engines, trucks, ambulances, and the hundreds of firemen, stiff with an inch-thick sheathing of ice on face, hands, and clothing, who ran shouting to stretch a hose, or to drag back a comrade into a hall for the surgeons to attend.

Streets and sidewalks ran ankle deep in ice and slush. Walls of buildings half a block away from the Equitable were coated white by the spray from the streams, which the forty-mile gale, whipping through the canyons from Trinity churchyard, swept aside before they reached the reddened heart ot the Equitable building. In all of this, while ice formed on the skin itself, the firemen worked desperately, and sick at
heart because of lost comrades.

Smoke and spray cut sight short at a hundred feet as you tried to look down any one of the four sides of the blazing building, and the drops, freezing to sleet, stung face and eyes unprotected by helmets. The cataracts of ice and water cut bitterly where gauntlet and sleeve failed to meet, or at the collar, and you gasped as you saw a half-dozen men, with lumps of ice the size of hams for hands, and helmets weighted heavily, jump to raise a tripod and direct another stream into the -ed and gray holes of the building's shell.


Cinders from the roaring stacks of the engines whipped against the firemen's faces, and they could not tell from the pain whether they were hot or cold. The hulks of engines and water-towers were frosted masses or columns, with ice six inches thick all over them, and you thought them dead until you saw the throbbing pistons or a spraying stream sent from the top. Ladders reached three or four stories against the building, and told the story of the tragedies of the two men falling from a broken life-line, or of Deputy Chief Walsh's death. "What of Walsh?" was the password from Broadway to Nassau Street, and man after man stumbled over hose and ice again and again with the hope that the chief was not under the fifty feet of red-hot wreckage.

Ambulance surgeons and priests took up the search, and whan a man, charred and blackened, was carried across Broadway and, into a hall, many stole a glimpse, and the word went around that it was Walsh. It might have been, for all that any one could tell for a time, and fire chaplains, surgeons, and comrades worked over the figure on the floor and thought him to be Walsh.

Of all this the tens of thousands without the fire lines could see nothing. Policemen four and five blocks away excluded all who could not show that their offices were within the guarded zone, and a second line weeded out those who got so far. There was no space in those streets for men who were not working; and the accidents of flying wreckage and the danger of shell-like walls made the sidewalks tenable only for the helmeted men whose business was danger.

Stumbling over hose and ice, if you looked sharp, you might see three surgeons' saws on the stoop of a Broadway building, and, if one of the ice-sheathed doctors stopped long enough he might howl in your ear that another ambulance surgeon had taken the saws in the burning building when the call came for him to come and cut away the hand of a man pinned in the timbers.

From Cedar to Pine Street, along Broadway, and so around the four sides of the block, you fought your way and searched in vain for a space where you might get in out of the water and ice and hot cinders. You walked between solid walls of ice on one side, and the blazing walls on the other. A shower of streams shot from the windows across from the Equitable's walls into the flames, and the wind whipped half of the water from its course and against you, there to freeze.


You saw John Kenlon giving his orders to his aides—it was his first big fire as chief—and Kenlon looked the fire-fighter. On his eyebrows were lumps of ice the size
of a man's hand, and his moustaches were icicles six inches long. A fireman hit Kenlon's glove with an ax to break the mass of ice on it, and he gulped down a hot
cup of coffee and a sandwich which someone forced into his jaws.

Shivering, suffering firemen, and firemen so cold they could not shiver and could not even suffer, stood or lay in doorways and vestibules along Broadway and transverse streets, wherever there was a doorway to admit them, with coats and helmets covered with ice. They were both cold and hungry. They needed medical assistance when Superintendent McGonnlgl* of the Equitable building arrived and managed to get in touch by wire with an officer of the Stock Exchange.

"Find some restaurant man who will supply

(Continued on Page 2)


all these fellows with coffee and sandwiches." and soon a thousand sandwiches and big cans of coffee were sent to the scene. Cedar Street was transformed into a coffee restaurant. Ice-coated firemen would rush down, take a long draught and hurry back to their hoses. A patrolman, [io*t*ad] at drinking his capful, took off his gloves and warmed his frozen fingers in the coffee.

A broker in the hall of a Broadway building saw a priest hurrying along with sandwiches and coffee.

"Are you selling those?" he asked.

"Of course not." the priest cried.

For answer the broker stuffed two yellow bills into the priest's pocket. "Maybe that will help you to keep it up." he said.

One fireman. Edward Mllllgan af Engine Company No. SO, whose toes had been broken by a falling stone, had been on duty since seven o'clock. He grappled with a can of coffee, ate a sandwich hurriedly, and while his jaws were stlll working, ran back through the frozen crowd, jostled another fireman out of the line: shouted, "Bill, go and get a warmer," and took his associate's place.

Tens of thousands of people whose offices were within the district shut off by the police, blocked Church and William, Wall and Dey Streets and kept the reserves
busy. The police lines were rigid, and thousands of clerks and stenographers were unable to reach their offices. Business was completely disorganised. People were dumped by the hundreds out of the Third, Sixth, and Ninth Avenue trains, and when they tried to reach their offices the police turned them back. They could not get to Broadway, at least that part of the street
blocked off by police.

[» CtfaaMi*s;'*hA awaadaag eare] were stopped. But the Ninth and Sixth Avenue surface lines were running, and their passengers were added to the throngs that searched for an open trail to offices. Hallways of Broadway buildlings with entrances on Church Street were jammed. The people thought they could get through that way, but on the Broadway side they were stopped again by the police and sent back. Underneath, the subway [Bcbtdhie] was maintained, and passengers on the train did not know what was going on overhead.

See also Blog: Equitable Burns, Page 1, Column 5, Jan. 9, 1912, Last Edition, New York Evening Post.

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