Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Walls Expected to Fall,"

This is transcribed from a scan of the original page by an extremely untrustworthy source, Many illegible lines would appear to be scanner artifacts, but then some deliberate manipulations in the text are also evident.

January 10, 1912, The Evening Post: New York, "WALLS EXPECTED TO FALL,"

page 1, Column 3,



[ ...] Securities Buried Under Equitable Building — Stock Exchange Continues Order Suspending Deliveries of Stocks — Search for Walsh's Body

Examination of the unsupported ice-laden walls of the wrecked Equitable building this afternoon gave reason for fear that they might fall at any moment, and even the working parties of firemen were ordered out of the Cedar Street block between Broadway and Nassau Street, which was closed by heavy details of the police. The Building Department, after an investigation of its own, also served on W A. Day, acting president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, an "un-safe order," notifying him that the Department's inspectors had reported the building to be in danger of collapsing, and commanding him to start immediately the work of shoring up the outer walls.

Day promptly secured the services of a gang of expert workmen from the Thompson-Starrett Company, who commenced clearing away the wreckage and shoring up the walls under the direction of Nicholas J. R[...]sville, a special inspector of the Building Department, but like the firemen who were trying to find the body of William J. Walsh, Chief of the Second Battalion, they were handicapped by the fear that at any moment the building might cave in on them.

There was considerable relief in the financial district when it became known this afternoon that Ernest H. Wakeman, an employee of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, had made a superficial examination of his company vaults as soon as the walls were sufficiently cooled to permit of close approach and had found them apparently intact. In his report to the vice-president of the company, Wiliam C. Pollion, Wakeman said that so far as he could make out the vaults were all right. But both Chief Kenlon and Joseph Johnson, Fire Commissioner, stated that days must elapse before the vaults could be opened.


It was reported that people outside the basement windows of the ruined building could make out the ice-covered hands of a man pressed against the steel walls of the vault; [but when an investigation was begun by Roger Retehfartt, mascot of Engine Company No. St] it was discovered that the "hands" were simply bunches of icicles. Not withstanding this, however, the firemen are of the opinion that the bodies of several of the missing watchmen will be found under the tons of ice and wreckage that fill the safe company's offices.

Crowds choked lower Broadway all day long, surging up as close to the fire-lines as they could, watching the weary firemen engaged in the task of "washing down" the ice-covered walls. When the word went round that Cedar Street had been cleared of firemen, and that tenants of the buildings across the way from the Equitable building had been warned to keep away from the windows, and even to abandon the front offices, the interest intensified. Broadway was on its toes, expecting to see a second catastrophe that might rival the spectacle of yesterday. For anybody who knew the narrowness of Cedar Street could appreciate the possibilities of destruction that lay in the collapse of seven stories of granite reinforced with foot-thick bricks.

But while the firemen were obliged to relinquish their efforts on the Cedar Street side of the building, they continued their work on every other section. Half a dozen streams were played into the smoking corner at Cedar Street and Broadway, underneath which lie the treasure-filled vaults of the Mercantile Company, isolation of which has crippled Wall Street and compelled the Stock Exchange practically to suspend business.

About the middle of the Broadway facade are the vaults of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, containing from $1,250,000,000 to $300,000,000 in securities. Powerful streams of water were played on both these sections of the wrecked building all night long and throughout to-day, so that the steel walls of the vaults might be cooled down sufficiently to permit of examination of their contents. Around the corner on the Pine Street side two companies have been exploring the slippery doors in a hunt for the body of Battalion Chief Walsh. There was danger in every part of the vast, cavernous structure, but almost every way you turned the smoke-blackened helmets of the firemen flitted from window to window, and the thud of their [ e x e s r e] echoed in the crisp air.

Again the Stock Exchange governors called a special meeting. It was a brief session, and the decision was the same as yesterday's—to suspend deliveries of securities between all parties directly or indirectly effected by the Equitable fire.

To the city at large, probably the most interesting possibility of the second day's work on the fire-swept building was whether the securities in the vaults would be found intact. But to the firemen of the thirteen companies that toiled ceaselessly in relays, under command of Deputy Chief Binns, the chief aim was the discovery of Walsh's body. They did not say much about it, but an onlooker noticed a number of men in full-dress uniform, ordinarily worn only when off duty, inside the fire lines, and they were still bent on the same mission— to learn if Walsh had been found.


All last night the searchlights on the tower of the Singer building and the two

(Continued on Page Three)

January 10, 1912, The [New York] Evening Post, "Walls Expected to Fall,

continued from page 1

...searchlight engines of the Fire Department played on the blackened ice-cavern that bad been the imposing borne of the Equitable Society. Under their glare the firemen ran and worked, stretching hose lengths into corners as yet untouched by water, forcing their way over masses of tottering beams and timbers, amid clouds of hot cinders and ashes, hacking through doors and walls, searching, searching, with a desperate, tireless resource, for the body of the chief who had gone in at the head of his men and stayed until the last had got out when he saw danger coming.

From the point of view of picturesqueness and the sensational, the Equitable fire took first rank among all recent disasters here. No man who got a close view of yesterday morning's scene or orderly confusion and unflinching courage will forget it. Similarly, no man who saw Chief Kaplon plated with ice from head to foot, his fists chunks of ice, icicles outlining his whiskers and eyebrows, calmly bossing his hundreds of men who saved downtown New York will forget. If any of those who saw him had been [ ] to depreciate him as compared with Chief Croker, they speedily decided that Croker's successor was worthy of his post.

The cold weather made the work of the firemen as difficult in proportion as it had been yesterday. All streets within a radius of several blocks of the Equitable building were covered with ice. In some places piled up as high as a man's head. This was notably true of the corner of Cedar Street and Broadway. Access to Cedar Street was wholly cut off from this end. A glacier stretched across the narrow mouth, and two hose streams playing from the upper windows of the building opposite the ruins kept adding to the ice-hummocks.

In many other places the ice was two feet thick. Most of the hoses were frozen in, and in a way this was convenient, for all that was necessary was for the firemen to attach a hose nozzle to a tripod and leave it for five minutes. After that it would be frozen so hard to the tripod that even its bursting would not he able to tear it away. All the hose lengths were frozen, however. They formed ridges of ice running in twisting lengths through Nassau Street, Broadway, and the side streets. When tired firemen stopped work for an hour to snatch a brief rest in the halls of a building in Nassau Street, behind the burned structure, they used as beds the lines of hose stretched out to thaw.

At Nassau and Pine Streets, a water tower was frozen to the street, so that it could no be moved, and its extension ladder, a single mass of ice right up to the nozzle at the top, was equally impossible to manipulate. Several other pieces of apparatus in the side streets were in a similar situation. Nassau Street was choked with ice. It looked like the bed of a mountain torrent here and there the water had formed channels for itself and gurgled along between foothigh walls, running down the descent from line to Wall Street. Basements of several buildings behind the Equitable were half filled, choked with ice. Walking was really dangerous, for the slightest carelessness or miss-step was certain to send one sprawling.

Men doing work such as this required from the fire companies engaged on the Equitable building have tremendous appetites. Some of these companies had been working ever since six o'clock yesterday morning. The men craved food, and particularly coffee, because it gave them the quantity of animal heat they needed In order to resist the cold. Despite the fart that part of the burned building was still smouldering, certain of the rear portions were cooling off rapidly, and once out in the street the firemen had no protection at all amid the canons of ice. Every building fronting the Equitable had been plastered with ice until it resembled an Arctic berg. The moving-picture men were reaping a harvest in the shape of colorful films.

In order to provide the firemen with sufficient food, impromptu restaurants were set up in office buildings through the night, and two or three regular restaurants in the neighborhood were kept open. The ice-plated relays of firefighters would come in for a cup of coffee and a huge sandwich, and wait long enough to feel their benumbed hands throbbing with renewed circulation, then plunge again into the search for Walsh's body and the bonds and stocks that were making the whole financial district mark time.

Capt. Brown of Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, who was with Walsh when he was last seen on the fourth floor, and probably the last man to see the missing chief alive, was directing the search for the chief's body. Brown believed that it was probably under 200 tons of debris on the fourth floor, and that it might be all of two days before the firemen could get there.

Early in the morning, Deputy Chief Binns ordered Brown and the other men out of the building, because of the danger from [ ] and unsteady partition walls, and the fact [ ] ceilings with rubbish.

Shortly after seven o'clock this morning the search was resumed. Twenty men of Truck Companies Nos. 8 and 10, led by Binns in person, being sent in from the Cedar Street side. They stretched in two lines of hose with them and played this to advance cooling off the ruins and testing the structure
under foot to make sure that they should not encounter any undermined flooring.

"I have no Idea if we will find the body to-day." said Binns, after he came out, "but of course there is always a chance. It is possible that we may have to wait for days, maybe a week, until the
weather conditions change and melt the ice that lies in tons above him. In addition to that, we do not know exactly where he lies "

While the deputy chief was talking. Lieut. McGrath brought out one fireman, Joseph Rowland of Long Island City, who was frozen almost to death. The sufferer was taken into the offices of the Manhattan Trust Company, where he was revived with hot coffee, and later was put to sleep on top of the big desk of Vice-President Duane. As soon as they heard of this, the Manhattan Trust Company officials sent out for fifty gallons of coffee and a thousand sandwiches, which were distributed among the firemen, policemen, and others who were worn out by their long vigil.

Binn's search for Walsh's body proved fruitless, but it resulted in the important discovery that certain of the outer walls of ponderous granite, reinforced with brick, on the Cedar Street side were unsafe. Cedar Street was promptly cleared of all onlookers by the police, and the tenants of buildings across the street were warned. As a matter of fact, however, the authorities in charge of the fire zone had been extremely cautious about allowing persons near the burned-out shell ever since the quenching of the flames made it possible to live under the walls. They were not taking chances, and did not
encourage attempts by professional wreckers, street-car company employees, and street-cleaning men to clear up the masses of ice cinders, and debris of many kinds that choked the approaches to the building.

Early this morning, long before dawn, a fire started again in the ruins of the tower on the Pine Street side; but three streams directed on the blaze from the windows of the Hanover Bank building, opposite, sufficed to smother it after a brief fight. In the meantime, a gang of laborers of the Metropolitan Street Railway Company put in an appearance and started to work chipping away the ice that covered the Broadway tracks from Liberty to Wall Street. They worked until four o'clock in the morning, and then gave up because of the intense cold, It was said that they would return to work this morning, but if they did they were not allowed to work. The Street Cleaning Department had also announced its intention of trying to remove the coating of ice. In some places two feet thick, from the
streets used by the fire apparatus, but the "white wings" did not appear.

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