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Notable Fires:

Destructive Conflagration
Commercial Street, Between Sansome And Battery
May 27, 1861

1861 May 28

A fire broke out last night about ten o'clock among the row of wooden clothing stores on the south side of Commercial street, between Sansome and Battery. A strong breeze was blowing from the northwest, and the houses and their contents being of very inflammable material, the whole street was quickly in a blaze. The fire originated in Meyer's jewelry store, from the back room of which the flames were seen suddenly and unaccountably issuing, and they spread rapidly both ways. The entire wooden building between Sansome and Battery were burned to the ground. The sufferers are as follow! :


J. Alexander & Co., Cheap Johns, 410 and 412. damaged by water, but not burned out. J. Jacobs, clothing, 414; Nicholas Fisher, hair dresser, 415 Mike Cohen, Cheap John, 420, upper part of that building being occupied by the family of J. Jacobs; Robert Mayer's fancy bazaar, (heavy stock); B. Froomberg, clothing, No. 421. The fire thus extended on the north between the brick buildings of Mr. Howard, forming the corner of Sansome and Commercial on the west, and Battery and Commercial on the east. The entire distance, being 175 feet, was totally turned over.


Coming east, Daniel Roper, No. 405, clothing ; Isaac Jacobs' family occupied rooms above. Abraham Levi, Nos. 408 and 411, clothing store. No. 413, upper story occupied by Dr. Keeler and John Costo, (formerly the Varieties Theatre of Rowena Granice.) No. 415, Issac Froomberg, (the Red House,) clothing; No. 417, upper part occupied by G. Samuel and family ; No. 418, N. Myers, fancy goods : No. 421 sad 424, occupied by David Mendez and family as a liquor saloon, (the Red Lion,) sot insured ; Nos. 423 and 425, occupied by Abraham Rosenthal and family, and as a clothing store; No. 427, occupied by John Mentz and family, and by Adolph Mundt as a clothing store. The fire on the south side extended 190 feet, from Sherman's brick building on the corner of Sansome and Commercial streets to the New York Hotel, owned by J. J. Hoff, on the corner of Battery St.


The above buildings with their contents, being nearly the whole distance on Commercial street from Sansome, both sides, down to Battery, were destroyed. Those on the South stood back to back with the brick buildings fronting upon the north side of Sacramento street, which were occupied by the following firms : At the corner of Sansome and Sacramento, Messrs. Jones, Dixon & Co., importers of dry goods ; in the next building, M. Kline & Co., hat importers : in the next, M. Morgentbeau, fancy and dry goods importer; in the next, Messrs. Greenberg & Erlenbach, importers. The stores of S. A. Peyser, millinery ; Triest & Livingston, clothing jobbers, and Unger, Wolf & Co , hat and fur importers, were beyond to the eastward. The intense heat of the burning buildings on Commercial street communicated to the rear of some of the above named. Messrs. Kline & Co. sustained damages amounting to about $1,000; Mr. Morgantheau's damages were considerable to the stock. lie was fully insured. The heaviest injury was to the stock of Triest & Livingston. whose valuable stork of goods, valued at $20,000, was damaged, as estimated at, $12,000. Messrs. Jones & Dixon's loss was not over $1,000.


Samuel Froomberg was partially insured. Hubert Mayers' fancy bazaar was insured. N. Meyer, where the fire originated, is believed to be insured. A Levi is believed to be injured. Isaac Froomberg, also supposed to be insured ; Mendez, ditto; Rosenthal partially insured. The building occupied by Mr. Mundt belonged to Messrs. S. Rich & Brothers, on Battery street. On the north side, most of the ground was owned by George W. Howard.


Five of the members of Knickerbocker No. 5, had a narrow and thrilling escape from death. They were upon a ladder which was placed against a burning house, when the frame gave way and the whole of them. ladder and all were precipitated into the midst of the blazing rafters. They fought their way out, bat not without some serious injuries. William Lowry has his head badly cut and received a severe gash in the left foot. T. O'Connor was wounded in the foot. W. B. Fairman and Mr. Riley were in the Building, as was alto C. Buckingham. who had his bead cut. Lowry was the worst injured, and was carried to Keith's drug store, where he received prompt assistance.

Members of Company No. 4 were also miraculously saved ; they had their hose in the building, and had just " backed out,” two of them being at the window as the front fell back — Mr. Alexander Hertz was caught between the ladder and the building, and held in that position until released by his comrades. The other escaped by the window frame giving and farming a prop. The members of No. 5, desire to express their thanks to Mr. L. Maynard, who left $100 at Mr. Bryan's Saloon for them to purchase refreshments with during the night Mr. Maynard bad no property in danger, hut he is an extensive real estate owner in that vicinity.

The proprietors of the St. Nicholas Hotel alto set out gratuitous refreshments for the firemen. Manhattan Company, No. 2, was undoubtedly the means of saving Sherman's building on the south-east corner of Commercial and Sansome street, in which is situated Mrs. Harris' boarding house. They carried their hose to the top of the building, and, finding the shutters open, the; prevented the flames from entering.

In one of the bazaars there must have been a number of loaded fire arms or cannisters (sic) of powder, as a (secession of explosions took place there. Mrs. Harris distributed ten or twelve gallons of brandy and whiskey among the firemen. The cause of delay, last evening, of the Monumental steam fire Engine at the fire was occasioned by the still alarm on Webb street on Friday night last, where the Company broke the wheel of their hose carriage, consequently rendering it unfit for service; but the members seeing the magnitude of the fire, repaired to their Engine House, and proceeded to the fire, the boys carrying the hose on their backs. In the meanwhile, some of the members went to the Corporation Yard and procured the wheel, yet unpainted and rolled it to the fire, when they attached it to the carriage, and, we are glad to state, the Monumentals did good service.

The Pennsylvania steam fire engine was stationed at the corner of Front and Sacrament streets, where she did great and efficient service. This magnificent machine particularly illustrated her immense power. Ebner Ausbells, a member of Lafayette Hook and Ladder Company, was injured by some furniture being pitched upon him from a window.

Quantities of goods were stolen. Two persons were arrested while retreating with goods upon their persons. One was an old man named Sellerk, the other was a young man who gave his name as James Grilling. The other was captured in Sacraments street, having in his arms half a dozen pairs of pantaloons and several cloth caps. They were committed to the cells.

This is the most formidable fire our Department have had to contain with during the present year, and situated as it was, and having to attack it on two sides, with a strong wind blowing, and the buildings composed of the most inflammable material, it is certainly a lasting credit to the gallant men who quickly and effectually subdued the flames. The companies which were detailed to quench the embers, rake out the ashes, etc., were engaged there until daylight and enlivened their labors with a variety of cheerful songs.

The damage cannot yet be estimated with accuracy.
Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 13, Number 4120, 28 May 1861 — Destructive Conflagration. [ARTICLE]

Extracted from original sources with grammar and spelling as published.

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