The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), Wed., Nov. 7, 1866

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Great Fire - Destruction of Irwin and Sloan's Elevator. - About 2 o'clock this morning fire was discovered in the cupola of Irwin and Sloan's Elevator, situated at the foot of Water street. This cupola was on the north east corner of the building and projected a few feet over the river, so although the Fire Department was promptly on hand, the location was such that no streams could be brought to bear on the fire.

The flames spread rapidly over the entire upper portion of the immense structure, precluding all possibility of saving it. The fire brands, falling on the roof of the storehouse of Farwell and Sloan, manufacturers of plaster and water line, set it on fire and it was destroyed, together with 800 barrels of plaster and 600 barrels of water line which stored therein and about 35 cords of wood piled at the side of it.

The Plaster works being located on the Island, it was some time before a stream was got on the flames, but a number of men with pails kept the fire at bay until the hose was lead across when they succeeded in saving the mill, which at one time seemed impossible. Meantime the fire had spread throughout the elevator and raged, with unparalleled fury. The heat was so intense that it seemed almost impossible to save the smaller buildings around; but the firemen exerted themselves most heroically and successfully in preventing further devastation.

The scene beggars description. The flames wrapping themselves eagerly around the immense timbers, the grain pouring down in continuous streams, and great portions of the frame crashing down, while the lucid glare lighted up that entire portion of the city with the shipping in the harbor, all combined to form a sickening scene of devastation.

The elevator was conceded to be the largest and finest structure of the kind in this section of the country. It had a river front of 132 feet, was 75 feet deep, over 100 feet high and had a storage capacity of over 300,000 bushels. It contained about 150,000 bushels of grain, consisting mostly of wheat, corn, barley and peas, a portion of which will not prove an entire loss.

The elevator went into operation in October, 1864, since which time it has been doing the largest business of any elevator in the city. It was built in the best manner, covered with sheet iron as a protection against fire outside, and was valued at $150,000. The building was insured for $80,000 and the grain for $220,000, the insurance being mostly in Eastern companies and well distributed.

The proprietors inform us that they consider themselves fully insured, and we are happy to state that their business will suffer no interruption. Messrs. Farwell & Sloan's loss on their property was about $3,000, fully insured. Their mill was not damaged, and is in operation again this afternoon.

It is not know how the fire originated, but it is supposed to have caught by a spark from a propeller. The elevator was not in operation after 6 o'clock in the evening, and the machinery in the cupola had not been running since 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

This was the heaviest loss ever involved in the destruction of a single building in this city, and was the greatest fire which has visited the place in many years. It is not only a loss to the proprietors, but is also a public calamity, inasmuch as it takes away one of the best buildings in the city and aims a blow at our business life.

Messrs. Irwin & Sloan are two of the most enterprising business men we have among us, and while their friends are happy to know that they were fully insured, yet every business man in the city regrets the destructive fire of last night.

The firemen never worked with greater energy, and to their efforts is due the saving of the surrounding property. The steamer did good execution, and was the means of saving the storehouse of the Northern Transportation Co., which joined the elevator on the south.

Media Type:
Item Type:
This is the predecessor of the old Northwestern Grain Elevator which burned Jan. 23, 1922.
Date of Original:
Wed., Nov. 7, 1866
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), Wed., Nov. 7, 1866