100 Years Ago Today 9 January 1912
100 Years ago Today, Tuesday, 9 January 1912, the evening edition of The World, in New York, front page headlines read: Half Billion Buried In Ashes of Burned Equitable Building; Democratic Convention Captured by Baltimore; June 25 is the Date set; Richeson to die in chair May 19; Pleads Guilty; Wealthy Woman uses Gas and Gun to End her life; Fire Chief Walsh Dead, Ordered his men back, lost his life in smoke.
The newspaper showed a bird's eye view of the Equitable building fire taken from top of the Trinity building. The fire spread due to half hour's delay in sending alarm. The aid was summoned from Brooklyn.The trading on exchange was stopped by confusion. There were reduced by heroic firemen. Only outside walls of the first skyscraper was left standing.
The loss was predicted to reach fifteen millions of dollars, destroying the great gray building of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which was a landmark of Broadway for many years. It stretched from Cedar Street to Pine street on Broadway and through to Nassau Street.
At least five men were killed. There were nearly a score more not accounted for, who may have lost their lives when the fire puffed through the building with the suddenness of a series of explosions.
More than $500,000,000, in cash, stocks and bonds, is estimated to be locked up in vaults in the building. There was suppose to be $350,000,000 in cash and securities in the Equitable vaults alone, and millions more in the vaults of the Equitable Trust, the mercantile Trust and Safe Deposit vaults, brokers' and bankers' private safes, and those of lawyers. The vaults were all reported intact, with contents unharmed, at one o'clock.
The building was the city's first skyscraper. The loss on the building alone was $5,000,000. This did not include the sumptuous fittings of the lawyers' Club, which occupied the upper floors on the pine street side with an almost priceless law library. It did not include the equipment of the Gate Savarin or the furnishings and libraries and records of scores of lawyers who served some of the richest clients in the world.
This first skyscraper of New York city with all the extravagance of the oldHenry B. Hyde regime. marble was used lavishly in its construction. This first skyscraper was only eight stories high. And the Equitable Society carried no insurance on the building.
Because of the securities held up in the many vaults in the building, and the difficulty of making deliveries, the New York Stock Exchange suspended all deliveries for the day and would prolong the period until the vaults could be reached. It was considered an unprecedented proceeding.
Thrilling rescues were made by firemen, who risked their own lives recklessly whenever there was a prospect of saving others. president Giblin of the mercantile Deposit Company was literally sawed out of the steel barred windows of the deposit vault. The list of injured firemen would read almost like a roll call of the department. Only those with disabling injuries reported their names to their commanders.
Known dead were: William J Walsh, chief of the 2nd Battalion of the Fire Department;
William Campion, captain of Mercantile Deposit watchmen; John Savzi, cleaner; John Conto, cleaner; Massana Fratta, a cleaner.
The three cleaners had gone to work in the Savarin restaurant kitchen at 5 o'clock. They were caught on the roof and jumped to death. There were fifteen other men in the cleaning gang. It is impossible yet to know whether they escaped or not.
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