B & O Telegraph Headquarters burned

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Electrical World

New York, NY, United States
vol. 6, no. 2, p. 15, col. 3

The Baltimore & Ohio Telegraph Headquarters Burned.

A serious fire occurred on July 4 at No. 63 Broadway, the general offices of the Baltimore & Ohio Telegraph Company. It is thought that the fire was started by firecrackers which the messenger boys in the basement had been exploding during the day. A police officer was walking through Rector street at 8 o'clock P. M., when a man ran to him and said there waa a fire in the rear basement of the building, which extended from Broadway to Trinity place. The officer seeing smoke issuing from the basement, at once gave the alarm. Before the engines reached the place, the flames, bursting up the air-shafts, had reached the upper stories, and the whole building, was soon in a blaze. There was danger that the fire would extend to the Adams Express building on one side and to that occupied by the American Express Company on the other. Three alarms were sounded, and engines and hook and ladder companies went tearing down Broadway. Stationed in front and rear, they soon had powerful streams playing into the building, but the interior was a mass of flame, and before the fire was extinguished the building was almost completely gutted.

Twenty-one young operators were at work on the top floor, Broadway front, under Chief Night Operator Moffatt, and Electrician H. F. Dodge was there also. A young operator who sat near the open doorway was the first to smell the smoke, and jumping from his chair he yelled to his companions, "Get out, boys; the house is on fire!" Several of the younger operators, it is said, tumbled down the stairs in their hurry. Chief Moffatt advised the others to try the roof. A month ago a suspended ladder, to furnish easy access to the roof, was hung in the centre of the long operating room. When not in use the ladder was drawn up and rested parallel with the ceiling. Mr. Moffatt lowered it in a twinkling by loosing the string which kept it in place, and the foot of the ladder dropped and rested on a long operating table. The operators were not long in getting to the roof, and Moffatt and Dodge were the last up. All made their way, without any accident, down through the adjoining building into the street.

After two hours' work the fire was under control, The basement, the first floor and the fourth and fifth floors were burned out. The basement of the building was occupied as the telegraph company's storerooms, the cashier's office, and delivery and messengers' room. The building, which is insured for about $50,000, is damaged at least $30,000, and the Baltimore & Ohio Company estimate theri loss at $40,000.

All the messages on the hooks of the telegraph office were saved and sent to the Brooklyn office for transmission.

Temporary offices were secured as soon as possible, next door, 61 Broadway, where necessary apparatus has been put in with the greatest dispatch. By 5 P. M. on Sunday all the leased lines of the company had been repaired and were in readiness. The work of renewal went on actively throughout the early part of the week, and it was not long before the entire service was practically in its wonted condition of efficiency. Too much praise cannot be given to the officers of the company and their aides for the zeal with which they worked in bringing order out of ruin and chaos. It is fortunate that the fire was not so bad in front as it was at the rear of the building, as the records and documents of the executive department of the company have thus been preserved. Many, in fact nearly all, the books and papers are damaged by fire, but very few are so damaged that they cannot be dried or copied.


Keywords:Baltimore and Ohio Telegraph Company
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:May 5, 2009 by: Bob Stahr;