Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jan. 9, 1912, The Evening Post: New York, Page 4,

January 9, 1912, The Evening Post: New York, Last Edition,

"Officer Who Faced the Fire," Page 4, Column 1,



William Giblin of Mercantile Company Went Into the Place to Retrieve Files —Fire Captain Binns Tells How He and Walsh Were Caught Up By the Flames and Thick Smoke.

Three men injured in the fire which destroyed the Equitable building were taken to the Hudson Street Hospital at a late hour none had been taken to the Gouverneur Hospital, but four of the hospital's ambulances were at the fire. One of the three treated at the Hudaon Street institution was William Giblin, president of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company.

While the doctors in the hospital were working over Giblin, a man in rubber boots walked up to the office and asked if Chief Walsh was in the hospital.

"Have you seen Chief Walsh?" he asked at the desk.

"Who are you?" the superintendent asked.

"I'm his driver," came the answer. He had been driving from hospital to hospital half-dazed, asking for his chief, who was reported dead.

When told that Walsh was not one of the three, he stood for a moment in the hall repeating half aloud:

"I've lost my chief—I've lost my chief!"

Than he jumped into his runabout and drove away.

Giblin was taken to the hospital at half-past nine. He was suffering from exposure, but was otherwise uninjured. Dr. T. O. [ ] who attended him, amitted that his patent was progressing satisfactorily.


One of the first of his friends to arrive was Father Stuart Chambers of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. Giblin is a parrishoner of his parish, and an intimate friend. The police had telephoned and told him that Giblin was dead. They asked him to break the news to his wife. When he learned that Giblin was alive and had been taken to the Hudson Street Hospital, he rushed straight there and got permission to see the patient.

"Giblin is not in danger," he said, "but he was almost frozen when he was taken from the vault When he found himself locked in he almost gave up hope. The fire drove him back to one corner. There he found a stream of water, and that saved his life."

"As the flames hemmed him in he got under this stream. It saved him from being burned alive. But when he was taken out he was drenched to the skin, and his clothes froze on him. Except for the exposure from this, he is not much hurt.

"Mr. Giblin went into the vault to save the watchman, who was caught there, and to get his company's papers and books. While imprisioned there he saw against the wall another man standing within three feet of him."

Edward D. Jones was another visitor. He said that every evening at ten o'clock the Captain of the watch at the vault called up Mr. Giblin to tell him that everything, was safe. Last night he did this as usual, but early this morning Mr. Giblin received word of the fire, and hurried at once to the vault.

The last man to see Chief Walsh was Charles S. Bass, captain of Engine 4, now at the Hudson Street Hospital, with his arms and face burned. Bass's Engine was the second to arrive at the fire, having been called out on the first alarm, shortly before six o'clock.


"I took my men and went up to the roof," he said. "We then got a hose up as far as the fourth floor, where we were caught by flames from below. The fire was intense. I remember a big place, like a hallway, covered over with a skylight. There was a stairway leading up to the center of the hall, and my men were on the stairway.

"There was an iron railing near me, and on the other side of it, I could see Walshtrying to make his way toward me. He crawled over the rail and called in my ear, 'we'd better get out of this!' No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the crash came.

"I was pinned down by some piece of furniture, and yelled out when the flames burnt my arm. A fireman, probably a man from truck No. 1, was near me. He must have dragged me out to another room and taken me down the ladder."

Bass fell back on the pillow murmering, "Walsh must have got caught on the third floor. Too bad. He was a great man---a great fellow to work under."

Another survivor, who was taken to the hospital, was Timothy Manning, Captain of Fire Patrol, Truck [ ] He was overcome and carried to the basement of the United States Realty Company. He wanted to get back to the fire, but was put into an ambulance. He is still being closely watched in a private room at the hospital.

According to Manning's incoherent account, he did not get to the fire until eight o'clock, when the fourth alarm was turned in. He says that he saw the porters jump from the sixth floor ledge, on the corner of Cedar Street and Broadway. "I went up to the third floor with a hose---and that's all I remember," he said.



Planned by Elder Hyde and Begun Soon After the Civil War — Scandal Involved in Construction—The Appraised Value Was $12,000 000—A New Building Was Planned.

The Equitable Life Assurance Society building was the pioneer of the present day skyscraper buildings of New York City. Its construction was begun soon after the civil war at the southeast corner of Cedar Street and Broadway, occupying a plot [ ] by a little more than 100 feet. With the growth of the business the officers and directors authorized its extension and improvement, until, by 1887, it covered almost the entire block, bounded by Broadway, Cedar, Pine, and Nassau Streets. One of the most conspicuous features of the building was the huge vault on the second floor. That was supported by six large piers. It was made of steel and concrete. It was thirty feet square and twelve feet high. As far as is known all of the securities and other valuable documents were placed in this safe last Monday night. As the vault is supposed to be fireproof, it is thought the documents will be found intact when the vault is opened.

The idea of a modern office building was conceived by Henry B. Hyde, founder of the Equitable Society. It was decided about six months ago that this building, long looked upon as a landmark, was to be replaced by a modem structure, sixty-two stories high. [ ] about a year ago, but had recently been changed.

When Hyde broached the idea of erecting the building that has just been destroyed, he met with some opposition from the directors of the Society. They said

that such a building could not be filled. Then Hyde planned a law library as an attraction to members of the legal profession. He decided to have this library on

the fifth floor. When the directors contended that the lawyers would not walk up so many steps. Mr. Hyde created another innovation by planning to install passenger elevators. The result was that the Equitable building was the first to have passenger elevators in this city.


With the destruction of the old building several valuable libraries probably have been totally destroyed, including the insurance library containing 8,000 volumes, and the magnificent collection in the Lawyers' Club aggregating nearly 40,000 volumes. Besides these valuable collections, statuary and bronzes in the Equitable offices, the Lawyers' Club, and theibrary, valued at close to a million dollars, have also been destroyed. One of the most conspicuous of these was a bronze statue of Henry B. Hyde, which occupied a place in the main hall. The decorations of the building, consisting of marbles, stained glass windows, rare woodwork, and hangings were correspondingly rich.

The appraised valuation of the building and plot was $18,000,010, the second highest appraisal in New York- The property is one of the largest individual ownerships in the financial district, and probably one of the most valuable. The block is variously estimated to be worth between $15,000,000 and $30,000,000, and of this the land represents fully "95 percent, as the value of the building was but slightly regarded, as it was not economically constructed, much valuable space being lost in spacious halls and stairways.


One thing the burning of the building occasioned was the revival of the talk of the [ ] announced in 1908, of the [ ] -foot skyscraper tower, [ ] to the height of [ ] Building Department, but were never executed, the prevailing opinion at the time [ ] possible [ ] building code limiting the height of buildings.

However, now that the company will be compelled to build, it is likely that the plans [ ] but not likely in their original form nor on the site first contemplated, for the Equitable directors have it under advisement the purchase of a plot uptown as a site for their new home. The Equitable Building was of monumental architecture and was generally be;ieved to be thoroughly fireproof, but experts were want to say otherwise, and many expressed the opinion that were a blaze to get any headway at all the structure would be doomed.

The block owned by the Equitable was not purchased at one time, sections of it having been acquired from time to time since the early sixties, the first portion of the present structure being built in 1871. About fourteen years later the whole block was under the control of the company with the exception of a small lot on the Nassau Street side, which was acquired about eight years ago, and the structure was completed. There were practically three buildings on the block, two small buildings being on either side of the entrance to the main building on the Nassau Street side.

THE LAWYERS' CLUB, Page 4, Column 1,

The Lawyers' Club occupied one entire floor of the Equitable Building [ ] The Club's dining room silverware alone was valued at $180,000.



Biography, in Manuscript, of Man Who Controlled Union Pacific, Said by Himself as Borne of His Important Deals, Supposed to Be Lost—Were to Have Been Moved.

Lost, probably, beyond hope of recovery in the ashes of the Equitable building were many of the private papers and records of the late E. H. Harriman. Among these were many valuable documents kept by Harriman as he built up his great railroad system. There was also a biography of Harriman, completed in manuscript and containing notes and personal reminiscences by himself.

It was by the merest chance that all these papers were not saved. The Union Pacific Railroad had begun to move its offices out of the Equitable a few days ago, and most of its equipment was already stored in the new office in the City Investing building, 163 Broadway. But the Harriman Lines had occupied a large suite in the Equitable for many years, and the work of clearing out was a task requiring days to accomplish.

By last night nearly everything movable had been transferred to the new office. About the only things of importance that had been left behind were the Harriman records and his biography. These were kept with the legal papers in the railroad's law offices. It was planned to move them to the company's new home to-day.

Although a good deal of Harriman's railroad and financial operations were known and had been written about, the papers destroyed to-day were said to contain records of some of the most important deals in his life.

August Belmont started to force his way to his office on the corner of Nassau and Cedar Streets, which is the turn n the "L" formed by the Equitable building. He got half-way across the street when a policeman caught him and pushed him back with little ceremony. Belmont made himself known, but even then he was not allowed to pass.

No comments: