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Brainerd: City of Fire

Nearly all of the buildings of any historical importance to the City of Brainerd have been burned or demolished; these buildings include places of business as well as places of residence. Through the years entire blocks in the business center were burned as well as hundreds of homes; the resulting loss of life caused by some of these fires was horrific. A number were caused by exploding oil or kerosene lamps, faulty chimneys or faulty stoves, and some were incendiary.

Ann M. Nelson

NOTE: There are many fires described in this page. However, the Table of Contents displays only the fires that destroyed major buildings of some historical importance. In order to view the information regarding all of the other fires, it is necessary to scroll through the page.

1871 Fire at Brainerd
1872 Two Hotels, Four Stores, One Saloon Burned
1874 Brainerd Tribune Fire
1875 Northwestern Hotel Fire
1876 Sherwood Drug Store Fire
1878 Shupe’s Theater Burns
1879 Dressen’s House Fire
1879 Fire! Fire!
1880 Sorenson House Fire
1881 Congregational Church Fire
1882 Le Bon Ton Saloon Fire
1882 Headquarters Hotel Fire
1883 Northern Pacific Hospital Fire
1886 Northern Pacific Shops Fire
1886 Brainerd Brewery Company Fire
1887 Villard Hotel Fire
1888 Garden Theater Fire
1890 Leland House / Commercial Hotel Fire
1891 Northern Pacific Shops Fire
1891 Nicollet House Fire
1892 Brainerd Brewery Company Fire
1892 J. J. Howe Lumber Mill Fire
1893 Northern Pacific Shops Fire
1894 Olympic Theatre Fire
1894 Cass County Courthouse Fire
1895 Arlington Hotel Fire
1896 J. J. Howe Lumber Mill Fire
1898 Sleeper Opera House Fire
1899 The Midway Saloon Fire
1899 J. J. Howe Lumber Mill Fire
1900 Lake View Park Fire
1901 Vanstrum Clothing Store Fire
1902 Swedish Baptist Church Burns
1903 Armstrong / French Hotel Fire
1903 First Avenue Hotel Fire
1904 Arlington Hotel Fire
1904 Koop Block Fire
1904 Hartley Block Fire
1904 Roller Rink Fire
1905 Bly’s Block Fire
1907 Reilly Block Fire
1907 Ransford Hotel Fire
1907 Sleeper Block Fire
1909 Hoffman Building and Central Hotel Fire
1909 Columbian Block Fire
1910 Electric Light Station Burns to Ground
1910 Walker Block Fire
1911 Koop Block Fire
1914 Mahlum Block Fire
1914 Brainerd Brewery Company Fire
1914 Bane Block Fire
1915 Fire in the Opsahl Block
1916 City Hotel Fire
1916 Brainerd Ice Company Building Fire
1916 Purdy Livery Stable Fire Threatens Business Section
1916 Earl/Carlson Hotel Fire
1917 Antlers Hotel Fire
1917 Northern Pacific Depot (First) Fire
1917 Basement Fire in Ransford Block
1918 Cale Block Fire
1918 Pump House Destroyed by Fire
1919 Model Laundry Company Building Fire
1920 St. Joseph’s Hospital Nurses’ Home Fire
1920 Fire Destroys Old Northern Pacific Car Shops
1920 Joncas Sawmill Fire
1921 Knights of Columbus Home is Burned
1922 Ideal Hotel Fire
1923 Koop Block Fire
1923 Home of NP Chief Surgeon in West Brainerd Burned
1923 East Hotel Fire
1924 Anna Block Fire
1924 Old Trading Post Fire
1924 Webb Block Fire
1924 Imperial Block Fire
1926 Riverside Apartment House Fire
1926 Olympia Candy Kitchen Fire
1927 Fire Losses in City in 1926 are $20,000
1928 Brainerd High School (First) Fire
1929 Iron Exchange Building Threatened by Flames
1929 Old Trading Post Grass Fire
1929 Ransford Hotel Fire
1930 Hall Music House Fire
1930 Fountain Inn Fire
1930 Conklin Motor Fire
1930 Old Time Fire Fighting Days in City Not Forgotten
1933 St. Francis Catholic Church Fire
1933 Gray / Bishop Hotel Fire
1943 Davis Hide and Fur Company Fire
1952 Voss Farm Supply Fire
1953 Early Block Fire
1964 Baehr Building Fire
1965 Front Street Fire
1970 Iron Exchange Building Fire
1982 House Fire Kills 2, Arson Feared
1987 Walker Block / Alderman’s Hardware Fire
1991 Anna Block Fire
2015 402 Front Street Fire


31 October


On Tuesday morning quite a destructive fire occurred at Brainerd. Three men came into the Northwestern Hotel between two and three o’clock, and being cold, built a large fire in the office stove. The pipe became red-hot, setting fire to the room above. The following buildings were destroyed:

Northwestern Hotel,

Jos. Reed’s saloon,

John Bishop’s saloon,

Bishop’s Hotel,

Store next to hotel.

Very little was saved. No insurance.

(St. Cloud Journal, 02 November 1871, p. 4, c. 2)


02 January

BRAINERD, Jan. 5.—Our town has again been visited by fire and seven buildings been destroyed. The fire broke out day after New Year in a Swede butcher shop, and destroyed the saloons of J. C. Walters, and of Ward & Saunders, and the Scandinavian Hotel; Feac[?] & Livingston who had rented of Ward & Saunders saved their stock, excepting about $300 worth missing. Davenport loses about $350; Ward and Saunders $520; the owners of the Scandinavian Hotel, Ward & Erickson, lost every thing excepting stoves and pipe: their loss is put down at $800. J. C. Walters’ loss is very heavy: probably $1,500. Fairbanks building which... (Duluth Minnesotian, Saturday, 06 January 1872)

03 March



Another Calamitous Confla-

gration in Brainerd.












Loss Over $11,000.


Last Sabbath evening closed with another of those fiery calamities the knowledge of which brings sadness to every sympathetic heart. This is the third terrible fire that has occurred in the same block within the past three months. The fire originated in the Bishop House, a large two and a half story building, and was first discovered about four o’clock, and not until the whole upper portion of the building was in flames. Hundreds of our citizens, including the Fire Company, were almost instantly on the ground, and sprang with a will to the noble work of saving from the flames all the property that could be carried out and off the premises. The time was extremely short, however, as the flames had got under terrible headway, their work of destruction being accelerated by a free wind blowing from the northwest. From the Bishop House the fire speedily spread in both directions—east and west. West of the Bishop House here were three buildings to the corner—Mr. Chamberlain’s saloon, Jo. Reed’s Saloon and grocery store, and the Northwestern Hotel, owned by Messrs. Combs, Harris, Dodge & Silves. On the east of the Bishop House there were three business houses consumed—Wm. Schwartz’s family supply and home made goods store, Morrison & Fairbanks grocery store, and Mr. J. C. Walter’s wholesale liquor store. In the rear of the row was a large barn belonging to the Bishop House, a one-story house belonging to the Northwestern Hotel, and several other out-buildings, all of which were destroyed. Between Walters’ liquor store and Albert Hall, was a vacant lot, and by tearing out Mr. Walters’ building, left a space of fifty feet. As soon as this was accomplished the Fire Company, aided by citizens brought water from the adjacent wells and by keeping the roof and side of the Hall building completely and constantly drenched with water it was saved, and the spread of the fire to the east was thereby arrested. A lucky change of the wind, too, just at this crisis aided in the arrest of the flames, although as it was the Hall was only saved by the merest chance. Had it taken fire nothing could have saved the entire block, and probably the next business block east would also have gone. The losses, as nearly as we could learn at the time of writing, were as follows:

J. C. Walters—Loss on building $500; loss on and damage to goods, $400; total, $900. Most of his stock was saved. No insurance.

Morrison & Fairbanks—Loss on building, $700; loss on goods, $300; total, $1,000. A portion of the stock saved. No insurance.

Wm. Schwartz—Loss on Building, $800; loss on goods and household effects, etc., $1,000; total, $1,800. Insured in the Amazon of Cincinnati for $1,400.

J. W. Bishop—Loss on building, $1,000. Loss on furniture, $800. Loss on barn and contents, $400. Total, $2,200. No insurance.

Mr. Chamberlain—Loss on house, contents and stock, probably $500. No insurance.

Jo. Reed—Loss on building, furniture and goods, estimated at $2,500. No insurance.

The Northwestern Hotel—Loss on building, $1,800. Loss on furniture, chiefly by damage, $200. Total, $2,000. No insurance.

Other property, together with the clothing and personal effects of the seventy or eighty guests of the two hotels, was destroyed to the amount of probably $500, making an aggregate loss, as estimated, of $11,400.

Many, perhaps all, the sufferers contemplate building again, notwithstanding this has been the third time within three months that several of them have been burned out; and in this their third fiery trial they have the heartfelt sympathy of the entire community. (Brainerd Tribune, 09 March 1872, p. 3, c. 3)

GREAT FIRE IN BRAINERD.—Three men killed and sixteen wounded, in moving Walters’ goods from his store over to his old “headquarters”—the squatty tent. (Brainerd Tribune, 09 March 1872, p. 3, c. 1)



Brainerd Again Visited by a Serious Conflagration—$11,000 Worth of Property Destroyed.


The new town of Brainerd, located on the Mississippi river at the point where it is crossed by the Northern Pacific railroad, appears to be a shining mark for disastrous fires. It is only a few weeks since nearly, or quite, half the village was laid in ruins, and now the Brainerd Tribune comes to us with an account of another like disaster, which visited them last Sunday night. That paper gives the following list of losses and losers:

J. O. Walters—Loss on building $500; loss on and damage to goods $400; total, $900. Most of his stock was saved. No insurance.

Morrison & Fairbanks—Loss on building, $700; loss on goods, $300; total $1,000. A portion of the stock saved. No insurance.

Wm. Schwartz—Loss on building, $800; loss on goods and household effects, etc. $1,000; total $1,800. Insured in the Amazon of Cincinnati for $1,400.

J. W. Bishop—Loss on building $1,000. Loss on furniture, $800. Loss on barn and contents, $400. Total, $2,200. No insurance.

Mr. Chamberlain—Loss on house, contents and stock, probably $500. No insurance.

Jo. Reed—Loss on building, furniture and goods, estimated at $2,500. No insurance.

The Northwestern Hotel—Loss on building, $1,800. Loss on furniture, chiefly by damage, $200. Total $2,000. No insurance.

Other property, together with the clothing and personal effects of the seventy or eighty guests of the two hotels, was destroyed to the amount of probably $500, making an aggregate loss, as estimated, of $11,400.

Many, perhaps all the sufferers, contemplate building again, notwithstanding this has been the third time within three months that several of them have been burned out, and in this; their third fiery trial, they have the heartfelt sympathy of the entire community. (Minneapolis Tribune, 09 March 1872, p. 2)

23 March

Rebuilding—Better Luck Ahead.

Of the persons who were burnt out in the recent conflagration, the following have already or are now rebuilding:

Jo. Reed has built a fine two-story house on the lot formerly occupied by the Northwestern Hotel. It is 20x30 feet, and Mr. Reed will very soon be ready to open up business again.

Morrison & Fairbanks have built on their old site a building 20x32 feet, and will again commence the grocery business with increased energy.

The irrepressible Bishop, of the Bishop House, is finishing up his new house again on the lot adjoining where his other one was burned down. It will be a full two and a half story structure, 22x30 feet, with substantial brick chimneys—good!

J. C. Walters, the wholesale liquor and cigar dealer, has had his house finished for two weeks past, and is doing more business than ever, as has been before intimated in these columns, and whose energy may be plainly seen by referring to our advertising columns.

W. H. Chamberlain has removed to new ground entirely, and is building on Fifth street.

The enterprise of these gentlemen, in thus branching out again, is commendable in the extreme, and their liberal enterprise will doubtless meet with the success it deserves in the future business operations of them all. (Brainerd Tribune, 23 March 1872, p. 3, c. 2)

06 April

The burnt block has again been built up with fine new buildings, and every precaution has been taken to guard against fire and the whole block is now insurable. (Brainerd Tribune, 06 April 1872, p. 1, c. 6)

SEE: Miscellaneous Building / Business Information in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

13 April

How to Put Out a Fire.

FRIEND RUSSELL—Now that the snow is disappearing and the dry weather about to set in, it behooves the inhabitants of Brainerd to guard well against fire. Take, we will say, the bodies of two very small pine trees, trim them, and nail pieces of boards between them, about a foot apart, for a ladder, to be placed in such a position that they will reach, on the side of the house, to the top of the roof. Next, secure your ladder well, by spiking it to the house.

To walk securely on the roof, take a stout, wide board—one, or more—so as to reach the whole length of the roof. Nail this, for a walk, on the peak of your house, securing it well by stout cleats on both sides. Now, in an emergency a child, even, can go up the ladder and on the platform above. A barrel of water, well salted, is very handy.

All a person has to do is to run up the ladder with an empty pail, and dash on the water, as the flames burst out of the roof. Now any handy person, with a saw, ax, hammer and nails, can rig up the ladder and platform in a few hours, and thus render any one able to extinguish any ordinary conflagration on on his premises. If any one objects to the upper platform, then make two small ones with narrow boards, on each side of the roof near the top. I hope our townsmen will make no delay, but take this matter in hand promptly, and thus secure themselves, as much as possible, against any future ravages of the Fire Fiend. Yours truly,


(Brainerd Tribune, 13 April 1872, p. 1, c. 3)

20 May

Attempted Arson—Some One Trying to Burn

the Town.

ON Monday and Tuesday nights last some devil or devils incarnate, made almost successful attempts to burn the town. On Monday night kerosene oil and tinder were applied to the rear of Hill’ store, and had just got a fair start as it was accidentally discovered by Milt Askew, Esq., who gave the alarm and the fire was extinguished just in time to save a fearful conflagration in that portion of town. It was discovered after the fire was put out, that some empty kerosene barrels had been piled up into a corner between the warehouse and another small addition, and kerosene oil had been freely applied to the walls of the building. On Tuesday night, toward morning, the man who had been placed on watch at Hills’ discovered fire in the next block west. He gave the alarm and ran to the scene of the fire, when it was discovered to be in the rear of Morrison & Fairbanks’ store, and originating in almost exactly the same manner as the night previous. Dry matter had been piled up against the rear of the building and kerosene oil plentifully applied thereto as well as to the end of the house. Assistance promptly came to Mr. Hoffman, who discovered it, and by a little good work the fire was subdued. We understand that the authorities have some suspicions as to who the parties are, who would engage in this fiendish work, and judging from the way we have heard an indignant people talk, those suspicions had better not approach anything like a certainty, for the sake of the neck or necks of those engaged in this fearful incendiary business. It is presumed that plunder is the object, and a black-hearted villain he must be who would burn a town and probably a hundred people for what he could carry off in his arms of plunder. (Brainerd Tribune, 25 May 1872, p. 1, c. 3)


18 December


So far as we are concerned, it would not be necessary to publish an article relating the fact that we had experienced a disastrous fire in Brainerd on Friday night of last week.

Nor would it be necessary to print anything regarding the matter for the information of anyone in this town or section of country.

But our numerous readers at a distance would probably like to have a brief recital of “what has been the matter” within a week back. Hence we give it.

About half-past eleven on the night in question, the first alarm of fire was given, and in a short time two or three hundred citizens, including the Fire Company, had congregated at the fiery scene on Front street, to witness the destruction of the beautiful building owned by Mr. A. Allen, and occupied by Wm. Schwartz, as a store, on the lower floor, and upstairs by W. W. Hartley, Clerk of the Court and Real Estate dealer, Judge D. O. Preston’s Law and Probate office, and the BRAINERD TRIBUNE office. Also, the fine boot and shoe and gent’s furnishing goods store of Marshall & Campbell, next adjoining, and the barber shop and hair store of Mr. R. L. Jones, adjoining the shoe store.

The fire originated in or at (not definitely known which) the rear of the Marshall & Campbell’s shoe store, and before anything effective could be done, the whole three buildings were wrapped flames.

The Fire Company, with a portion of the other citizens, went at once to work to save the splendid mammoth store building of Mr. Eber H. Bly on the one side, and the fine Jewelry establishment of E. L. Strauss on the other, while others worked at carrying out goods from the stores with all the activity that they could bring to bear.

By the greatest work and most persistent energy the buildings of Messrs. Bly and Strauss were saved from destruction, though pretty badly scorched, and by well ordered activity a good share of Mr. Schwartz’s goods were saved, the greater share of Mr. Jones’ goods also, but only a few of Marshall & Campbell’s were gotten out.

To be brief, the loss of Mr. Schwartz is probably three thousand or more, that of Marshall & Campbell over three thousand, aside from insurance; Jones, three to four hundred; Hartley, though saving the County records, loses considerable; Preston loses a portion of his library, etc., Mr. Allen a thousand or so aside from insurance, while the TRIBUNE office of Russell and Wall was a total loss. Marshall & Campbell had fifteen hundred dollars insurance on stock, and Mr. Allen two thousand, we believe, on his building. None of the other sufferers were insured.

It was a godsend that the night was still, scarcely a breath of air stirring, else with all the noble work that was done, the whole block would probably have been destroyed.

Mr. Strauss also loses somewhat by the removal of his goods, and damage to his store building; probably two or three hundred dollars; while Mr. Bly, too, loses something by damage.

Altogether it was a sad fire, and were it not for the noble generosity and sympathy of our citizens, it would seem much worse. But God never allowed to live on this green earth a nobler set of people than those of which Brainerd is made up, and by their nobleness of heart disaster in our midst is shorn of half its miseries, and cements us together in harmony, and love of our fellow man, more and more. (Brainerd Tribune, 26 December 1874, p. 1, c. 3)

SEE: Tribune in the Newspapers of Early Brainerd page.

SEE: Schwartz Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

PROF. R. L. JONES, the accomplished tonsorial artist who was burned out with the rest of us, has put his chairs into the Metropolitan Hotel, where he may be found until he gets his new shop built. His hair store is located on Laurel Street, opposite Starcher’s store. The professor is plucky, and will be encouraged by a liberal patronage as usual, and we hope will soon recover from his misfortune. (Brainerd Tribune, 26 December 1874, p. 1, c. 7)

A CARD OF THANKS.—I wish by this means to return my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the citizens of Brainerd for their generous assistance in saving my goods from the ravages of fire on Friday night of last week. I assure them their kindness will never be forgotten, and in the future, as in the past, I shall endeavor to prove worthy of their consideration.


BRAINERD, Dec. 25th, 1874.

(Brainerd Tribune, 26 December 1874, p. 1, c. 7)

MR. H. A. CAMPBELL, one of the victims of the conflagration, has had his insurance fully adjusted, got liberal arrangements made with his creditors, and will rebuild on the old site at once, and resume business as soon as his building is completed. Mr. Campbell will be greeted with a liberal patronage from our good people, as soon as he gets started again, and will do so knowing that he enjoys the great sympathy and best wishes of our citizens. (Brainerd Tribune, 26 December 1874, p. 1, c. 7)

PERSONAL.—...A. Allen, Esq., of St. Cloud, and a former citizen of Brainerd, spent a day or two in town this week. Mr. Allen was up looking after his interests—made very uninteresting for him, as well as the rest of us, by reason of the late fire. Mr. Allen sold the lot upon which his building stood, to Mr. Schwartz, for one thousand dollars. Mr. Allen’s building was insured for $2,000. Mr. Schwartz will immediately rebuild on the site of his late disaster, and for the fourth time in three years will rise like a Phoenix from his ashes. (Brainerd Tribune, 26 December 1874, p. 1, c. 7)


23 January

WM. SCHWARTZ has his old store building now moved from lower town to the scene of his late disaster by fire, and he is now putting on a big addition in the rear. It will, when completed, be an ornament to Front Street, and a splendid business stand. (Brainerd Tribune, 23 January 1875, p. 1, c. 7)

27 April


The cry of fire startled our citizens on Tuesday evening last; and upon ascertaining its location it was found to be away up in the northeast part of the town. The bright light soon became so prominent as to attract the attention of everybody, and a grand rush of citizens set in in that direction. The Hook and Ladder Company started with their truck almost simultaneously with the first alarm, and although the distance was great, they were very soon at the scene of the conflagration, and, aided by other citizens, commenced operation to stop the spread of the flames among the residences in that vicinity, which stood thick all along the face of the block—a wooden building occupying every lot, which are only twenty-five feet front. The fire originated in the house of Richard Whalen, and as near as we can ascertain, was caused by the upsetting of a lamp. All the houses burned—five in number—were owned and occupied—with but one exception—by mechanics employed at the railroad machine shops; and although the aggregate loss, in dollars, does not hold a comparison with many equally extensive fires, yet the real loss by this conflagration is peculiarly severe, because each building burned was the home and only earthly paradise of poor men, who are among the very best of our citizens, and had large families for whose support they labored, with bared arms, from day to day. As before stated, five buildings were burned, and several others more or less damaged, before the fiery elements could be stayed by the united efforts of our sympathizing citizens. The principal sufferers are

Ben Askens,

John Murphy,

Richard Whalen,

George Johnson,

Nils Loberg,

and no insurance upon any of the buildings. We learn that the building on the north, or northeast, that was finally saved after a severe struggle, and which now stands on the verge of the burned district on that side, was the only one in that row that was insured. Certainly the unfortunate families have the deep sympathy of all our noble people, and all stand ready to lend any assistance in their power to reinstate the unfortunates in other homes among us. (Brainerd Tribune, 01 May 1875, p. 1, c. 3)

04 May


On Tuesday evening last, about 10 o’clock, our citizens were once more alarmed by the cry of “fire!” Sending a thrill through our every nerve like a shock of electricity. Guided by the light, the citizens rushed to West Front street to find the Northwestern Hotel in flames. Fortunately, the wind blew from the east, carrying the flames and myriads of ciders and sparks away from the adjoining buildings, so that it was quite an easy task to prevent further damage than the loss of the hotel itself, which it was impossible to save. The owner of the building, Col. J. S. Styles, of Minneapolis, was in the city at the time of the fire, and informed us it was insured for $800.00, but did not know in what company. He also informed us he was a heavy loser in the late Oshkosh fire, and only partially insured.

Here we are led to ask, why the wells on Front street are not kept in order? We are informed that the well in the upper block, on the night of the fire, had only one bucket in it, and was comparatively useless. Had the wind been blowing in an opposite direction, water on the roof of the Bishop house would have been the only salvation of the town, and the nearest city well was cor. 4th and Laurel streets. Front street is the place where fire is the most to be dreaded of any other part of the city—and not a city well on the whole street.

Should not the city authorities take charge of and keep in order both wells on Front street, or should the citizens on Front street pay their share of building and keeping the city wells up, and stand the expense of these wells in addition? (Brainerd Tribune, 08 May 1875, p. 1, c. 5)

SEE: Miscellaneous Building / Business Information in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

AN alarm of fire was given Monday night about one o'clock, caused by the chimney in the Shades Billiard Hall burning out. The buildings adjacent were covered with snow or a fire would have been the inevitable result, the destructive nature of which would have been indescribable. Brainerd has had a great many narrow escapes from total destruction by fire, but the time is approaching, it seems to us, just as surely as anything can be, when her three business blocks will be laid in ashes unless more effective measures are adopted for their protection. The extreme cold weather and the many temporarily built cold buildings require hot fires, and the many defective chimneys and flues render an accident almost a certainty, besides, we have suffered from the work of the incendiary before, and owing to the hard times are liable to again almost any night, and taken at a high wind total destruction would be certain. Cities far better protected against fires than our City of Pines have only lasted a few hours, and we may be the next victim. Wake up, property owners, before it is too late and protect yourselves against certain calamity. (Brainerd Tribune, 11 December 1875, p. 1, c. 7)


01 August

Brainerd Burned.

BRAINERD, Minn., August 2.—A disastrous fire occurred here to night, destroying thirteen buildings, the main portion of the business part of the town. The post office is burned—letters and outfit saved. The United States Express office was burned—packages, &c., saved. The auditor’s office, McNanny’s [sic] Hotel, Askew’s saloon, Mrs. Davis’ book and music store, and Martin’s saloon. All papers saved in the auditor’s office. (Minneapolis Tribune, 03 August 1876, p. 1)

Brainerd's Catastrophe.

BRAINERD, August 3.—The fire of Tuesday night commenced in the rear of Sherwood's buildings—cause unknown—and swept west to the end of the block, burning the post office, Mrs. Davis' book and music store, the United States express office, Martin's saloon, McNary's [sic] [McNannay’s] hotel and blacksmith shop, Anderson's tailor shop, Pine and Trudell's restaurants, Askew's saloon, the county auditor's office, and some unoccupied buildings—fifteen in all—the entire block. Estimated loss $15,000 to $20,000. Sherwood was insured for $2,800. No others insured. The letters and papers were saved in the post office; also in the express and county auditor's office. The loss would have been much greater but for the action of Superintendent Towne, Mr. Lewis and other Northern Pacific officials. (Minneapolis Tribune, 04 August 1876, p. 1)

ON Tuesday evening last the most destructive fire occurred here that has ever visited Brainerd, though she has experienced some pretty severe scourging.

Front Street looking east: Askew’s Saloon, Trudell’s Restaurant, Dolly Varden Saloon, Pine Restaurant and Brainerd House, ca. 1874.
Source: Minnesota Historical Society

The alarm was given at about 10 o’clock, and the people rushed to the street to find the flames bursting from the roof of Sherwood’s post-office block, on the corner of Front and Fifth streets, being the east end of the longest unbroken range of wooden buildings in the town. A very few minutes sufficed to bring out a large crowd, and one glance at the long range of dry tinder, and one thought of the miserable condition of our fire department, (if we have any) was sufficient to cause an involuntary shudder and awaken in every breast an entire appreciation of the exigencies of the occasion, that naught but superhuman effort or miraculous intervention could save the town, and they threw their coats and waded in in dead earnest. Every effort made to subdue the flames was of no avail, no appliances for such a purpose being at all available, and the fire flew from roof to roof down the range with almost lightning rapidity, though fortunately there was no wind.

Vigorous efforts to save Currier’s hardware store, across Fifth street, proved successful, and that block was saved. Attempts were next made to tear down buildings in advance of the fire and cut it off, but the miserable condition of the hook and ladder tools rendered such a proceeding impossible, and the whole range was soon abandoned as lost, and attention was directed to stopping it at Fourth street. Blankets were spread on the roofs of the Last Turn and other buildings across the street, and kept saturated with water; and, though the heat was intense, and they seemed at one time almost certain to be overcome, they were at last successful, by the most rigid and unceasing efforts. The fire had now swept across the alley running through the middle of the block, and had fastened its fangs in McNannay’s and McMahon’s barns, and that was the hottest part of the fire, and the destruction of the Stockholm Hotel and the range south to the Leland House seemed inevitable, and was only avoided as the other blocks were saved—by dint of hard and hot labor and perseverance.

While the buildings near the corner of Front and Fourth streets were burning, Mr. Cantwell’s store and other buildings on the opposite side of Front street narrowly escaped destruction, but they were saved by close watching, and in less than two hours from the first alarm, the fire was over, and the principal block in town lay in ashes before us.

We can now presume our citizens are enabled to see what we have repeatedly predicted and warned them of, and appreciate the importance of the importunities made last fall to our City Council and the public to accept the offer of the railroad company to tap their water pipe and put a fountain in the park, provided the citizens would purchase six hundred feet of hose, and, in connection with which, we believe Mr. Bly offered to purchase half of the hose if the city would purchase the other half. Had this been done, the fire could have been stopped within the building in which it originated, and thousands of dollars saved. But no; the argument that it would be a benefit to a part of the town at the expense of the whole, and hence unjust, prevailed, and it was rejected.

The narrowness of such a policy we do not care to argue. Certain it is, however, that if no such privilege was available, it would be universally considered “such an excellent arrangement” if we could only have something of the kind.

The origin of the fire is unknown. The losses are estimated about as follows:

S. V. R. Sherwood, $6,000, insured for $2,800; Mrs. W. Davis, $350, with a small insurance; Wm. Ferris, $300; U. S. Express Co., $100; F. Dunn, $3,500; J. M. Martin, $1,000; D. M. G. Murphy, $600; D. Stewart, $450; M. Hagberg, $300; D. McNannay, $5,000; T. P. Cantwell, $1,500; E. H. Bly, $500; E. White & Son, $300; Jos. Hare, $2,000; F. X. Goulet, $800; F. W. Peake, $300; M. McMahon, $100; J. Meyers, $300. Total, $26,450.

We wish we had time and room in this connection to speak of special incidents of assistance upon the part of the ladies, the N. P. officials and others, but we assure them they are remembered all the same. (Brainerd Tribune, 05 August 1876, p. 1, c. 6)

12 August

SOME of the members of the hook and ladder company “which wuz,” took exceptions to our item last week regarding the fire, and particularly to our reference to “the miserable condition of our fire department, if we have any.” In the first place we had supposed the H. and L. Company long since disbanded for good cause, and in the second place our reflection had not the slightest reference to it in any regard whatever, but applied solely to our city or town fire organization, and was intended to reflect exclusively upon the city council in its extremely reprehensible action in refusing to make a few necessary repairs on the truck and truck house at an expense of not to exceed fifty dollars, and in rejecting the offer of the railroad company to furnish the city with water free of charge if the council would procure the necessary hose.

It was, as we understand, because the city refused to make this trifling outlay on the hook and ladder outfit, and repair the door that had been broken down, leaving the tools, etc., to the mercy of the public, that the hook and ladder company disbanded in disgust, and we would certainly be very far from impugning them for it—in fact, quite the contrary. (Brainerd Tribune, 12 August 1876, p. 1, c. 6)

Brainerd in Ashes.


We are again called upon to chronicle another sad disaster which befell the City of the Pines in the shape of fire. All the buildings fronting the main street from the post-office to Hill’s old store lie in ashes, and thus nearly the entire business portion of the town is destroyed. Had this occurred three years ago it would have phoenixed in 60 days time, but business is so quiet that from the present outlook it will not rise again for some time to come.—[Red River Star.

Oh, no, Bro. Knappen, it was bad enough, but not so bad as all that by a jug full. Instead of “nearly the entire business part of the town,” only half of one of the ten or eleven business blocks was destroyed, and it was by no means the best block in town either. The buildings destroyed were nearly all of that temporary nature that characterized the early days of Brainerd, and as to its not rising again, our Moorhead neighbor is equally astray. Inside of a year that block will be built up better than ever before, and aside from the immediate hardship effected to a few individuals at present, we assert that in general the fire was a benefit rather than an injury to the town. Business is not so quiet here as it might be and still thrive, all our business houses are doing well and making money, hard as the times are. Bro. K., please make the necessary correction. (Brainerd Tribune, 12 August 1876, p. 1, c. 6)

19 August

AMONG those burned out by the late fire the following may be considered settled for the Present: S. V. R. Sherwood, post-office, in Strauss’ jewelry store, east side, and residence upstairs; Mrs. W. Davis, book store, Strauss’ store, west side; Wm. Ferris, U. S. Express office and fruit depot, in L. C. Currier’s hardware store; J. M. Martin, billiard hall, in the Montgomery & Todd building, and residence in the rear; D. McNannay, residence in N. Gravelle’s house on Laurel street; F. X. Goulet, auditor's office, northwest corner of 4th and Laurel streets, near his residence. Jos. Hare has removed to Bismarck. (Brainerd Tribune, 19 August 1876, p. 1, c. 7)

SEE: Sherwood Drug Store in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Milt Askew’s Billiard Hall in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Trudell’s Restaurant in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Miscellaneous Building / Business Information in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


10 August

E. W. Weed has bought the Brainerd Lumber and Manufacturing Co.’s building, and informs us that he intends moving it up town and placing it upon Sherwood’s corner. He will remodel it entirely, set it upon a brick or stone foundation, over a frost-proof cellar, put a tin roof upon it, with a plate glass and iron front, two stores below, with a large and commodious hall finely fitted up in the second story. The burnt district is beginning to look up. (Brainerd Tribune, 10 August 1878, p. 4, c. 1)

Almost a Fire.

Hartley & Slipp have a well-earned reputation for “dealing on the square” but they hardly did the square thing by us, in allowing the fire to occur last Saturday after this family journal had gone to press, thereby euchering us out of a good item. However, as they have apologized for it; we will state that they came near having a bad fire. A party, Mr. Gould, was carrying some flour out of their store, and accidentally knocked against a lighted lamp, one of two that hung from the ceiling, in an instant down came the chandelier, the lamps broke, the oil took fire, and the whole front of the store was a sheet of flame; fortunately a pile of dressed buckskin was close at hand, and by slapping the flames and burning oil with the buckskin, the fire was soon got under control. It was a close call, too close to be pleasant, and H. & S. will likely hang their lamps higher now. (Brainerd Tribune, 31 August 1878, p. 4, c. 1)

29 August


A disastrous fire occurred in this city on Thursday, about noon, resulting in the loss of the largest building in the city. Shupe’s theatre—situated on the corner of Laurel and 10th Streets south, Second Ward. The building was originally erected by Parker & Bailey, of St. Paul, for an iron foundry, but with the financial crisis of 1873, the foundry closed and the building has stood unoccupied until Mr. Shupe’s rare enterprise converted in into a theatre.

The loss to the theatre was total, including paraphernalia, dresses, uniforms, etc., of the actors, the fixtures, furniture, etc., all being burned. The proprietor was telegraphed at Saratoga Springs the unfortunate news, and will undoubtedly be on the ground in a few days. Whether he will rebuild or not the reporter is unable to learn in time for this issue. The theatre will undoubtedly be reopened however in a short time. (Brainerd Tribune, 31 August 1878, p. 4, c. 1)

SEE: 1872 A Monster Manufactory in the Northern Pacific R. R. in Brainerd page.


25 March

A fire broke out on Wednesday morning in a house on Ninth street, owned by John Willis and occupied by L. K. Harmon, which came very near being attended with fatal results and left the property in a sadly demoralized condition. Mrs. Harmon had gone to a near neighbor’s but a few moments before for some milk leaving the children, two little boys, the eldest but five years old, alone in the house and on her return the fire was bursting through the roof and the children were yet in the house. To unlock the door and rush in after them was but the work of a moment, but the house was full of smoke and it was some moments—an age undoubtedly to her—before she found them. The eldest boy had taken his brother, as he said to get him away from the fire into the bedroom and there Mrs. Harmon found them huddled together in the corner nearly suffocated with the smoke. The neighbors were very soon on hand, the furniture removed and the fire extinguished so that the house was not entirely consumed, but the roof is nearly destroyed and the house badly demolished and will be “open house” for some time. The origin of the fire is unknown as the children are not old enough to tell if they knew what caused it. The house was insured in the Hartford for $250. (Brainerd Tribune, 29 March 1879, p. 4, c.’s 1 & 2)

27 April

A fire in the underbrush and rubbish northwest of town turned out the citizens en masse on Sunday last and by hard fighting alone were the residences of H. D. Follett and M. D. Ford rescued from destruction. A team and plow and a myriad of shovels soon threw up breastworks which successfully resisted the onward march of the enemy and the battle was won. The warning should not be lost however, to clean up and burn the rubbish on the outlots—and inlots too for that matter. It is said the fire was set by some mischievous boys. (Brainerd Tribune, 03 May 1879, p. 4, c. 1)

31 July

Dressen’s House Fire.

A narrow escape from a conflagration which might have resulted fatally occurred at the residence of Mr. Henry Dressen, on Laurel street, on yesterday morning. Mr. Dressen was absent on a trip to Fargo and the Dakota prairies and Mrs. Dressen had stepped out to a neighbor's leaving her two children—a little girl seven years old and a little boy less than a year old in charge of the servant girl—a dwarf about sixteen years of age, in whom Mr. and Mrs. Dressen have frequently observed some very erratic tendencies, though nothing to arouse their fears of anything as diabolical as the affair of yesterday morning. Returning to the house soon after her departure Mrs. Dressen found the front door locked, and going to the rear door found it closed. On opening it and entering the kitchen she found that, as she did, the whole house full of smoke. She hastily sought the cause, and soon discovered the smoke proceeding from beneath the bureau in the front room. Investigation disclosed a bundle of clothes under the bureau with burning coals from the stove rolled up in them and just ready to burst into flame. Suspicion rested at once upon the dwarf whom she found with the children shut up in the bedroom where they would probably have burned alive had Mrs. Dressen not returned as she did. She promptly acknowledged the deed saying as Mr. Dressen was away and she (Mrs. D.) was out, she thought it a good opportunity to burn the house. Mrs. Dressen ordered her to pack up her things and leave the house instantly, which she did, begging that she be not exposed, as she said it was the first time she had ever attempted anything of the kind. (Brainerd Tribune, 06 September 1879, p. 4, c. 2)

26 November

A fire broke out in the roof of the habitation of Joseph Tifft on Laurel street, next to the Dominion House, on Wednesday evening, occasioned by a stove pipe through the roof. It was discovered fortunately and extinguished before it had gotten under headway, or the whole block would probably have been destroyed. Is there no way of removing such infernal nuisances—endangering the whole town? (Brainerd Tribune, 29 November 1879, p. 4, c. 1)

04 December

A very narrow escape from a fire that would probably have been a very disastrous one to Center block occurred on Thursday night in a shanty on Laurel street, opposite J. L. Starcher’s store, and occupied by a man named Johnson. It appears that Johnson had taken the ashes from his stove into a peck measure which he sat near his bed and then retired. The measure took fire and burned to the floor, igniting some of the bedding which was smoldering and would soon have burst into flames, when Mr. Cline, the patrolman on Center block, noticed the smoke oozing from the building, and burst in in time to prevent disaster. This is one instance in which our patrolman has undoubtedly saved the town many times his wages. Cannot something be done to rid the closely built wooden ranges in this town of the extremely dangerous tinder-boxes that threaten them with destruction every hour? A village or city organization with power to enact ordinances against public nuisances, is the only means of protection we can propose. (Brainerd Tribune, 06 December 1879, p. 1, c. 2)

25 December



On Christmas Eve, or rather on Christmas morning at about fifteen minutes to one o’clock, fire was discovered in the building on Fifth street, lately occupied by R. H. Hartley, and recently purchased and occupied at the time of the fire by J. M. Hartley as a fruit and confectionery store. The alarm was given and the crowd that soon gathered broke the door in, when it was discovered that the attic was a mass of seething flame just ready to burst forth and spread ruin and devastation on every hand. The citizens, excited and nerved by the almost inevitable danger, seemed to exert almost superhuman efforts. Ladders and buckets were procured and water began to pour upon the flames. Already the venomous tongues of flame were protruding through the roof in a dozen places or more. “Axes,” was the cry, holes were cut in the roof and the water poured in thick and fast. Visions of Center block in ashes gave the boys nerves of steel, and with frowning brows and steady hands they fought the fire fiend with a will and vim that could not fail of success, and success it finally brought. The flames began to pale, the raging, roaring, crashing din within grew fainter with every blow and every bucket of water, until finally a ringing shout of victory resounded through the clear frosty air, and the field was ours. The flames were subdued within the walls of the building in which it originated, and the town was saved once more. The night was bitter cold, the thermometer marking 50 to 52 degrees below zero, and several frozen fingers, ears and toes were carried away by the impromptu fire brigade as mementoes of the thrilling event.

The cause of the fire was a defective flue, and it revealed a carelessness upon the part of the mason who laid the brick that should be made a criminal offense punishable by a severe penalty. Instead of cutting away a joist which came in the way of the chimney he laid the brick around it, leaving only half the width of a brick between the fire and the wood. The only wonder is that it stood as long as it did. The stock was nearly all removed and suffered very slight damage. Julius has already commenced repairs and will be open again in a few days. Since taking possession of the building he had erected an addition on the rear and would in a day or two more have torn the chimney down and removed it to the rear of the building, but the fire saved him that trouble. (Brainerd Tribune, 27 December 1879, p. 4, c.’s 2 & 3)


22 October



The House of Chris Sorenson Destroyed.

Another to be Built for Him

by Our Liberal-

Hearted Citizens.


A fire took place on the corner of Third and Laurel streets on Friday afternoon which resulted in the total destruction of the residence of Chris Sorenson, a laborer at the saw mills of Davis & Co., together with his winter supply of vegetables in the cellar and a lot of clothing, bedding and some furniture in the upper story, where the fire originated, that could not be reached. Total loss about $600. The citizens present worked nobly in saving the furniture, etc., that could be reached and not only cleaned everything, even to the hot stoves, out of the first story but removed many of the doors and windows and actually tore down and removed entirely, a wing on the south side, the roof of which had taken fire before they got it down and dragged it away.

Mr. Sorenson, being a poor man with a large family, was left entirely destitute and would have been obliged, with his wife and little ones, to meet the chilling blasts of the coming winter houseless and penniless, had not the customary liberality, of our citizens manifested itself once more, which it did in good earnest. A subscription paper was immediately drawn up and hastily circulated about the town to which everyone that could be seen, subscribed liberally and almost before the last timbers had fallen and while the dying embers of his once cozy home were still smoldering and blazing in the cellar, the committee had succeeded in raising $454.20, a sum sufficient to build him another house and make him quite comfortable again. It is the purpose of the committee, we believe, as soon as the collections are completed upon the list to call a meeting of the donors and have a committee appointed who shall contract the erection of a house, after a plan to be submitted to Mr. Sorenson and when completed, make and report a detailed statement of the entire expense with the name and amount given by each subscriber and have the report published in order that each and every one may know who gave, what was given, and what became of it. (Brainerd Tribune, 23 October 1880, p. 1, c. 4)


07 January



Total Destruction of the Congre-

gational Church and Contents.


Loss $6,500.00—No Insurance.


One of the most calamitous fires that has visited Brainerd in many a day occurred last evening on the corner of Juniper and Fifth streets, resulting in the total destruction of the Congregational church building, one of the prettiest and most substantial edifices in the city, together with its entire contents—organ, seats, carpets, fixtures, singing books, bibles, bell, etc., the only thing saved being the Sunday School library and case, which stood in the lobby near the outside entrance, the total loss reaching over $6,500, with no insurance.

The cause of the fire is not definitely known, and of course never will be, though there are several theories, the most probable of which is, that it took from the horizontal pipe which led from the furnace to the chimney in the basement, running the entire length of the building and lying quite near the floor above. Zinc had been placed over the pipe more than half way back, but for several feet from the chimney the pipe was unprotected, and the theory is that the soot took fire, heating the pipe very hot the entire length and igniting the timbers of the unprotected part, which is confirmed by the fact that the fire first broke out in the rear of the church.

A TRIBUNE reporter called upon Mr. Best, the janitor of the building, this morning for such information as he had to impart touching the cause of the calamity. He stated that at about one o’clock yesterday afternoon he built a fire in the furnace, as usual, for the purpose of warming the building for the evening service—special services being appointed for each evening during the week. At about half-past six in the evening he returned, replenished the fire, rang the bell for services and proceeded to light the lamps, and had only lighted four, when he discovered smoke proceeding from the register in the floor. He hastened to the basement to ascertain the cause, when the flames met and drove him back, the whole basement seeming to be on fire. He then ran to the residence, nearby, of Rev. Mr. Beard, the pastor, giving the alarm and returning to the church rang the bell as rapidly as possible, until he was driven out by the smoke.

The alarm being quite imperfect, many taking the ringing of the bell for the call to service, it was after seven o’clock before the citizens were aware of the fire and when help did arrive the building was filled with smoke and the fire being in the basement, rendered the floor so unsafe that to enter or undertake to remove the contents was hazardous and it was not attempted, and in less than an hour the entire structure was consumed.

The reporter next called upon the Rev. R. A. Beard. He thought the fire might have taken from a small stove in the rear of the basement used for heating the other chimney for ventilating the church by means of a register in the chimney near the floor:

He estimates the loss as follows:

Building, original cost, $5,000.00

Organ, $500.00

Seats, $500.00

Carpets, $120.00

Furnace, $125.00

Books, $65.00

Recent improvements on the building, chandeliers, etc., about $200.00

Total $6,510.00. Though, he says the building can be rebuilt for $1,500.00, and the organ, which cost $500, can be replaced for $350.00.

The property was not insured, because the lot upon which it stood is owned by the Congregational building society, and not the local organization, so that the local board could not, and the other did not have the interest in it to pay for insurance.

The building was the gift of Gov. J. Gregory Smith, of Vermont, who built it for the local society, and the ground, which includes the entire block, was donated by the Lake Superior & Puget Sound company, who deeded it to Gov. Smith in trust for the local society. Gov. Smith, after the building was erected, deeded the lot upon which it stood to the building society above referred to, in trust for the local society whenever one should be organized retaining the other twenty-three lots of the block in his own name.

Mr. Beard says he has written three times to the Building society for information as to what was required of the local society in order to get a title to the property for the very purpose of getting it insured, but as yet has received no reply to either, hence there was no insurance upon the property and the society is left houseless and homeless.

Mr. Beard will remain here, however, and the usual services will be held, until further notice, in Bly’s hall, and meetings will be adopted forthwith to raise the necessary means to rebuild, which will be commenced in early spring and completed as soon as possible, though Mr. Beard favors getting a deed of the property before another building is erected.

A visit to the ruins shows the foundation, basement and furnace to be in good condition and possibly suitable for another building in which case the expense of rebuilding will be materially reduced. No evidences remain of the existence of the organ or the bell, excepting the crane and clapper of the latter, the bell itself having melted. (Brainerd Tribune, 08 January 1881, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)

We are authorized by Rev. Mr. Beard and Hon. L. P. White, local agent for the L. S. & P. S. Co., to correct that portion of our account last week of the burning of the Congregational church, which referred to the present title to the property. Not only the lot upon which the church stood, as stated, but the entire block was deeded by Gov. Smith to the Congregational Union in trust for the local society. The erroneous statement last week was based upon the information of one of the trustees of the church who evidently misunderstood the facts. (Brainerd Tribune, 15 January 1881, p. 1, c. 1)

SEE: First Congregational Church in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


23 January


The Result of a Lamp Explosion—Loss Stated at $17,500.


BRAINERD, Jan. 23.—This morning at 2 o’clock a lamp left burning in the new Le Bon Ton [Saloon located on the South side of Laurel midway between Fifth and Sixth Streets], owned by Ed. R. French, exploded, cause unknown. Night Patrolman Evans, in the immediate vicinity at the time of the explosion, gave the alarm and aroused the inmates of the houses in the block. It was almost impossible to secure assistance, but in course of time a crowd gathered. Men were hampered by lack of facilities for procuring water. The little obtained was applied where it was of most service. After the Le Bon Ton was wrapped in flames Sumner & Irving’s restaurant followed. Roscoe’s saloon, on the corner, was next the victim. L. Hendrickson’s gun store, his new shop and residence followed. The boot and shoe shop, and next the Gem saloon [?16 South Sixth Street] fell prey to the fire. Soon McKee’s saloon, next in the row to the victims mentioned, took fire. The building known as the American House owned by J. J. Coon, now in Iowa, who is the heaviest loser, went next. The furniture store owned by W. W. Winthrop was nearly all burned, and M. Hagberg’s blacksmith shop [?13 South Sixth Street] was totally destroyed. Most of the tools were saved. The wagon shop of Geo. Perley, in rear of the blacksmith shop, also burned. Mr. Hagberg’s house caught fire, but was extinguished.


The following is about the state of affairs as near as could be learned: James Roscoe, stock nearly all saved, loss light; Sumner & Irving, restaurant, loss $200; Wm. Madison, loss $1,200, insured for $600; E. R. French, Le Bon Ton, loss $5,500; insured $3,400; P. McStay, Gem saloon, loss, $200; H. Spalding, saloon building, loss, $1,500; H. J. McKee’s sample room, stock saved; Charles Coon, American House, loss $3,500, insured for $1,500; W. W. Winthrop, loss on furniture of American House $900; M. Hagberg, blacksmith shop, loss $500, no insurance; Geo. R. Perley, wagon shop, loss $500; Mrs. Geo. Johndron, loss on building, $200; L. Hendrickson, gun store, loss $500. (Minneapolis Tribune, 24 January 1882, p. 2)



Fierce Flames Lick Up Nearly

an Entire Block of Brain-

erd’s Business Houses.


An Exploding Lamp in the New

Le Bon Ton Starts a Dis-

astrous Conflagration,


Which Spreads With Great Rapid-

ity Despite the Efforts of

the Citizens.


A Full List of the Losses—Scenes

and Incidents of

the Fire.


At 2 o’clock yesterday morning an alarm of fire was sounded by Officers Evans and Banker, who had discovered a blaze in the Le Bon Ton Saloon and restaurant. Strenuous efforts were made to awaken the townspeople, but it seemed almost impossible to secure any assistance at the outset, or perhaps much might have been saved that was consumed by the flames. However, in the course of time, a considerable crowd gathered upon the street and then, as ever, a lack of facilities for procuring water was experienced. Only a little could be obtained, but that was applied where it would be of the most service. After the Le Bon Ton had become wrapped with a sheet of flame, Sumner & Irving’s restaurant followed suit, Ruscoe’s saloon on the corner being the next victim of the destroying element. Meanwhile, L. Hendrickson’s gunsmith shop and residence, a new structure, joining the Le Bon Ton on the west, ignited, and was gradually burned to the ground. A considerable stock of cartridges, etc., kept in stock at this establishment soon caused a promiscuous scattering of the crowd, as the fire began to explode the little missiles of lead and percussion. Fortunately the cans of gun-powder had been removed, saving any trouble which might have been anticipated in this direction. The boot and shoe shop adjoining, and run by Wiggo Madson, was next consumed. The Gem saloon and soon the site where this establishment stood next fell prey to the vulturous fire becoming a charred and blackened ruin, and nothing but a mass of smoldering embers remained to tell the tale of destruction. McKee’s saloon, the next building in the same row, experienced the same fate, and soon resembled the appearance of the others before mentioned.

A number of brave men worked with a will in tearing down buildings to stay the progress of the flames, but their efforts were of no avail, and after reaching McKee’s place it became evident that the large building known as the American House must go, and although the same efforts were put forth to save this building that had been used with the others, nothing could be done but to remove furniture and fixtures, nearly all of which were saved. This building belong to H. J. Coon, who is now in Iowa, and who will be one of the heaviest losers. W. W. Winthrop had charge of the hotel, and also loses heavily. M. Hagberg’s blacksmith shop was the last building in the row which was totally destroyed, although most of the tools were saved, as were also the implements, etc., in the wagon shop, in the rear of the blacksmith shop, which belonged to Geo. R. Perley. Mr. Hagberg’s house then caught fire, but through the efforts of the officiating firemen, although several shingles on the roof were burned off, it was saved. Mr. H. desires to tender his sincere thanks to his many friends, who did such excellent work in saving his house.

The scene was indeed a wild one, the flames illuminating the sky with a lurid light that could be seen for miles around. Men hurried to and fro in efforts to extinguish the fire and save property, and instructions and orders were hoarsely given by the volunteer leaders. Away from the fire the cold was intense, varying from 25 to 30 degrees below zero, and those whose duties called them a few rods from the burning buildings were glad to get back again to the warmth.

Household goods, counters, guns, safes, whiskey barrels and other articles were brought from the buildings and scattered around on the street in wild confusion. A crowd of spectators lined the sidewalks and kept just near enough to the fire to keep warm, while many watched the costly conflagration from their windows.

For three hours the fire raged, but was finally stopped by the saving of Mr. Hagberg’s residence and the weary workers retired to their beds.

The scene of the fire presented a forlorn appearance in the morning, the blackened earth and debris being in marked contrast to the buildings and life that marked the square in the past, but we may soon hope to see the burned district rebuilt with handsome new brick blocks.

Following is a list of those damaged by the fire and the amount lost:

James Ruscoe, stock nearly all saved, and loss light.

Sumner & Irving, restaurant, furniture part saved, but a loss of about $350.

W. Madson, loss about $1,300; insured in the German of Freeport, Ills., as follows: On stock, $450; furniture, $250.

E. R. French, New Le Bon Ton saloon and billiard parlor. Loss $5,500. Insured as follows: In the Manhattan, on stock, $700; N. Y. Underwriters, on building, $500; in St. Paul Fire and Marine, $450 on billiard tables; Springfield, of Springfield, Mass., $800 on liquors, cigars and restaurant goods; other insurance, $1,000.

P. McStay, Little Gem saloon, most of stock saved. Loss $200.

H. Spaulding, saloon building, loss about $1,500; insured in Manhattan for $900.

H. J. McKee, sample room; most of stock saved; loss slight.

Clarisa A. Coon, American House; loss $3,500; insured in N. Y. Underwriters, $1,000; in Springfield, $500.

W. W. Winthrop, American House, stock of wines, liquors etc.; loss $900.

M. Hagberg, blacksmith shop, loss $500. No insurance.

George R. Perley, wagon shop, loss $500.

Mrs. George Johndron, loss on building $200.

J. L. Starcher owned the building in the burnt row, occupied by J. Ruscoe, Sumner & Irving, Wiggo Madson, P. McStay, and its loss will reach $5,000; amount of insurance unknown.

L. Hendricskon, gunsmith shop; loss $500.

Other losses foot up about $300, making the total loss $20,000. (Brainerd Tribune, 28 January 1882, p. 1, c.’s 5 & 6)

SEE: Le Bon Ton Saloon in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: American House in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

27 November


Destruction of the Headquarters House—Other Conflagrations

Headquarters Hotel at the southwest corner of 6th and Washington Streets, ca. 1871.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

BRAINERD, Nov. 28—About 9:30 last evening a kerosene lamp in the ladies' waiting room at the Headquarters Hotel in this place exploded, and the burning oil falling on the floor burned a place about four inches in diameter. The fire was put out and to all appearances no further damage was done; but the burning oil had gone through the floor, and running along the under side of the joists and flooring, was slowly eating its way up through the partition into the second floor, where it suddenly burst out shortly after midnight. Although the house was crowded and most of the inmates were asleep, all were taken out, although some had to jump from the top of the porch to the ground, while their trunks were thrown out of the windows. About half the furniture and goods in the hotel were destroyed, the fire gaining instantly such headway that nothing could stop its progress in the dry old structure. During the progress of the fire quite a number of articles were stolen by some miserable wretches who were sneaking around.

The building was burned to the ground, not a stick standing in two hours after the fire broke out. It was 142 feet front, and the main building was 100 feet deep. It was owned by the Northern Pacific railroad. With the additions it cost about $20,000. The loss in furniture and goods will amount to about $6,000 or $8,000 more, the whole being covered by insurance. The hotel was run by Witt & Clayton, under a lease from the Northern Pacific. (Minneapolis Tribune, 29 November 1882, p. 1)

SEE: Headquarters Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


22 January


A Lively Blaze at Faribault—Another at Brainerd—Elsewhere.


BRAINERD, Jan. 22.—The Northern Pacific Hospital and Old Colony House here burned this morning, the fire being discovered at about 1 o’clock in the morning. There were 35 patients in the building, 16 of whom were unable to help themselves but all were taken out safely and distributed about town. Two of the patients are in a dying condition. The weather was bitter cold, the thermometer 40 below zero and the suffering of the patients was terrible. The building was one mass of flames within three minutes after the discovery of the fire. It caught in the kitchen, supposed from a defective chimney. (Minneapolis Tribune, 23 January 1883, p. 5)

...About midnight January 1st [sic] [22nd], 1883 our hospital burned to the ground. When Jay Cooke constructed the Northern Pacific Railroad he erected three Colony Houses, they were wood-frame buildings, about 150-feet long, forty-feet wide and two stories high. One was located in N. P. Junction (now City of Cloquet [sic] [Carlton] [sic] [Duluth]), one in Brainerd on the west bank of the Mississippi River and one in Moorehead [sic] [Moorhead] [sic] [Glyndon]. They were to be used to temporarily house colonists when settlers were on inspection trips to buy farm lands. The one in Brainerd was later converted into a hospital for the Northern Pacific Beneficial Association owned jointly by the company and its employees to receive medical surgical service when in need. To maintain this association the employees paid monthly dues of one dollar and up. Dr. D. P. Bigger was appointed Chief Surgeon and I his assistant, we arrived here and began our duties September 23rd, 1882.

The fire started in a wainscoted partition behind a coal heating stove in a lean-to-wing used as an office and examination room, besides the office it contained two small rooms, one used as a pharmacy and the other was my sleeping room. The night watchman pulled me out of bed, I was dazed and suffocated by the smoke. We at once aroused everyone in the building and phoned for help. Soon one of the N. P. switching crews with two baggage cars and men from the Brainerd Fire Department arrived and gave us effective and efficient assistance. By this time the fire had made such headway that efforts to save the building were abandoned. In the meantime we had carried our twenty-one patients, in their beds, to the front entrance on the first floor and began loading them into the baggage cars for transportation to an empty shop building which had hurriedly been cleaned and made ready for use, the patients remained in the cars until morning. The night was very cold, the temperature way below zero.

The stoves in this shop building gave off some heat, but within a few days water and steam pipes were conducted into the building from the company’s water and steam plants, after that the wards were warm and comfortable. All but one of the patients made a good recovery, a pneumonia patient died, the exposure and disturbance caused by the fire was too much for him. Arrangements were made with the Mahlum House, located south [west] of the shop yard, for meals, food from there was carried in heated containers for bed patients but the ambulatory patients walked to the hotel for meals.

Of course we were handicapped to give proper medical and surgical service, all our medical supplies and equipment had been consumed in the fire. The Officers of the N. P. B. A., with the supervision of the Chief Surgeon, arranged to take care of the sick and injured employees in their homes and in local hospitals along the line as much as possible, however, our wards were filled to capacity most of the time. Plans for building a new hospital were immediately begun and before the end of the year a new building had been erected on that previous site, equipped and we moved in. (As I Remember, Dr. Werner Hemstead, born April 1860; came to Brainerd in 1882)

SEE: Northern Pacific Hospital in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

24 August

Brainerd came very near getting a good scorching on Friday night of last week, and in that part of the city which would have burned the easiest. It seems that the domestics of the Metropolitan restaurant room over Roth’s store on 6th street, and one of them had gone to her apartment about 8 o’clock, and was engaged in filling and lighting her lamp, when in some way it exploded, or the kerosene on the outside caught fire, which immediately ignited the contents of the room catching in the bed clothing and wearing apparel which were all destroyed. The girl gave the alarm but not before it had been seen by parties on the outside, Sheriff Mertz and G. W. Holland being the first at the scene of action, and with a few pails of water soon had it under control. The hook and ladder boys had their vehicle on the ground but not before the excitement and fire had died out, which was of short duration. Had it been two minutes later the entire north side of Sixth street between Front and Laurel, would to-day be a mass of ruins, and the loss would have aggregated quite a sum, as there are several firms located there that carry heavy stocks. Good luck favored us this time, but there is no telling what may happen any day, and the necessity of a well organized fire department is apparent, and we hope to see it in operation in the near future. (Brainerd Dispatch, 30 August 1883, p. 3, c. 3)


04 January

What came very near being a serious conflagration happened at the residence of W. E. Seelye on Friday night of last week. It seems that the lady of the house had occasion to go into the front room and while there struck a match the brimstone from which flew into a pile of clothing but was not noticed at the time, and when discovered the clothing was all on fire and it was with very hard work that the blaze was subdued. About $50 worth of clothing was destroyed. (Brainerd Dispatch, 10 January 1884, p. 3, c. 3)

05 January

Last Saturday evening at about 7:30 o’clock the cry of fire was heard in the streets, and people rushed to Fourth street where flame and smoke were issuing from L. W. Burrell’s blacksmith and wagon shop. The fire department was promptly on hand. The hydrant by the “Last Turn” was found to be frozen up, bu the one at the corner of Fourth and Laurel was all right, and two sets of hose were attached to it, and two streams were soon playing upon the fire. The flames had already destroyed the shop, but were reduced by the water, and the house on each side was saved, although considerably damaged. The fire department did excellent work, and had it not been for the water works the fire would have spread and destroyed several other buildings immediately adjoining. E. L. Bennett’s paint shop, over the wagon shop, was a total loss, all the paints being burned. The paints were valued at $400 and were not insured. A. E. Veon’s hearse was in the shop, but Mr. Bennett managed to get it out uninjured, although the flames followed him to the door.

The fire is supposed to have originated in some way from the third forge in the blacksmith shop, and as there was considerable pitch on the lumber in the wall the fire spread with astonishing rapidity. The building was worth about $1,000, and was owned by S. S. Rich, of Minneapolis. Mr. Rich also owned the house on the north side. It is not known whether he carried any insurance or not. Mr. Burrell’s loss on stock and tools is about $1,500, insurance $1,000. He is already building another blacksmith shop with two forges, on the west side of Third street, between Front and Laurel, and expects to resume business in about ten days. If business is good in the spring he will build a wagon shop and paint shop.

E. L. Bennett has associated himself with W. H. Bradford and they have already commenced business on Laurel street, between Fourth and Fifth, until better quarters can be had.

The weather was extremely cold on the night of the fire, and the hose companies and the hook and ladder company earned many words of approval and commendation. Many people remarked how very thankful Brainerd ought to be for the water works.

The fire was discovered by Adam Belmont [sic] [Belmuth], who at once gave the alarm. (Brainerd Dispatch, 10 January 1884, p. 3, c.’s 4 & 5)


11 February



When the wild cry of fire rings out on the midnight air there is something about it that sends a thrill of horror through a man’s veins, and he is impelled by some invisible power to be be up and out. Such was the case on Wednesday morning. The fire bell tolled its warning to the inhabitants of our city at 1:30 o’clock, and it was not long until a crowd had gathered on Sixth street, near the postoffice, for that was the place where the fire fiend was getting in his work, the building being the one occupied by George Kehoe, between the Marshal house and L. Stahlman’s barber shop. The building was a mass of flames on the inside before a stream of water was played upon it. The inside of the building was entirely gutted, the flames breaking out through the roof, and being so close to the buildings on either side, it was impossible to keep them from taking fire. The hotel did not suffer much injury, although the north side of it was badly scorched and the windows melted or broken. The roof of the syndicate building owned by Martin & Stahlman, and occupied by them respectively, with a saloon and barber shop, caught fire, and but for the efforts of the fire department it would to-day have been a mass of ruins, together with the other wooden buildings standing near it. As it was, the building was damaged to the extent of about $150, to say nothing of the inconvenience and trouble that the proprietors were put to in getting things dried out and in shape for business again. There was no insurance on any of the injured property, except the Marshal house. Mr. Kehoe’s loss will probably reach $100 or $150, the most of his wares being taken out, although in a somewhat demoralized state.

The origin of the blaze has not been solved, although it is supposed that it came from a lamp, which exploded, Mr. Martin informs us that he was called out to see a man who was lying on the sidewalk, to full to be of any use to himself or anybody else, by Mr. Kehoe’s bar tender, and that they were afraid he would freeze to death, and accordingly took him into the saloon and sent for the police, who came and took the man to the lockup. Mr. Martin and the other man were talking together, and when Kehoe’s bar tender went back the whole building was found to be in flames, and as it had only been five minutes since he had been there, the fire must have originated from a lamp, as nothing else could have started it in so short a space of time.

During the progress of the fire Max Stevens, who is a member of the fire department, was knocked from a ladder to the sidewalk below and received quite serious injuries. He was taken to his room and Dr. Camp called, who examined him and said that there was nothing dangerous, and that the excitement together with the fall, and the fact that he was completely drenched, had overcome him. Mr. Stevens is doing well at the present writing. (Brainerd Dispatch, 14 February 1885, p. 3, c. 5)

21 February



At five o’clock on Saturday morning the alarm of fire was sounded, and the department was called out and taken to East Brainerd on flat cars, where a pile of wood, containing some 1,500 cords, and belonging to the railroad company was in flames. The department reached there in good time to save the pile, only 100 cords being consumed.


At 9:10 the fire alarm was again sounded, the blaze being on Fifth street, having originated in the building occupied by Jack Osborn as a barber shop and dwelling house. The department had just finished their work at the East Brainerd fire, and as good luck would have it, had one hose cart at the hose house, and but for that fact the whole block would have been destroyed. The fire must have started from a stove in the upper story, but just how no one knows. Mr. Osborn had just gone up stairs to get his breakfast, and he detected a peculiar odor, as of something burning. He went to the kitchen and as he did not see anything to indicate a fire, he went back but the smoke soon showed itself and he opened the door of the other room, and saw the fire coming through the floor, and that is all that can be learned of the origin. The department soon arrived, got a stream on the fire and were doing good work, but the entire inside of the building was in flames, the fire spreading with unusual rapidity, and it was feared Closterman’s restaurant must necessarily be burned also. But the remainder of the department had returned from East Brainerd and three streams were now playing on the fire from different directions and the boys were working with all their might, and they soon confined the fire to the one building and put it out in about a half an hour from the time it started, and to-day the blackened and charred walls of the building stand a monument of the power of the Brainerd fire department and the efficiency of the water works. Mr. Osborn lost everything he had in his shop and his household goods are so badly damaged as to be of little or no account. All the goods, furniture, etc., in the restaurant next door, were removed to the street, but the damage to them will be slight.

A subscription paper is being circulated for the benefit of Mr. Osborn, and is being freely signed by the citizens, which will enable him to furnish another shop and start in business again in good shape. His wife was prostrated by the excitement occasioned, but at this writing is doing as well as could be expected. Mr. Osborn burned his hand quite seriously, and will not be able to use it for a couple of weeks. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 February 1885, p. 3, c. 4)

30 March

A Midnight Blaze.


On Monday night at 11 o’clock a fire broke out in an unoccupied building on Laurel street between Sixth and Seventh. The fire department was soon out and had the fire under control before it had gained much headway although that building and the one next to it occupied by C. Moberg as a saloon were badly burned and damaged by water. Moberg’s stock was removed to the street and was damaged considerably, as was also that of A. O. Narrow and J. Westenburg, but Moberg was the heaviest loser as the most of his cigars and considerable liquor was stolen. The fire was undoubtedly the work of an incendiary as there was no one occupying the building where the fire originated. The buildings damaged belonged to B. Peterson and J. L. Starcher and we understand were partially insured. But for the timely arrival of the fire department the whole row of buildings on Laurel as well as on Sixth street must necessarily have been destroyed. The boys deserve great credit for their work on this occasion. (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 April 1885, p. 3, c. 4)

03 April

There is talk of organizing in this city a protection association or vigilance committee whose business it shall be to see that, in case of a fire where goods have to be removed, no one only responsible men touch the articles. It is estimated that nearly all the fires in this city are started by some scoundrel for plunder and an organization of this kind would have a tendency to do away with the motive. In the recent Laurel street fire thieves stole all of Mr. Moberg’s cigars and much other stuff. It is high time something was done. (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 April 1885, p. 3, c. 3)

28 April

A Stampede.


While the last piece was being sung at the G. A. R. [Grand Army of the Republic] entertainment on Tuesday evening, the cry of fire and the ringing of the engine house bell was heard. A Rocky Mountain reel in a beer garden, or an aboriginal heel-and-toe polka in a Comanche wigwam would fade into insignificance when compared to the scene that followed. The small boy in the gallery flew over the seats and down the stairs, the fat man blocked the doorway in his desire to get out first, the ladies grabbed for their wraps, and no one knows what would have happened if some one in the front of the house had not yelled to the audience to sit down, which mandate they obeyed immediately. The cause of alarm proved to be the old laundry which stands on the river bank between the two bridges, and which was burned to the ground, there being no water obtainable from the hydrant in that neighborhood. The building was owned by L. P. White and was worth some $200 or $300. There were several tourists, more familiarly called tramps, lodging in the building, and it is supposed they were the cause of the blaze. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 May 1885, p. 3, c. 5)

07 August

The ringing of the fire alarm to get the members of the fire company out to attend a meeting is a new wrinkle with the Brainerd fire department, and is a thing that should not be repeated. (Brainerd Dispatch, 07 August 1885, p. 3, c. 3)

04 October

Blaze at East Brainerd.


Last Sunday afternoon a fire partially destroyed W. W. Havens’ house in East Brainerd. It seems that Mr. Havens was at church at the time of the fire, and the other members of the family were absent. The fire must have caught in the wood box which was behind the cook stove in the kitchen, but how it originated is a mystery as Mr. Havens informs us there had not been a fire in the stove for four hours. The fire department of East Brainerd arrived in quick time and did good service getting the blaze under control in time to remove most of the furniture, although in a somewhat demoralized shape. The inside of the house was burned and soaked with water in such a manner as to make it unfit for use. We understand there was an insurance of $200 on the house and the same amount on the furniture. During the time when the blaze was raging Mrs. Havens returned, and in trying to save some of the effects she burned her hair off on one side and also blistered her face badly, although we are glad to note nothing serious. (Brainerd Dispatch, 09 October 1885, p. 3, c. 4)

05 December

A Serious Accident.

Miss Carrie Mooers, the assistant in Robinson & Hopper’s Front Street Photograph gallery, was the victim of quite a serious accident on Saturday. It seems that an alcohol lamp was being filled near the stove, and in some manner the spirits caught fire and exploded, the contents of the lamp and part of that which was in the bottle going over the clothes and hands of the young lady who was writing on a table near the operator. This being on fire quickly blazed up around her and it was with difficulty that Mr. Robinson succeeded in subduing the flames. A physician was called immediately and it was found that both her hand and wrists had received a bad blistering, and that the cloak which was thrown around her to put out the fire had come in contact with the injured members and had rubbed the skin nearly all off. The young lady was nearly prostrated with pain, but once under a physician’s care she was quieted and is getting along as nicely as could be expected. The wonder is that the accident did not result with more injury than it did. (Brainerd Dispatch, 11 December 1885, p. 3, c. 5)


28 March



The Northern Pacific Railroad’s Shops Partially Destroyed by Fire.

Loss $200,000, Believed to Be Fully Covered by Insurance.

The Shops Will Be Rebuilt on a Larger and More Substantial Scale.

BRAINERD, March 28.—Brainerd was at an early hour this morning visited by a most destructive conflagration, which laid in ashes a considerable portion of the magnificent railroad shops of the Northern Pacific company. As the watchman was making his rounds shortly after 3 a.m. he noticed a bright light in the planing mill department and upon investigation discovered that the dust tower was in flames. He immediately gave the alarm by sounding the shop whistle which was taken up by the locomotives in the vicinity and soon became general. In the meantime the flames had spread so rapidly that the whole building was burning like tinder, and adjacent buildings were threatened. By the time the fire department arrived on the ground the flames had obtained such headway that little could be done to check their advance, and the destruction of all the shop buildings on the south [sic] [north] side of the railroad tracks was looked upon as inevitable. Finding it impossible to fight the fire with any show of success, principally from the fact that several of the hydrants were found to be frozen, the firemen and citizens turned their attention to saving the property of the company in the immediate vicinity.

The fire raged for several hours, burning the following buildings to the ground: Planing mill, machine shop, pattern shop and upholstering shop of the car department; the old roundhouse, where the freight work was done, and the general foreman’s offices. These were all wooden buildings. The roof of a brick building used as a bolt shop was also burned. The remainder of the shop buildings, being of brick and stone, with slate roofs, were saved. Between 35 and 40 freight cars were burned, besides all the expensive machinery, etc., and some $25,000 worth of stock in the various shops. A number of new coaches were badly scorched. It is impossible at this time to give an accurate estimate of the loss on buildings, cars, machinery, stock, tools, etc., but the railroad officials place it at anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000. The loss is supposed to be entirely covered by insurance, which was placed on the blanket plan with the London, Liverpool & Globe. About 125 men may be temporarily thrown out of employment, though notices have been posted about the grounds for them to report as usual tomorrow morning, and they will, it is understood, be put to work clearing up the debris. Mr. Barber had just received instructions to increase the force in their departments. It is semiofficially stated that larger and more substantial buildings will be immediately erected to take the place of the old ones and not one of the employees will lose his situation. Supt. Cushing will arrive here tomorrow for the purpose of consulting with the other officials and will, no doubt, take prompt action.

It is thought that the fire originated from sparks from the smoke stack which ignited a pile of shavings in the dust tower. Quite a breeze was stirring at the time, which, in a very few seconds fanned the flames into a disastrous fire. The buildings burned constituted the original plant of the railroad shops and were built in 1871. The main shops, which stand south of the track were put up in 1880, and are built of brick and stone with slate roofs. There are six of these large buildings which were not injured by the fire. It is confidently predicted that the company will at once erect larger buildings of a fireproof character to take the place of the burned ones, thus greatly increasing the capacity of the shops at this point. The disaster, it is understood, will not materially interfere with the orders now on hand, as the company have ample facilities for getting out the work. (Minneapolis Tribune, 29 March 1886, p. 2)


The Northern Pacific Shops at Brainerd Will Be Replaced at Once.

The Brainerd Shops.

BRAINERD, March 29.—Supt. Cushing arrived here last night, and has been in consultation with the heads of the departments of the Northern Pacific railroad, during the day in regard to the shops destroyed by fire yesterday morning. Mr. Cushing has already prepared his plans and recommendations and forwarded them to General Manager Oakes. He is of opinion that larger and more substantial buildings entirely fireproof will be immediately erected upon the site of the burned shops, and railroad officials generally state that there is hardly a doubt but this will be done. The original policy of the railroad company concerning the plant here will be followed just as if there had been no fire. Mr. Cushing says the burned buildings were 14 years old, and had lasted a great deal longer than he expected them to when he built them. The company can now carry out the plans they have had in contemplation for several years, of replacing the old wooden buildings with larger buildings of brick and stone. Instead of any of the workmen being thrown out of employment by the fire, the full force went to work as usual this morning and an increase of 15 new men that had just been ordered was put off. It was stated that all the men at the shops aggregating 600, will be put on full time of 10 hours per day, within a few days, and that a still further increase of 25 men has been ordered and will be added before the week is over. The citizens of Brainerd, while sympathizing with the railroad company in their loss, are not at all despondent over the present outlook. (Minneapolis Tribune, 30 March 1886, p. 1)



A Portion of the Northern Pacific Shops

Burned Last Sunday Morning.


Loss $100,000, Fully Covered by Insurance.




The Plans and Specifications Already

Drawn and Work to be Com-

missioned Immediately.

At 3:40 Sunday morning last the shrill cry of fire and the ringing of engine and fire bells announced the fact to the slumbering citizens that a fire of unusual importance was raging, and its location was at the Northern Pacific shops. The blaze started in the engine room of the planing mill, having been kindled by a spark falling into the shaving tower, and was first discovered by the night watchman, but a heavy gale was blowing at the time, and before he could get the shop hose unreeled the flames had gained such headway as to make it impossible to stop their ravages, and he turned his attention to sounding the alarm. The flames lighted up the country for miles around and in the darkness of the night, with the flames roaring skyward, and the clouds of sparks and cinders being carried by the wind out over the city made a grand sight. An immense crowd had gathered to the scene of the conflagration and their attention was turned to saving rolling stock and preventing the flames from spreading to the adjoining buildings. The planing mill, machine shop and upholstery department, together with the old office, were soon a mass of flames, the wind driving the fire before it with terrible velocity. The old round house was next ignited and was soon leveled to the ground, and here the fury of the flames was spent. This latter was a fourteen-stall building used as a freight repair shop and contained several refrigerator and other cars, which were destroyed alike, a car having been run off the turntable into the pit which made it impossible to get anything out even had the heat not been so intense as to make it impossible. The coach shop, paint shop and several other buildings, together with the lumber yard, was saved by the wind being from the northeast. The damage to the company is estimated at $100,000 which is covered by insurance in the Liverpool, London and Globe company. Twenty-five cars were entirely destroyed and several coaches were damaged by being scorched. The duration of the conflagration was not over thirty-five minutes from the time it was discovered and the area burned extended over several acres. The burned district covered that part built by Jay Cooke some fourteen years ago, and have been considered to be nothing but a tinder box for some time; the fire was not a surprise, it being more of a wonder that they have stood so long. The Villard portion of the Northern Pacific works are on the south side of the track and were completed some four years ago, being built of iron and brick, and fireproof, which were uninjured. The loss of tools and implements fall quite heavy on some of the employees nearly all of them having more or less about the shops. Wm. Perry’s loss will reach $200, he having lately purchased a fine outfit of drafting instruments. Geo. Forsyth also comes in for a share, and others which it is impossible to mention for lack of space and time. The burning of this portion of the shops cast a gloom over the community as somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 men are employed in that department, but all fears were dispelled by a notice posted by master car-builder Barber to the effect that no one would be thrown out of employment and for every man to report for duty Monday morning as manufactured materials had been accumulated which was not destroyed, and although some are obliged to work out of doors every man is at work, and the force increased in order to clear up the wreck.


It is good news to the citizens of Brainerd that we are able to announce that the shops will be rebuilt immediately and of a substantial character which forever settles the question as to whether Brainerd is to be the head center of operations for the company, a question which has agitated the minds of skeptical ones for some time. The construction of the new shops, so we are informed by Mr. Small, will be commenced as soon as the grounds can be put in shape and the burned machinery and debris cleared away. The new building will be 70x160 feet long and 40x70 feet of it being two stories high, with a wing attached for an engine room and boilers 40x65 feet. It will be a fireproof building built of brick and iron with a slate roof and will probably stand lengthwise of the track in the same position as the store building. We are informed, although not officially, that the machinery for the new works has already been secured, part of it to come from shops at Livingston, M. T., which were erected there but never used and the remainder coming direct from the manufacturers which will be of the latest improved patterns.

Let the people of Brainerd rejoice that the question of her future prosperity is forever settled.


The following telegram has just been received as we go to press:

W. W. HARTLEY, Ch’n. Citizens Com.

I am in receipt of the resolutions adopted by the citizens of Brainerd at a meeting held the 29th of March, and beg to say that the Northern Pacific management has decided to build the shops recently destroyed by fire. The buildings will be of brick, and all of the work done will be of a permanent character. I requested our superintendent of machinery to advise you of this fact, and no doubt you will receive a communication from him before this reaches you.

Yours Truly,


St. Paul, April 2, 1886.

(Brainerd Dispatch, 02 April 1886, p. 3, c. 4)

16 April

Work on the New Shops to Begin Monday.

We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. J. L. Bjorkquist, of Moorhead, this afternoon, he being the gentleman to whom was awarded the contract of building the new shops in East Brainerd. The bids were opened at St. Paul last Monday, F. A. B. King, of this city, and one or two other gentlemen having proposals in. Mr. Bjorkquist informs us that the work of excavating will be commenced on Monday morning and that a force of 50 men will be employed. The stone for the foundation he has contracted at Watab, and he expects that by Thursday of next week to have the excavating done so that the stone work can be commenced. The building will be completed in 90 days and it is expected that the brick work will commence May 1. The brick for the construction will be brought here from Moorhead and are of a cream color, there being no brick that can be bought in this section, Mrs. Schwartz only having a few brick on hand at the present time, and it will take something like 900,000 to complete the job. On being questioned as to whether the work would be done by Brainerd laborers or by imported men for the occasion Mr. Bjorkquist informed us that he should hire all the men he could in this city, as he would rather do so than to bring other people here and that he would pay the going wages to those so hired. This gentleman has had considerable experience in contracting having built the entire plant for the Manitoba road at Barnesville, and did all the work for the Fargo and Southern. He also built the penitentiary at Bismarck and the state university at Grand Forks. There need be no more speculating as to whether the shops will be rebuilt here for if you are at all anxious you can see the work commenced on Monday next. (Brainerd Dispatch, 16 April 1886, p. 3, c. 6)

14 May

Work is progressing on the rebuilding of the Northern Pacific shops, though not as fast as contractor Bjorkquist would like. He has been much annoyed by delay in stone and brick. The foundations are already in for the main, or freight car building, and work has been begun on the “L” covering the machinery portion and engine house. (Brainerd Dispatch, 14 May 1886, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: Northern Pacific Shops in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

Sometime in 1886 [sic] the Haymarket fire in Brainerd takes place. (100th Anniversary, Aurora Lodge, No. 100—A. F. & A. M., 1973; containing 75th Anniversary History, 1947, Carl Zapffe, p. 18)

NOTE: The “Haymarket” fire as noted by Zapffe above did not take place in 1886. The ONLY big fire in Brainerd in 1886 was the one at the Northern Pacific Shops. There was a huge fire in July 1888 which burned west and south along the railroad tracks and Front Street from approximately the middle of the block between Sixth and Fifth Streets south to Laurel Street and all the way west to the river.

Another huge fire in October 1890 burned west and south from the SE corner of Laurel and Fifth Streets to Maple Street. This fire may be the fire referred to by Zapffe as the “Haymarket” fire above.

SEE: 30 June 1888

SEE: 10 October 1890

21 May

A new fire company has been formed in the fourth ward with Felix Graham as foreman, J. Bisiar, assistant and Millet [sic] [?Willard] McKinsa [sic] [?McKenzie], second assistant. J. W. Scott is secretary and P. G. Fogelstrom, treasurer. This ward needed some fire organization. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 May 1886, p. 4, c. 4)

SEE: 17 September 1886

25 May

A Midnight Blaze.

Tuesday night, at 11:15 p. m. the fire bell sounded its warning notes and roused the slumbering inhabitants. The blaze was at the corner of Sixth and Maple streets in a building formerly occupied by Mrs. Conant, who for several years kept a select school in it, but which had been vacant about a month. When the department arrived, which was in an incredibly short time, the fire had gained much headway, and had ignited the roof of an adjoining dwelling owned and occupied by John Chamberlain. A stream of water was gotten upon the house and in ten minutes the department had the flames under control. All the goods from the Chamberlain residence were removed, and very considerably damaged, the house being slightly damaged by water and fire. The unoccupied building in which the fire originated might better have burned down, as it is a total wreck; the building was a very old one being one of the first erected in the city. Chief Shontell tells a peculiar story as his theory of the origin of the blaze. He says that he had orders to lock up Mrs. Moberg, who was on a spree and that he had been looking for her all the evening, and on coming up Laurel he discovered her standing in front of Geo. Gardner’s restaurant; as soon as she saw him she ran and he followed her between the buildings onto Sixth street down past Gardner’s store, and when nearly to the building which afterwards caught fire he lost sight of her. He went home and went to bed, but was immediately called out by the fire bell. His theory is that she dodged into this building, and in her drunken state lighted a match which ignited the blaze. (Brainerd Dispatch, 28 May, 1886, p. 4, c. 7)

29 June

A Nigger Chaser.

Last Tuesday evening as the trains were coming in with the delegates to the convention, fireworks were being displayed in various parts of the city, and at the corner of Front and Sixth street in the stand owned by A. Atherton a lively scene was enacted which was more lively that expected. A nigger chaser was lighted and thrown down in the door, which took a backward movement and landed directly in the stock of fireworks and ignited them instantly. Well, speaking about lively times, it was a caution to see the three or four boys who were inside the building get out with rockets and pin wheels darting around after them. The fire department came out and soon got the blaze under control, but not until everything in the room was destroyed. We understand that the insurance on the stock had run out the day before. The loss will reach $450. (Brainerd Dispatch, 02 July 1886, p. 4, c. 5)

09 July

The council held a short session on Monday night while the balance of the citizens were celebrating the national holiday. Very little business was done except the allowing of sundry bills and receiving the reports of police and street commissioners.


The committee appointed to look up the planing mill matter reported verbally that it was unsafe. The property owners in that section of the city have been kicking about the mill for some time as it endangers their buildings and increases their insurance to an enormous rate. The fact of the matter is the mill ought never to have been located in a business part of the city. (Brainerd Dispatch, 09 July 1886, p. 4, c. 3)

SEE: 30 June 1888

12 July

Ort’s Brewery Burned.

The Brainerd Brewery was discovered to be on fire last Monday night at 1:30 o’clock, the fire being in the rear of the building near the ice house. Nick Koop, who lived at the brewery, and two other men who were stopping there were aroused by the crackling of the fire and did what they could to save the property but saw it was of no avail, and then they gave the alarm to the saw mill people, and the shrill blasts of the mill whistle soon brought out the fire department, but they could do nothing as there is no hydrant near the brewery, and there was not enough hose to reach from the top of the hill, and even if they had been able to play upon it, it is a question whether they could have stopped the flames as they had gained such headway. Mr. Koop succeeded in getting out most of his household goods, but the brewery and all its contents were consumed. There was about $2,000 worth of beer stored there, and which was not burned, and it is thought the most of it will come out all right. This brewery was completed four years ago, Mr. Ort having invested $22,000 in the business. There was $5,200 insurance on the building. The misfortune falls heavily on the proprietor, who was absent in the southern part of the state at the time, and who had all his means invested in the enterprise, and was just getting things in shape to run nicely. It is doubtful if it will be rebuilt. (Brainerd Dispatch, 16 July 1886, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: Brainerd Brewery Company in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

17 September

A Sunday Blaze.

Hose house located on 13th Street between Norwood and Oak Streets, ca. 1915. Alpha Fogelstrom on the bicycle.
Source: Images of America: Brainerd, Crow Wing County Historical Society

Last Sunday as the people were returning from church the fire bell pealed forth its notes of warning. The cause of the alarm was the burning of the residence of P. G. Fogelstrom in southeast Brainerd, the alarm being given by Ald. Graham, who saw the smoke arising and who ran from the dump to the hose house. The department responded immediately, but the distance from the engine house to the scene of action was so great that before they arrived the house was destroyed. The fire was first discovered in the upper story and must have caught from the chimney, and when discovered was too far along to be subdued without the aid of the department. The neighbors managed to get most of the household goods out although in a somewhat demoralized condition. Mr. Fogelstrom has certainly had very hard luck, he having been burned out once before, and is now just recovering the use of his limb which was broken last spring, and from which he was laid up several months. There was an insurance of $600 on the property.

The fire will probably have an effect on the city council to allow that part of the city a few hundred feet of hose which has been asked for but which request was not granted. Had there been hose in any available place the house could have been saved, but as it was the man was obliged to stand by and see his house destroyed, and which any man living in that part of the city is liable to do unless some protection is granted them. (Brainerd Dispatch, 17 September 1886, p. 4, c. 6)

SEE: 21 May 1886

25 September

Loss by Fire.

Jas. S. Gardner’s large grocery house on 6th street was burned to the ground last Saturday morning. The first noticed of the blaze was about 4 o’clock and the fire department was called out by the shrill shrieks from the switch engines, for some reason the fire bell not being sounded until nearly every one in the city was aware that there was a fire. The building was a mass of flames when discovered and probably originated from a lamp which is always left burning nights and the only theory is that the lamp exploded. Everything in the store was burned as it was impossible to even gain an entrance to the building. For some time it was expected that the small building next to it would be burned but by superhuman efforts from the firemen it was saved. It was impossible to get water until the store was consumed, the pressure not being enough to throw a stream to the eaves of the building, the reason being claimed that the telephone to the pump house was out of order and word could not be gotten to them, while on the other hand it was asserted that the required pressure was not kept up on that night. The building belonged to Patrick Carney and was insured for $800. Mr. Gardner’s loss is claimed to be between $5,000 and $6,000 with an insurance of $4,000. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 October 1886, p. 4, c. 4)


04 May

The Villard Hotel at Brainerd Burns Down—Loss $50,000; Insurance, $25,000.



The Villard Hotel at Brainerd Burned to the Ground

in the Early Morning Hours.

BRAINERD, May 4.—The Villard Hotel was burned to the ground this morning. The alarm was sounded at 4 o’clock and the department responded immediately, but owing to some difficulty in getting water started from the hydrant, the blaze gained considerable headway before they began playing on it, and it had been communicated from the kitchen, where it started from the bursting of a gasoline stove, to the sleeping rooms of the hired help above it. The alarm was sounded through the house, but the flames swept through the upper stories with such rapidity that it was with difficulty that the sleeping guests were aroused in time to escape with their lives, leaving their effects, and in many instances their clothes, to be consumed, and the people in the third story were entirely cut off from the stairways and were taken from the windows by the aid of ladders and ropes.

A Serious Loss.

Villard Hotel at the northwest corner of 6th and Washington, ca. 1883.
Source: Images of America: Brainerd, Crow Wing County Historical Society

Gustaf Frohman’s Madison Square comedy company lost their entire outfit excepting three trunks, the treasurer managing to get his trunk containing $1,200 out through a window. Nothing from the rooms over the kitchen was saved, and the hired help lost their entire belongings, the head cook having $200 in her trunk which was consumed. A part of the furniture in the rooms on the ground floor was gotten out, although in a damaged condition, but the silverware and dining-room outfit was not entered and everything in it destroyed. The stock of liquors in the sample room was saved, but three billiard tables, bar fixtures, etc. went with the building. The loss on contents to W. W. Hartley who was running the hotel, is probably $7,000 with $3,000 insurance on it. The individual loss to guests and regular boarders will probably foot up as much more.

It was reported that two men had perished in the flames but it is thought that this is not so, as the register has been examined and everyone accounted for as far as that goes. The hotel itself was insured for $25,000 in different companies represented by J. L. Smith and M. McFadden.

The handsome structure was erected in 1883 by Witt & Leland at a cost of $50,000, and was as finely equipped hotel property as there was on the line of the Northern Pacific west of Minneapolis. The loss is a great one to this city, as it leaves us without ample hotel accommodations, and will greatly inconvenience the traveling public and train men who made their headquarters there. It is impossible to learn today whether arrangements will be made to rebuild or not, but it is expected that such will be the case. (Minneapolis Tribune, 05 May 1887, p. 2)



Brainerd’s Beautiful Hotel Burned to the Ground.

Villard Hotel burns on May 4, 1887. A 1621x982 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Early Wednesday morning the head cook discovered that the Villard hotel was on fire, and arriving from her bed gave the alarm to the men in the office. The time was about 4 o’clock and everybody in the house was asleep with the exception of the night employees. The location of the blaze was under the sleeping apartments of the domestics in the carving room, which had originated from some unknown cause. The alarm was given from the locomotive in the yard near by and from the fire bell, and in a very short time the department was on the scene. At this time it was expected that the main part of the structure would be saved but the fire had gained more headway than was supposed, and it was soon communicated to the upper floor by a draft which was created between the partitions and the unfinished room in the upper part of the building, and once there it swept through the building with lightning rapidity. People who had heretofore imagined that the building could be saved, now realized the danger and began to remove the effects and get their belongings to a safe distance. In the meantime the hose companies were exerting themselves to the utmost to get the flames under control but the water supply was inadequate with four or five strings of hose attached to the hydrants, and they were unable to accomplish any great results. During all this time the guests in the house, and there were 91 of them, were scrambling from their rooms in such haste that clothes and valuables were in many instances forgotten and were left behind to perish with the building. The hook and ladder boys were kept busy taking people from the windows and in getting what they could from the rooms above. Although it was a half hour from the time the fire started until it was burning to any great extent in the main building, there were many who barely had time to get out on account of not being aware of the fire, still no lives were lost, and it is something to the credit of those connected with the hotel that such is the case, as not one hotel in a hundred burns under like circumstances but that is attended with the loss of life.

Scarcely any of the furniture in the building was saved, the entire dining room and kitchen outfit was consumed, with all the silverware, linen, etc. The office furniture was removed and three of the billiard tables together with most of the liquors. In less than an hour and a half the entire structure was level with the ground and a cleaner sweep was never made.

An 1888 ad for the J. L. Smith insurance, real estate and loan agency.
Source: Northwest Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Volume VI, Number 7, July 1888, E. V. Smalley, Editor and Publisher

The loss to the city is almost an irreparable one at the present time just as the city is on the eve of a prosperous era, and it is almost imperative that we have a new hotel built at once. This building was erected in 1883 by Witt & Leland but was owned at the time of the fire by C. F. Kindred. The loss as it is estimated at from $40,000 to $50,000 with insurance as follows:

Michigan F. & M. $1,000

Springfield $2,000

Washington F. & M. of Boston $2,500

Connecticut Fire $2,000

Commercial Union, London $2,000

Milwaukee Mechanics $1,000

City of London $1,000

Niagara $2,000

Northwestern of Duluth $1,000

Pennsylvania Fire $100

North American $2,000

Aetna of Hartford $1,000

British American $1,000

American Central $500

Northwestern Mutual, Wahpet’s $1,000

American Fire $1,000

The furniture was owned by W. W. Hartley and was insured for $3,000, which is probably not half the value of the property destroyed.


Joe Cohen handed the ladies down gracefully.

The firemen were all gone on the fire costumes of the May Blossom troupe.

One of the long ladders belonging to the hook and ladder truck was burned.

Chief Leopold was at St. Paul and lost a golden opportunity to distinguish himself.

Geo. Holland was away from town and consequently he lost everything in his room.

Engineer Callahan mourns the loss of a fine gold watch which he left under his pillow.

Mail Agent Donnelly escaped with only his drawers and his stockings, and his loss is $200.

Engineer Leek and wife lost everything they had, as nothing was saved from their room.

The elegant bar mirror which was carried out safely, was tipped over and broken the next day by the wind.

The East Brainerd fire department and the railroad fire apparatus from the shops were both on hand and did good work.

F. B. Thompson was the last man out of the burning building. He had a narrow escape and burned his feet quite severely.

The hook and ladder boys did good work in getting people out of the upper stories who were cut off from the stairway.

The May Blossom troupe are losers to the extent of probably $1200, several of their trunks containing costumes being consumed.

Geo. Bahan [sic] mourns the loss of a nice black thorn cane which P. H. Carney brought him from Ireland, more than anything else.

There were 91 people in the hotel and all escaped. Show us a hotel fire of this magnitude where some one was not burned to death.

Geo. N. Day was looking around to see what he could do for others and entirely forgot his own room until it was too late to save anything from it.

The Englishman who didn’t want the “bloody fools to get so blasted excited” created considerable fun. He walked the park all the morning with a yellow handkerchief on his head.

The Duluth News says that if it hadn’t been for Lou Hall, a conductor on the Northern Pacific, there would have been a dreadful loss of life at the Villard fire yesterday morning.

The western union telegraph office which was located in the front of the building was completely wiped out, although Manager Cragg [sic] succeeded in getting out his reports and one or two instruments. He is temporarily located at the railroad offices.

The large safe was opened yesterday afternoon and the contents found in perfect condition. The small safe in which were Mr. Hartley’s private papers has not yet been gotten into, as the front of the lock and the handle were melted off, and it is feared the papers will be somewhat damaged. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 May 1887, p. 3, c. 4)

SEE: Villard Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

23 June

Hills’ Bakery Burned.

At 1:40 yesterday afternoon the fire alarm was sounded and a glance showed huge volumes of smoke pouring from the roof and sides of the bakery, owned by S. W. Hills, on 9th street just off from Main. The department responded in quick time, Hose Company No. 1 being the first one to get water onto the burning building. The fire swept through the building as if it was made of tinder and before anything could be done to stay the flames it was enveloped in millions of fiery forked tongues which lapped the frame structure up in almost less time than it takes to tell it. The department worked bravely and the water company for a wonder had an excellent head of steam at the pump house by the aid of which the building in the rear and the one directly in front of it were saved. Almost every thing in the bakery was burned. Mr. Hills having left only a few moments before and Fritz, the baker, had just stepped into Foster’s store, so no one was in the building. The blaze must have originated from the oven as that is the only way it can be accounted for.

Mr. Hills informs a DISPATCH scribe that he had $800 insurance on the premises, $400 of it being on the building, $100 on the stock and the balance on the oven and barn, and his loss will be $1,000 besides this.

The oven was built three years ago by Mr. Hills at an expense of $700 and was a good one. The fire at this time will interfere materially with his business as it will necessitate quite a little delay before he can get started again. He will rebuild on the old site and the new building will probably be much better than the one destroyed.


John Murray lost a valuable gold watch charm in his zeal to save the wood pile.

John Orth got a large burning cinder on his neck and the way he tore off his celluloid collar was fun to see. His neck was badly blistered.

The goods in the house just north of the bakery, occupied by A. G. Mitchie, were all removed in a hurried manner, although nothing was broken.

In their anxiety to get a stream on the hose was not securely coupled and it came apart. Those standing near were treated to a shower bath.

A part of Mr. Hills’ household goods were removed but the house did not catch fire. In removing the cook stove the gentleman having hold of the front end let it drop and smashed it. John McCarthy got the heft of the stove on his feet. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 June 1887, p. 4, c. 4)

22 July

W. S. Hills will erect a brick bakery at the corner of 9th and Main Streets. (Brainerd Dispatch, 22 July 1887, p. 4, c. 3)

30 September

W. S. Hills is putting up a new building at the corner of Main and Ninth streets to accommodate his increasing his increasing bakery business. This building will be occupied merely as a salesroom and a place to show his wares. (Brainerd Dispatch, 30 September 1887, p. 4, c. 4)


01 May

Work of an Incendiary.

Tuesday night at 1 o’clock Chas. Cross, the watchman whose residence is at the foot of Laurel street near the Mississippi river bridge, was awakened from his sleep by a dense volume of smoke which filled his room and came near strangling him. He immediately aroused his family and they made their exit in their night clothes from the burning building. The fire alarm was sounded and a quick response was followed but the house was nearly destroyed before they could check the flames, a small portion of the household furniture was saved and that in a damaged condition. Mr. Cross thinks the house was set on fire as he found a pail in the garden the next morning that had contained kerosene. The house and contents were insured for $725. (Brainerd Dispatch, 04 May 1888, p. 4, c. 4)

16 May

Work of the Flames.

On Wednesday evening at ten o’clock the fire bell and engine whistles notified the people that a blaze had started. The flames were located in the bakery of H. Stone, near the roller rink, and had not yet gained enough headway to appear on the outside of the building. The department responded promptly, as they always do on such occasions, but were unable to rend effective work on account of a lack of pressure at the pump house and by the time the water came in sufficient quantity to do any good the interior of the building and the contents were wrecked. When the hydrants were opened the water would just run through the hose and fall over the end of the nozzle. The blame is laid to the telephone which was not in working order, but it seems to be the general opinion that there should at all times be sufficient force on to throw a stream of water, telephone or no telephone. True it is that the loss of the building and very little of the stock would have occurred had the fire laddies had water to work with and they are so disgusted that it is a wonder they respond to the fire alarm at all.

Mr. Stone will probably resume business in the building just vacated by O. H. Havill, on Sixth street.

A second alarm was given at 1 o’clock from the planing mill and the department responded but before they got there the blaze was under control. It was caused by the burning out of the smoke stack. (Brainerd Dispatch, 18 May 1888, p. 4, c. 5)

18 May

The Council Not Responsible.

EDITOR DISPATCH.—The attempt of the News to make the council responsible for the failure of water supply at the recent fire is not only getting a little old but is very thin. Under the contract between the city and the Water Company, the Water Co. is bound to maintain a pressure of 35 pounds at all times. Instead of this pressure there was practically no pressure at all when the firemen got to work. With thirty-five pounds pressure the fire could have been extinguished and the building saved, and the property owners of this city who pay over five thousand dollars each year for this supply of water to protect their property have a right to expect and they ought to demand that the pressure called by the contract is kept up constantly. The idea that because the telephone was down the council are to blame is all bosh. The city is entitled to the pressure called for regardless of telephone or anything else. Let the council see to it, and have an end to this nonsense about the telephone wires being down.


(Brainerd Dispatch, 18 May 1888, p. 4, c. 5)

30 June

Big Fire at Brainerd.

BRAINERD, June 30.—A fire broke out in [Lyman] White’s planing mill on Fifth street [west side of fifth, mid-block between Front and Laurel], and owing to lack of water it spread from building to building until the whole block was entirely destroyed. Nothing is left standing except Smith’s restaurant [Corner Fifth and Front Streets]. The loss cannot be estimated. It has spread to the adjacent block. The Daily News [SE corner of Fourth and Front Streets, 72 W. Front Street] is on fire. The Commercial [hotel, SW corner of Fifth and Laurel Streets] was saved. Water has been got and it is thought the fire will be subdued. (Minneapolis Tribune, 01 July 1888, p. 6)


Several Handsome Business Blocks Totally Destroyed.



Very Little of the Property Insured as the Risks Were Considered Too Much.



The Water Supply Shut Off Owing to the Extreme Stage of Water in the River.


Disastrous Fire at Brainerd.

BRAINERD, July 1.—When the people of this beautiful city awoke this morning it was to see the saddest sight that their eyes had beheld since their bustling streets and charming houses where christened as a city among the odorous pines. Nearly one-fourth of the business part of the town lay in ruins. However, nearly every citizen male or female, man, woman or child, had been prepared for the sight; the fierce struggle with the devouring element they had witnessed during the preceding night.

The fire broke out at about 9 o’clock in the evening and for hours the fight went on, and at no time up to a late hour was it possible to tell what would be the final result as to the spread of the flames, and finally owing to the floods of the river which have for days overflowed the pumping works, the water supply failed and the flames were left to eat what they would in the direction the wind drove them. And so from the easterly side of the block where it originated until near the western side of the block only two or three buildings are left to tell the tale of what there was of the mart and trade.

The burnt region begins in the second block west of the postoffice [?46 W. Front Street] and extends to the river, with few exceptions, and north and south the stretch is from the railroad tracks to Laurel street. The list of property destroyed embraces three hotels [?Eau Claire Hotel, 30 W. Laurel], five saloons, two jewelry stores, two livery stables, two carriage and paint shops, one wagon and blacksmith shop, a planing [Lyman White, mid-block west side of Fifth Street between Front and Laurel Streets] and scroll work mill [Ed. White & White, 32 West Laurel Street], half a dozen or more restaurants and minor buildings, shops, laundries, bakeries, houses, etc., such as cover two thrifty blocks in our average Western cities.

Owing to the fact that there has been a very generally large per cent of personal effects saved, and owing to the fact that there was hardly any insurance and consequently little record of property, and that people unhoused in the face of a heavy storm fled anywhere for shelter, it has as yet been impossible to make even approximate figures of losses, and the fact of meager insurance was due to the very dangerous risks the territory afforded, and to the very institution itself which was the cause of the destruction, the planing mill [Lyman White]. This machinery became in years past in some way implanted right in the heart of that block and the business houses grew up all around it. Insurance companies would scarcely take risks at all, or at too high rates for economy, and so the insurance companies make a very lucky escape. The few companies as yet known to be in are mainly by local agencies. The Minneapolis syndicate is known to be in $1,500, the American Fire, of Philadelphia, $2,100, and the American Central, of Philadelphia, $1,000. The Milwaukee Mechanics has a small loss, not over $1,000, and the City of London about the same. However, some of the local agents are out of town, and the appraisers of this are not yet arrived to disclose the full facts.

Of individual losses, G. G. Hartley, of Duluth, loses a large livery stable building. E. Bly, of Bismarck, lost a building and D. F. Sexton, of Burlington, Vt., three or four buildings. The latter owns the Daily News block [SE corner of Fourth and Front Streets, 72 W. Front], which is only partially destroyed, the basement, where the printing material was, escaping serious damage. The News will issue as usual temporarily from the Tribune office. Justus Gray is one of the heaviest losers, some $8,000 or $10,000; insurance, $3,200. In his losses was the old Garden Theater [West side of Fifth Street, mid-block—13 South Fifth Street] of early boom days recently [March of 1886] transformed into a hotel.

In the destroyed district were located the restricted liquor ordinances with many saloons. The former had that day paid another month’s license and the latter the year’s assessment. Such of the latter as do not rebuild will probably get the money refunded. The Commercial hotel, on an adjoining block [SW corner Fifth and Laurel Streets], was saved with the utmost difficulty and is damaged several hundred dollars. On an opposite space the refrigerator buildings erected by the Marquis De Mores, escaped as if by magic [SE corner of South Third and West Front Streets]. Showers of burning cinders fell upon and around it, yet it withstood all invitations to fall into the general line.

As to the future for that part of the town no owners of the undestroyed land seem discouraged. Justus Gray will rebuild several of his buildings. It is believed that G. G. Hartley will build on a large scale for Riddle’s stables [Corner Fourth and Laurel Streets]. F. G. Sundberg [60 W. Front] and A. E. Veon [10 S. Fifth], jewelers, have already secured new stores. Mrs. Closterman may build a hotel building and John Bubar is likely to rebuild the Lumbermen’s Exchange hotel [56-58 W. Front]; Mr. Sexton will restore the News’ building. That office is tonight well nigh buried under water and the presses are being taken out for repairs.

There is a most angry feeling about the water supply, arising, however, from ignorance of the facts above hinted at. The engines are almost under water, the draft was almost cut off by water, being nearly up to the grates. In fact, the pump-house engineers work night and day in over two feet of water. The river is slowly falling, but is not now more than four inches lower than its highest point, which exceeds 15 feet above ordinary water, and is the highest by 8 or 10 feet ever known here. The city has been in darkness now for over two weeks owing to the fact that the dynamo which is in the pump house is submerged.

An accompaniment of the fiery deluge last night was almost a cyclone of wind, but the prayed for rain to aid the firemen did not come with it. Today, however, copious rains have fallen, a needed relief to a most stifling atmosphere, and yet they add to our disquiet lest they raise the river again. There is news from up the river also, not the most reassuring. The main river drives are well known to be now well raised a few miles above the Brainerd dam, perhaps mostly within the dam flowage. There are many millions of logs, and they must be holding a heavy head of water. When they are released, or if they break loose, dire consequences may well be feared. (Minneapolis Tribune, 02 July 1888, p. 1)



Brainerd is Visited by One of the

Largest Fires in Its History.


The Losses, Its Origin, and Other

Minor Details

Approximate area of the city burned.
Source: Ann Nelson

The most disastrous and destructive fire that has ever visited our thriving young city occurred on Saturday night, when almost two entire blocks in the business portion of the city were destroyed by the fire demon. It had been an unusually hot and oppressive day, and as night approached the appearance of the sky indicated the coming of a storm. At about 9 o’clock, just as people were closing their houses against the coming storm, the dread alarm of fire sounded through the city, and almost in an instant the flash of the lurid flames could be seen in the centre of the business portion of the city. A DISPATCH scribe was on the scene in a moment, and already the planing mill, where the fire originated, was a mass of flames, and had been communicated to the adjacent buildings. At this moment the storm, which had been so long threatening, burst upon the scene, not in rain, but in a gale of wind which blew the flames in sheets over the surrounding structures, igniting the building occupied by Mrs. Closterman’s Hotel, and the small buildings in the rear, and also setting on fire the buildings occupied by Veon’s jewelry store and Gray’s saloon. The firemen under Chief Leopold were on the ground in an incredibly short space of time, scarcely five minutes elapsing between the first alarm and the time when the first stream of water began to play on the fire. However, before the department had really got down to work the supply of water failed entirely, and the brave firemen could do nothing but stand and see the flames creep from one building to another with nothing to resist their progress. The heat from the burning of Saloon No. 1, became so intense that to save the Commercial Hotel without water seemed an impossibility. Comforters soaked with water were hung over the edge of the roof and on the side of the building, and so intense was the heat that they would dry almost in a moment and ignite. At this juncture a dynamite cartridge was thrown into the building occupied by No. 1, and the explosion so shattered the building that the frame work soon fell in, reducing the intense heat, and undoubtedly made it possible to save the Commercial and keep the fire from crossing the street and setting fire to that block. In the meanwhile, as no pressure was forthcoming, the fire advanced to Lambert Bros. livery stable, and from there to Burrell’s blacksmith shop and to the building on the corner of 4th and Laurel streets occupied by a laundry, which were one after another entirely consumed, only the goods and contents of the buildings, which were hurriedly carried out being saved. Had water been obtainable it would have been an easy matter to have confined the flames to the buildings between the alley north of Closterman’s hotel and No. 1 at the corner of Laurel street. As it was, however, the flames up to this time unchecked, and driven by the strong wind from the southeast, were communicated to the row of frame buildings on Front street, and they also were soon a mass of flames, first catching the Lumbermen’s Exchange Hotel, the second building from the corner, and traveling west from one building to another, until a space of fifty feet between the building occupied by a paint shop and the News building, stopped their progress. On the Laurel street side of the block the flames leaped across 4th street and set fire to Riddle’s livery stable, and from there began to spread east and north over block 49, consuming in turn the small buildings facing on 4th street, until they reached the rear of the Last Turn building. By this time there was sufficient pressure on the hydrants to throw a stream of water, and the firemen began in earnest to fight the fire fiend. One company began to stay the progress of the flames that were threatening the building occupied by the Empire Restaurant, and most bravely and effectively they performed the task. The other companies checked the progress of the fire on block 49, and succeeded in saving the forward and main part of the Last Turn building, the rear having been almost entirely consumed before water could be had. No. 2, after assisting at Smith’s for a short time, began to play on a quantity of furniture that had been carried out of the burning buildings and carried across Front street and which had been ignited by the intense heat. The bulletin board at this place also caught fire and burned, the sparks from which set fire to the old Cantwell building on the north side of Front street, which was allowed to burn as it was a nuisance, and had not been occupied for some time. The Daily News building, which stood at least fifty feet from any other structure, and consequently it was supposed would escape, but which had been ignited by burning cinders on the roof and slowly burning for some time, was the last to receive the attention of the firemen. The flames had, however, by the time the firemen could give it attention, made considerable progress, but after a long struggle the fire was almost extinguished, when the supply of water again failed and for twenty minutes the firemen could do nothing, during which time the flames again gained great headway, but a pressure again appearing, the firemen soon became masters and the flames were extinguished. The expensive outfit of the Daily News, which was in the basement of the building, received no injury whatever from the flames, but was badly damaged by the immense amount of water which was poured into the building. This building, and the building occupied by Smith’s restaurant were the only structures on block 47 that were left standing.

During the progress of the fire the high wind carried burning shingles and cinders far beyond the Sanitarium, but a fortunate sprinkling of rain had so dampened the roof of the buildings that all escaped, with the exception of a small log barn near the bridge which caught fire and was consumed.

When the supply of water failed a messenger was dispatched to the pump house to ascertain the cause of the failure, where it was found that every exertion was being made to get up a pressure, but owing to the high water it was almost impossible. The water was nearly two feet deep in the pump house, and almost entirely shut off the draft under the firebox, making it very difficult to keep fire for an ordinary pressure.

The buildings burned and the contents with the names of owners of each is summarized as follows:

On Fifth street: J. M Gray, saloon; A. E. Veon, jewelry store; L. P. White, planing mill; J. M. Gray, restaurant; Mrs. Closterman, hotel building owned by J. M. Gray.

Front Street: Jerome Kelleher, saloon; Nevers & Lum, Lumberman’s Exchange Hotel occupied by J. Bubar; F. G. Sundberg, jewelry store, building owned by Adam Brown; J. E. Ireland, notions, building owned by Adam Brown; M. McLaren, saloon, building owned by E. H. Bly; Daily News building owned by D. F. Sexton.

Fourth Street: J. Burns, barn; two dwelling houses, owned by Minneapolis parties; Adam Belmont [sic] [Belmuth], dwelling house; North Star Hotel, D. F. Sexton; two dwelling houses owned by Mrs. Closterman; Riddle’s livery stable; building owned by G. G. Hartley; two houses, J. McCauly; house owned by J. Burns; house, J. M. Gray.

Laurel Street: Burrell’s blacksmith and wagon shop, Lambert Bros. livery stable, building owned by J. M. Gray.

Several sheds, barns and smaller buildings were also consumed.

The loss is estimated at $60,000, with insurance of but $13,000. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 July 1888, p. 4, c.’s 5 & 6)

SEE: 09 July 1886

01 July

Ruins of the Brainerd Fire

BRAINERD, July 2.—During the absence of the family last evening the brick residence of Jno. Parker, was struck by a lightning in a heavy storm, but no great damage done. The ruins of the fire lie as yesterday except that parties uninsured are cleaning up somewhat. This morning Justus Gray began a new block of two stores and was about to begin a livery stable for Lambert Bros. [Laurel 2 w 5th], when agitation arose regarding establishing a fire limit that would cover these two destroyed blocks. As a result the council were convened to take action and Mr. Gray has changed his plans accordingly and will build brick and others have determined to follow until the rebuilding of the whole of block 47 in brick is assured for the near future. Heavy falls of rain last night and today urge the crops forward rapidly. (Minneapolis Tribune, 03 July 1888, p. 8)

06 July

The loss by the recent fire will reach from $60,000 to $75,000 with but $13,000 insurance. The reason for the light insurance was the high rate of from eight to ten per cent on account of the planing mill in which the fire originated. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 July 1888, p. 1, c. 3)

A good many people have been looking at the cellar hole near the rear of what was the bowling alley [Last Turn Saloon], since the fire. On the west side of it are two tunnels running out under the ground to a considerable distance. It is surmised that these underground passages were used by tough characters in the early days of Brainerd either for hiding places or for the secretion of stolen property. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 July 1888, p. 4, c. 4)

L. P. White is constructing a new planing mill on the flat in the southwest part of the city. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 July 1888, p. 4, c. 4) 

Sundberg Thanks His Friends.

F. G. Sundberg desires to thank his friends who assisted and thereby enabled him to remove his stock of goods from the building during the late fire without serious loss. Also for taking charge of them after the removal was completed, and saving them from the pilfering crowd that seemed to be present. It was not so much in carrying the articles from the building as the careful manner in which things were handled and cared for that he feels grateful to his friends. Mr. Sundberg will be pleased to see any and all of his customers at his new place of business on Sixth street in the Bank block. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 July 1888, p. 4, c. 6)

SEE: Garden Theater in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

13 July

Some Building Statistics.

A DISPATCH representative learns from reliable sources that active arrangements are being made to build up the burned district and in a substantial manner . Among the buildings that are going up and contemplated are:

J. M. Gray’s new saloon at the corner of Fifth and Laurel, 25x50, two stories, brick veneer. This building is enclosed and the brick work is advancing rapidly. Immediately on the completion of this building Mr. Gray will put his force at work on a building the exact duplicate of this on the north side of it and the two will be connected.

On the site of the old livery stable Mr. Gray will rebuild and has planned for a 30x50 building with a stone basement. As required by the recently established fire limits, this building will be of brick.

On the site of the old Garden theater building Mr. Gray will erect a three story brick hotel, 25x80, which Mrs. Closterman will occupy.

On Front street H. Fredrickson is making arrangements to put up a two story brick building 20x40. He was in the city Monday and made arrangements for the material.

John Bubar will rebuild the Lumberman’s Exchange hotel, and was in Minneapolis last Saturday making the arrangements which we are informed were satisfactorily completed.

Just as soon as the building up on Front Street begins Malcolm McLaren and Jerome Kelleher will each erect substantial buildings. We have since learned that Mr. Kelleher will commence work on his building next Monday.

Max Shapiro has had plans drawn for a livery stable to be 30x100 feet with a ten foot basement and if the building is erected it will be located on Sixth street on block 99. If the arrangements are completed H. Riddle and Lambert Bros. will occupy the building which will make one of the most complete livery establishments in the northwest. (Brainerd Dispatch, 13 July 1888, p. 4, c. 5)

20 July

Building is Brisk.

Notwithstanding the late unpleasantness building in all parts of the city is brisk and the clash and clang of the hammer and saw is heard from early morning till late at night. A party at a distance to have read the other city papers last week would have imagined that not another nail would be driven in Brainerd for a twelve month at least, and that the buildings standing would be torn down. Such is not the case, notwithstanding the fact that it is probably unfortunate to building interests that the trouble could not have been avoided. The burned district is being rapidly rebuilt, and a handsome block of brick buildings will grace that part of the city as soon as they can be completed.

J. M. Gray’s new building on the corner of Fifth and Laurel street is about completed, and he is already doing business in it.

The new livery stable, which by the way will be built in metropolitan style, has been raised and the brick is being laid.

Jerome Kelleher, since out last issue, has the basement of his new building on Front street nearly completed.

Excavations are being made for Bubar’s new hotel and J. M. Gray’s, both to be three story.

Dan. Caffrey’s new brick residence in East Brainerd is nearing completion and will be a handsome structure.

Wm. Percy is building a large brick dwelling on Ninth street north, and will have as fine a house as there is in the city when it is completed.

The plans for W. A. Fleming’s new residence on Fifth street north arrived on Tuesday, and the carpenters are busy at work on the structure.

Many other new buildings in various parts of the city are going up. (Brainerd Dispatch, 20 July 1888, p. 4, c. 6)

31 July



How the Work of Rebuilding the Burned

Portion of Brainerd is Progressing.

BRAINERD, July 31.—The work of rebuilding the burned portion of town continues to go forward with great energy. The Gray building, corner of Fifth and Laurel, is finished and occupied. The livery barn of basement stables and brick super-structure, is about completed. J. [Jerome] Kelleher’s new building of two stories is about ready for the brick veneering [54 W. Front], and so is the hotel building on the old Garden Theater site, to which a third story is being added [Stratton Hotel 13 S. Fifth]. The basement and substructure is in of John Bubar’s Lumbermen’s Exchange Hotel, on the old site. Hugh Riddle has purchased of D. F. Sexton the partially destroyed Daily News building and has begun rebuilding it into a livery stable [72 W. Front], with basement for stock. A. P. Farrar has purchased the Marshall House property [corner 6th & Laurel], which was sold at public sale, for $500. Altogether matters are quite looking up in the City of the Pines, and a lively movement in real estate is hoped for this fall. (Minneapolis Tribune, 01 August 1888, p. 8)

07 September

J. M. Gray has begun the erection of another brick block on Fifth street. (Brainerd Dispatch, 07 September 1888, p. 4, c. 3)

21 September

Kelleher’s building on Front street is all completed and ready for occupancy except the large glass front, which is for some unaccountable reason delayed. As soon as the front arrives Mr. Kelleher will move his stock of liquors and cigars into his fine new quarters. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 September 1888, p. 4, c. 4)

Riddle & Douglas are having their livery barn at the corner of Fourth and Front streets veneered, which gives the building a much more solid and substantial appearance. It is a decided improvement. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 September 1888, p. 4, c. 4)

The Fire a Blessing.

As one stood during the night of the big fire, gazing at the conflagration, and saw the deadly flames slowly but surely creeping from one building to another and devouring and consuming everything in their path, it would have been hard to imagine that all this destruction, this loss of property, was a benefit—a blessing in disguise. But it has certainly proved to be. Where before the fire stood small, shabby one-story buildings, now, ‘ere two months have scarcely escaped, we see mammoth substantial brick blocks rising Phoenix-like from the ashes. In fact that portion of the city, notably block 47, instead of being the worst appearing part of the city will, when the buildings now in course of erection are completed, be the most solid and substantial as well as the handsomest part of Brainerd. Already on this block seven large brick buildings have been erected, and we understand that several others are projected, and will be built early in the spring. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 September 1888, p. 4, c. 5)

05 December

The Dangerous Gasoline Stove.

Wednesday morning the department was called out to stop a blaze in Joe Baker’s restaurant on Front street in Wm. Steel’s building. The fire was in the addition in the rear of the building in which the kitchen was located, and originated from a gasoline stove. The oil had been exhausted or nearly so and it exploded setting fire to a can of gasoline which ignited the entire room and it was with difficulty that the occupants escaped. A good stream of water was turned on and the fire put out but not until the internal apparatus of the restaurant had been nearly wrecked. H. Rosenblatt, whose store is in the building adjoining, locked his door and refused to allow his goods to be removed, thereby saving himself much trouble and damage to his stock. Notwithstanding this precaution his stock was somewhat damaged by water. Baker’s loss is about $100 without any insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 07 December 1888, p. 4, c. 5)


15 April

A Narrow Escape.

On Monday afternoon, just a few minutes before six o’clock, the wooden shed in the rear of Hagberg’s grocery store was discovered to be on fire, and although the alarm was given at once and the department was on hand in almost an instant, the fire had gained such headway that this shed, and the one in the rear of the city meat market adjoining, were a mass of flames. On account of the extreme dry weather we have been having lately, these pine structures burned almost like shavings, and it was only by the hardest possible work by the fire department that the main building of the city meat market and the Odd Fellow’s block were saved from complete destruction. It would have been utterly impossible to have saved the last named building had it not been constructed of solid brick. As it was the window frames and shutters of the windows in the back end of the building were badly burned. The shed in the rear of Hagberg’s grocery store was filled with bran and feed besides several barrels of pork and sugar. The building in the rear of the meat market was also filled with goods belonging to Eames Bro’s. and H. McGinn, which were a total loss. The entire loss will foot up about $2,000, Mr. Hagberg suffering a loss of about $800, Mr. McGinn between $200 and $300, and Eames Bros. lose about $400. Counting the damage done the city meat market building the loss will reach the amount stated above. Had the flames succeeded in getting a hold on the Odd Fellow’s block, the loss of this building alone would have been more than $10,000. As it was it had a very narrow escape. The various losses are nearly covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 19 April 1889, p. 4, c. 5)


10 October



Brainerd is Visited by the Worst

Conflagration She Has Known

for Years.


The Loss of Property Foots up


Approximate area of the city burned.
Source: Ann Nelson

This City was visited by the most serious fire that it has known for years this morning, and as a result part of the business portion of the city lies a blackened mass of ruins today. At 3:15 the fire bell gave the alarm which was responded to by the department, the fire at that time being located in the barn in the rear of the Commercial Hotel, and had gained some headway. The alarm was sent in to the pump house from the First ward hose house and at first a good stream of water was obtained, but for only a few moments, and in the meantime the fire had spread to all parts of the large barn and was menacing the hotel property, with a strong wind blowing from the north and the northwest. Water was again obtained but a breakdown occurred at the pump house and for some time there was no water at all. A messenger was dispatched to the house of Jas. McDonough, the engineer in charge, and after he arrived and took charge of the pumps there was no trouble, but the mischief had been accomplished in the meantime. The fire had spread to the hotel and that large building was soon enveloped in flames which no earthly power could subdue, the wind carrying the cinders and sparks into the air and making the heat almost unbearable anywhere within a block of the burning building. The buildings adjoining the hotel on the south, being the old Peter Mertz building, the old city lock-up, and a building owned by G. W. Holland, formerly occupied by a second-hand store, were soon ablaze, and in turn fired the elegant new Catholic parsonage, which had but recently been completed, and the Catholic church. In the meantime the flames were working eastward, and had crossed Fifth street and ignited the Gardner building on the corner, occupied by A. E. Veon, jeweler, and H. Rosenberg, cigar maker. About this time water came to the assistance of the firemen and they worked with a will which saved the business portion of the city from almost total destruction. The fire was checked on Laurel street after it had licked up the five buildings belonging to Geo. Gardner. Wet blankets on the roof of the Orth building on the north side of the street saved that from burning. Everything was burned on Fifth street south to Maple, the wind favoring the firemen at this point. In the block where the Commercial stood but one building remains untouched by the fire fiend.

It is quite generally conceded that the fire was of incendiary origin, as it was first discovered in the stable of the large barn, a place it would seem almost impossible at that time of night for a fire to start unless intentional, as the barn was closed. The firemen could easily have stopped the further destruction of property if the water pressure had been on when they arrived, but the unfortunate occurrence at the pump house, which always seems to happen when water is most needed, resulted in the destruction of nearly $75,000 worth of property. The loss to the city and to the individuals is a severe one.

The Commercial Hotel which was destroyed was one of the old landmarks in this city, having been built by the Lelands some nineteen years ago.

The loss and insurance as given by the parties to a DISPATCH reporter this morning is as follows:

Chas. Kinkele, on buildings $4,000

do on tools, machinery & stock $2,000

do household goods, etc. $1,000

Insurance on whole, $3,500.

J. G. Smith, loss on bath house $100

Max Shapiro, loss on two houses $2,500

Insurance, $2,000.

Dave Clark, loss on household goods $200

F. Zottman, do do do $500

O. H. Hubbard, loss on building $500

P. Phanauf & Co., loss on blacksmith shop

tools and stock $1,500

Frank Beaux, loss on building $400

Insurance, $200.

Catholic church building $10,500

do do do parsonage $2,800

Steam apparatus $1,240

Insurance $5,000.

G. W. Holland, loss on building $2,500

Insurance, $500.

National Building & Loan Association,

loss on building $2,500

Old city jail building $800

Geo. Gardner, loss on five buildings $5,000

Loss on furniture $500

Loss on saloon fixtures $500

Insurance, $1,700.

A. E. Veon, loss on stock $3,000

H. Rosenberg, loss on stock $2,000

do loss on household goods $500

Insurance, $750.

F. Poepke, loss on stock $225

Insurance, $400.

C. H. Douglas, loss on sleighs, bus,

cutters, etc. $1,500

M. H. McCabe, loss on goods $100

Jerome Kelleher, loss on horse, harness

and buggy $225

Sandy McPherson, loss on goods $200

Sam Kee, laundry $300

Cooper & Gray, loss on cattle $400

Mrs. Westerberg, loss on stock $150

Geo. E. Hayes, loss on hotel and contents $25,000

do loss on dwelling 4th and Laurel $500

Insurance, $8,000.

In the Commercial house barn, were six head of oxen and they were burned, it being impossible to get them out. They belonged to Cooper & Gray.

Charlie Kinkele lost all his household goods, a fine new piano and the entire clothing of the family.

A. E. Veon’s loss is a heavy one to him as he had no insurance. Nearly all his goods in the show cases were saved, but he fears that the valuable part of his stock, which was in the safe, is ruined. He is located for the present in the rooms in front of Lynch & Gallup’s undertaking rooms on 7th street.

Geo. Gardner will open up in his old stand as soon as it can be gotten in shape by the carpenters.

The Catholic church will be rebuilt immediately, but probably on a new site. In the meantime arrangements will be made for holding services at the rink.

The Commercial Hotel was owned by Geo. Hayes, of Minneapolis, and was under the management of J. W. Boynton, who had recently taken charge of it.

Sandy McPherson has opened his shoe shop at Snyder’s shoe store.

M. H. McCabe had moved out of the burned district but two days before the fire, and he considers it a streak of luck.

The insurance agency of Smith & Demueles had $15,450 of insurance in the burned district in different companies.

The total loss on buildings and stock foots up nearly $72,0000 with an insurance of about $22,000.

The fire department deserves great credit for their effective work. If they had had water the blaze would have been nipped in the bud.

I. U. White moved the greater part of his sporting goods to a place of safety as a precaution. (Brainerd Dispatch, 10 October 1890, p. 1, c.’s 5 & 6)

Hundred Thousand Dollars

Damage by Fire at Brainerd.

BRAINERD, Minn., Oct. 10—Fire started at 3 o’clock this morning in the Commercial Hotel barn on Laurel street. The wind was from the north and carried the flames directly on to the hotel, which quickly caught, and owing to lack of water pressure the firemen could do nothing. Block 65 and half of block 67 were in ashes before the fire was brought under control. The buildings burned are the Commercial Hotel and barn [SW corner of Fifth and Laurel Streets], Pioneer House, old city jail [West side South Fifth Street close to Maple], the Catholic church and parsonage [next to the city jail, 36 and/or 56 South Fifth Street], the latter a new brick veneered building; Kinkele’s market [Charles Kinkele meat market located on the SE corner of Fifth and Laurel— in 1888 he was a butcher at 44 W. Front Street.] and dwelling [in 1888 his residence was at 109 South Fifth Street], Gardner’s building [NOT Gardner’s Hall which was built in 1891 after this fire.], corner Laurel and Fifth; saloon, Seymour’s blacksmith shop [corner Fifth and Maple Streets, residence 39 W. Maple Street] and a number of small buildings. The loss is estimated at $100,000. The insurance will not exceed $30,000. (Minneapolis Tribune, 11 October 1890, p. 1)




BRAINERD, Minn., Oct. 10.—A fire, at 3 o’clock this morning, wiped out the centre of the business portion of this city. The blaze appeared in the Commercial Hotel [SW corner of Fifth and Laurel Streets] and many of the guests narrowly escaped with their lives, women being taken out of upper windows in their night dresses. The supply of water fell short and in an effort to stimulate the water works the machinery broke and the firemen were left helpless. From the hotel the fire spread rapidly in three directions, fanned by a high wind and with no opposition. It raged for three hours, and finally, when it died out, the best part of three blocks had been consumed. Sixteen business houses and a church and parsonage were among the buildings consumed, besides the Commercial, the oldest hotel on the line of the Northern Pacific Road.

The St. Francis Catholic Church was destroyed, together with the new parsonage and many valuable records. The total loss cannot be estimated closely at this time, but will be upward of $150,000, with not over $30,000 insurance, mostly in New York and Chicago companies. (New York Times, Wednesday, 11 October 1890, p. 5)

SEE: County / City Jail (First) in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Leland House / Commercial Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Number One Saloon in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Saint Francis Catholic Churches in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

26 December

Burned Barn and Horses.

On Friday evening of last week [26 December 1890], just after the DISPATCH was published, fire broke out in Gergen & Mooers’ large livery stable on Sixth street south. A heavy gale was blowing from the northwest at the time and it was impossible to save the building although the department was immediately on the ground and the water service was excellent. The fire originated in the hay loft and probably caught from a spark blown from the chimney into the large ventilator in the center of the roof, and which furnished an excellent draft to fan the flames. It seemed almost as soon as the fire was discovered that it had extended from one end of the barn to the other, and immediate attention was given to getting out the horses, there being some 70 or 80 in the barn. The fire burned so fiercely that it was with difficulty that the animals were released, and many that escaped with their lives were minus manes and tails so closely did the flame get before they could be driven out. Five horses, a cow and calf were burned to death, three of the horses and cow belonging to A. Honnett, the other two horses belonging to John Bradford and A. T. Kimball. In the front of the barn on the first floor and in the second story were stored the numerous elegant buggies and cutters of the firm, and while most of the buggies on the ground floor were saved it was with difficulty, as the smoke made it almost an impossibility, as it was necessary to get down on hands and knees to locate them and crawl to where they were then make a run for the door. The elegant new hearse of Lynch & Gallup stood so far back that it was impossible to save it. The department did excellent service in saving Wm. Gustafson’s residence which stood only 50 feet from the barn and which was enveloped in flames several times. The exact loss cannot be estimated, but Mr. Gergen informs us that $10,000 will not entirely cover it. An insurance of $3,000 was on the building, and $1,200 on the rigs stored up-stairs. There was also an insurance of $400 on Lynch & Gallup’s hearse.

It is the intention of the firm to rebuild, and we understand that the new structure will be of brick on the old site. (Brainerd Dispatch, 02 January 1891, p. 4, c. 6)


09 January

Gergen & Mooers will immediately begin the rebuilding of their livery barn on the old site which was recently destroyed by fire. The structure will be the same size as before, and I. U. White, who has the contract, has agreed to have it completed in thirty days. (Brainerd Dispatch, 09 January 1891, p. 4, c. 4)

13 January

More Fires.

On Tuesday morning at 6 o’clock the fire alarm sounded, the blaze being located in the large frame building known as the Orr & Seelye planing mill on 7th street between Front and Laurel. The building has been unoccupied since J. C. Congdon moved his paint shop to the north side. The rear end of it was used as a stable, and it was in that locality near where the stock was quartered that the blaze originated. The firemen were promptly on hand, and it was through their efforts that the fire was kept in the building where it originated and saved the row of wooden buildings on Front Street from destruction. The building belonged to Minneapolis parties and was uninsured. In the building was a span of horses belonging to Theodore Bredfeldt which had only been put in the night before, a horse and cow belonging to J. A. McColl, together with harness, etc., all of which were burned. It was impossible to save the stock on account of the smoke and in all probability the dumb animals were suffocated before it was learned that they were there. There is no doubt but that the fire was of incendiary origin, as the premises had not been visited by any of the parties who were using it as a stable on that morning.

This morning at 4:10 fire was discovered in an unoccupied dwelling belonging to Wm. Paine on Norwood street. The department responded and after waiting some time for water the blaze was extinguished. The upper portion of the building was damaged to quite an extent. That the fire was set by some villain there is not a shadow of a doubt as the house was not occupied, and at 3 o’clock a light was noticed in the front room up-stairs, but the party who saw it thought some one had moved in and paid no further attention to it. If the blaze had been given any draft the building would have been destroyed before the pressure came. The damage is in the neighborhood of $200, with no insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 16 January 1891, p. 4, c. 5)

26 January

Repair Shop Burned.

The ringing of the fire bell on Sunday evening at 10:45, brought the populace out on double quick time, and the lurid flames that shot skyward indicated the fire to be among the Northern Pacific shops in East Brainerd. The blaze was located in the large wooden structure known as the old paint shop, but which for some time past has been used as a car repair shop, and the fire department was quickly on hand. The inflammable material with which the building was filled made it impossible to save the building or any of its contents, and the attention of the firemen was directed to saving the surrounding property, and confining the fire to the one building. Inside the building were twelve flat cars undergoing repairs, besides a quantity of lumber and some paints and oils, which were stored in a room on the north side of it. So quickly did the fire burn that several box cars standing on the tracks near the building were badly damaged before they could be removed. We are informed that the company’s loss is estimated at from $10,000 to $12,000 which is fully covered by their blanket insurance.

In this department there were about ninety men at work, and every one of them lost their kit of tools, which were kept in the building when not in use, the value of the entire lot being nearly $4,000. It may not be generally known that in many branches of work in railroad business the workmen have to furnish their own tools and this was one of them. The loss is a serious one to the men, and some of their friends have started a benefit for them in the shape of a ball to be given at the roller rink on Friday evening, February 6th, the music, the rink, and the printing all having been donated free of charge, so whatever sum is realized from the sale of tickets will be a new profit, and the amount will be used towards helping them to replace the tools destroyed.

The building burned was nearly the last of the original shops built by the company at this point under the Jay Cooke regime, and stood in a very central position, but the shops which have been built since that time are of fire-proof construction which greatly lessens the danger of the flames spreading. The company will rebuild the shop destroyed and in a large and more substantial manner, as the work in that department is pressing, and all the men are at work now out of doors, something that cannot always be done in this latitude at this time of the year.

The origin of the fire has not yet been traced to any authentic source, but from what we can glean it is quite evident that it was not the work of an incendiary as at first supposed.

SEE: Northern Pacific Shops in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


Some six hours after the fire above recorded occurred, the school house in East Brainerd was discovered to be on fire by Mr. Eastman, who gave the alarm, and by diligent work the blaze was extinguished before it gained sufficient headway to materially damage the building. The building was set on fire by some evil minded person by filling the space between the storm and inside doors with waste, saturated with oil and then firing it. The building would certainly have been destroyed if it had not been discovered just at that time, as the hose of the fire company was still at the scene of the fire of the night previous. (Brainerd Dispatch, 30 January 1891, p. 4, c. 5)

03 February

Burned a Hotel.

The Nicollet house on Laurel street west, an old land mark in this city, was totally destroyed by fire on Tuesday morning, the blaze being discovered at 3:45. The alarm was promptly turned in and a quick response given but it was impossible to save the building from destruction on account of the headway gained. The large building was unoccupied save by E. Doty who lived in the rear end on the ground floor. When he found the building was on fire it was too late to save any of his effects and with difficulty he removed his family before the fire swept through the rooms they occupied. The building was owned by J. S. Gardner and was insured for $2,000, Mr. Doty having $500 insurance on his household effects. A one time the building was a well patronized hotel property but for a number of years past it has been used as a boarding house. It was built over twenty years ago. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 February 1891, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: Nicollet House in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

02 March



True Moore in Jail Charged With

Setting on Fire I. U. White’s

Gun Store.

Early Monday morning I. U. White’s gun store was discovered to be on fire and under such circumstances as to leave but little doubt that it was the work of an incendiary, and that True Moore [sic], of Gull River, a once prominent citizen, is the guilty person. The alarm was given and the fire department responded promptly, and extinguished the flames in time to save the main building, only the shop in the rear being badly damaged. The loss will be about $350, fully insured.

The facts concerning Moore’s [sic] connection with the fire, as gleaned at the preliminary examination yesterday, are about as follows: It seems that Officer Lingnau was standing, at 3 a.m., at the rear of Kelehan’s saloon, when he saw Moore [sic] run from the back of White’s store to the rear of Gardner’s saloon, and enter the back door. Moore [sic] on entering went to the side window towards White’s store and pulled down the curtain. Having left the door slightly ajar, the bartender went to shut it, when he discovered that White’s store was in flames. Moore [sic] tried to keep the bartender from going to the door, offering to close it himself. The bartender immediately gave the alarm, when Officer Lingnau entered the saloon and told the bartender to detain Moore [sic], then went and gave the alarm at the hose house, and returned and got Moore [sic] and locked him up. Other evidence was given on the part of the prosecution, which strongly indicate Moore’s [sic] guilt. Moore [sic] declined to make any defense so he was bound over to the grand jury in the sum of $1000. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 March 1891, p. 4, c. 4)

01 April



Patrick Murphy will Spend the Next

Twelve Months in Prison.

Other Court Notes.

State of Minnesota vs. True Mooers [sic], defendant being tried for arson. Defendant found not guilty. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 April 1891, p. 4, c. 4)

10 April

Some Spring Building.

From present appearances there will be considerable building going on as soon as spring has opened. George Gardner has already a crew of workmen clearing his lots on Laurel street from rubbish left by the fire [10 October 1890] and will be ready to begin the erection of a fine brick block as soon as the grounds are in shape. The block will be 125x50 feet, two stories high and will be brick veneered. [This is the Gardner Block.] The lower floor will be finished off into five stores, and the upper floor into offices and a large hall. The building will be rushed through to completion as soon as possible, most of the material being already on the ground.

Chas. Kinkele has begun work on a brick veneered barn 30x50 feet on his Fifth street property, which was burned over in October [1890]. As soon as this building is completed he will erect a market building 50x75 feet, which will also be of brick and will occupy the ground where the old market stood. As soon as the building is finished he will occupy it as a storage house for meats.

Wm. Bredfeld has the brick on the ground for the erection of a two story brick building 25x75 feet on Front street, next to Luken’s bazaar. The building will be occupied by Mr. Bredfeld with his shoe store and factory. The upper story will be occupied as a residence. He expects to begin work on it in two or three weeks. The building will be of solid brick. [This is a new building—not one that burned.]

Wm. Gergen will rebuild his livery stable on Sixth street south immediately. [Burned 26 December 1890.] The new building will be 62x100, the same as the old one. Mr. Gergen’s present quarters are entirely too small, and he is anxious to get the new building up and completed. Two or three parties are figuring for the contract. (Brainerd Dispatch, 10 April 1891, p. 4, c. 5)

24 April

Work on Gergen’s new livery barn and on Gardner’s and Kinkele’ new brick blocks is now in progress, and the merry ring of the carpenter’s hammer can be heard in various other parts of the city, all of which has a tendency to produce a buoyancy of spirit in the average citizen. Let the good work go on. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 April 1891, p. 4, c. 3)

26 April

A cow jumped into the basement of Kinkele’s new building on Fifth street on Sunday night, the fall killing her. It was a clear case of suicide. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 May 1891, p. 4, c. 3)

01 May

Wm. Bredfeld has a force of men on the foundation of his new brick block on Front street this morning. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 May 1891, p. 4, c. 3)

29 May

Wm. Gergen has moved into his new livery stable. (Brainerd Dispatch, 29 May 1891, p. 4, c. 4)


19 January

Burned the Bakery.

On Tuesday evening fire was discovered in the rear of W. S. Hill’s bakery on 9th street north, and an alarm was sent in to the central hose house. Before the department reached the scene of the conflagration the flames had spread to the main part of the building, and the residence of A. G. Mitchie was in danger as the wind was blowing quite a gale from the south, and the buildings were but a few feet apart. The department made their work tell, and with a stream of water playing on both sides soon had it under control, but not until the one story building occupied by the bakery was nearly destroyed. This is the second or third time that Mr. Hill has met with a similar misfortune. The loss will be somewhere from $1000 to $1500, fully insured. In the meantime Mr. Hill is receiving supplies from Minneapolis to supply his customers.


Hardly had the firemen housed their apparatus when an alarm was turned in from 9th street south, on the corner opposite the high school building the blaze being in the old Schultz boarding house, a large two-store frame building, and one of the old land marks in the city. The house was owned by Albert Otto, and was occupied by himself and John Guyott, both families living in the north part of the building, the balance of the house being unoccupied. The fire originated from a defective chimney, and the flames spread through the attic before they were discovered. Both families succeeded in removing their household effects, but the building was almost entirely destroyed. Mr. Otto had an insurance of $500 on it. Mrs. Guyott was confined to her bed, and herself and little baby, only one day old, were removed to a neighbor’s, and since that time the lady has been much worse caused by the fright received. (Brainerd Dispatch, 22 January 1892, p. 4, c. 4)

29 February

Quite a disastrous fire occurred on Monday in the McKay block at the north end of 2nd Street. The fire started in the rooms occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Redding, and was caused by the explosion of a lamp, the occupants being at the masquerade ball. The contents including a fine piano, household goods and clothing were a total loss. There was an insurance of $500 on Mr. Redding’s goods. The building was damaged to the extent of $1000, and Prof. Cheadle, who occupied the apartment adjoining, also sustained serious loss by the removal of his goods. The fire department is entitled to much credit for saving the entire structure, as the blaze had gained such headway when it was discovered that but for their prompt arrival it must necessarily have been destroyed. This was the first time that an occasion had presented itself for the new team to be used, and it is safe to assert that at this one fire they were instrumental in saving property to over half the value of the late additions to the departments. (Brainerd Dispatch, 04 March 1892, p. 4, c. 5)

07 March

A gentleman coming up on the train Monday afternoon reported that the old fort at Fort Ripley was burning, and that from the outlook all the old government buildings would be burned. The structure was built in 1848. (Brainerd Dispatch, 11 March 1892, p. 4, c. 3)

24 March

Brainerd Brewery Burned.

Fire was discovered in the Brainerd Brewery at 10 o’clock last night by the night watchman and an alarm was turned in from J. J. Howe & Co.’s mill. The fire department responded immediately, but arriving on the scene they were powerless to do anything to stay the progress of the flames, as the nearest hydrant to the brewery was in Howe’s lumber yard, and the only thing that could be done was to save the property in the outstanding buildings. The fire originated from the fire under the kettle and gained headway while the watchman was out of the building. The property was completely destroyed, but Mr. [undreadable] B. Kemper, the superintendent, informs us that the manufactured beer on hand was saved. The loss is estimated at $5,000, with an insurance of $4,000. The property destroyed was owned and operated by Jacob Dobmeier, of Grand Forks, N. Dakota.

This is the second time the Brainerd Brewery has been wiped out by fire, the original having been built by Peter Ort in 1883 [sic], and after its destruction it was re-built by Mr. Ort, but soon passed from his hands, owing to financial difficulties. The gentleman who was operating the plant was doing a good business and succeeding so well that he was contemplating the erection of a new brick building soon. This will now be a necessity, and we are informed that it is a certainty. (Brainerd Dispatch, 25 March 1892, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: Brainerd Brewery Company in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

15 April

Fire in the Hose House.

At 3 o’clock this morning A. H. Bennett, janitor at the Central hose house, discovered that the building was on fire, and immediately turned in an alarm which was responded to and the blaze was soon extinguished. The evening before a meeting was held in the council room and during the time someone dropped a lighted cigar stub into the sawdust which fills the wooden spit-boxes, which ignited slowly and did not culminate in a fire until some time had elapsed. The first intimation that the janitor had of the occurrence was when the blaze shot through the ceiling into the room where he was. Loss fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 15 April 1892, p. 4, c. 4)

26 July

Fire in a Livery Barn.

The department was called out on Tuesday noon by an alarm turned in from Chas. Mooers’ livery stable in the Gray building on Laurel street. The origin of the fire was unknown and when discovered by Mr. Mooers was flaming up the chute near the front end of the stable to the loft which was filled with hay and by the time water was turned on the entire upper story was a mass of flames inside and it looked as though the building must be destroyed. But good work by the firemen soon began to tell and it was put out with no damage to the lower part of the building excepting a thorough drenching. Everything was removed from the stable and Mr. Mooers’ loss will be slight, but the building was damaged to quite an extent which was covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 29 July 1892, p. 4, c. 4)

31 December

Fire at Howe & Co’s. Mill.

J. J. Howe, owner of the Howe Lumber Mill at Boom Lake, ca. Unknown.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

On Saturday evening about nine o’clock fire broke out in the stacks of J. J. Howe & Co’s. dry kiln, and in a few moments, almost before the alarm could be given, the fire had made such headway in the thoroughly dry timbers of the stack that it was impossible to save the building. The department was on the scene in an incredibly short space of time, but were delayed somewhat in getting to the work by the bursting of two lengths of hose. When all was ready, however, they did the most effective work we have ever seen the department do. They were ably assisted by the pump in the planing mill which was kept going constantly throwing a stream on the mill. It was only by the hardest possible fight that the planing mill, which stood scarcely 15 feet from the kiln, was saved. The flames fanned by the wind at times seemed to roll right over the mill, but the boys of the department, holding a large sliding door between themselves and the flames to protect themselves against the intense heat, manfully held their ground and continue to throw a stream of water against the end of the mill keeping it thoroughly drenched, while another crew on the roof kept a stream playing on the top of the building. It was a hard fight, and the boys deserve great credit, but their labor was rewarded by saving the mill and dry sheds and many thousand feet of lumber, property worth several thousand dollars. As it was the kiln and lumber shed in connection were destroyed, the kiln containing 100,000 and the shed over 250,000 feet of lumber, valued at $40 a thousand. The dry kiln cost over $6000, which makes the total loss over $18,000. There was $4,500 insurance on the kiln, and only $500 on the lumber, which makes the company’s net loss very great.


We hereby extend our warmest thanks to the Brainerd Fire Department and the citizens of this city, who worked so indefatigably at the late fire in our dry kiln, thereby saving our planing mill, shingle mill and upper lumber shed from destruction.

J. J. HOWE & CO.

(Brainerd Dispatch, 06 January 1893, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: 28 August 1896

SEE: 05 March 1899

SEE: 10 May 1900


13 January

In recognition of the splendid work done by the fire department in saving his planing mill from destruction, J. J. Howe has presented Hose Co. No. 1 and Hose Co. No. 2 twenty-five dollars each, and twenty dollars to Hose Co. No. 4. The boys appreciate his generosity very much, and have requested the DISPATCH to express their appreciation of his kindness. (Brainerd Dispatch, 13 January 1893, p. 4, c. 4)

14 February

On Tuesday night about 8 o’clock fire was discovered in a stack of baled hay belonging to Gray & Wheatley on west Front Street. The alarm was given and the department was soon on the scene, but not until a good deal of hay was burned. The fire was soon under control, but it was hard to extinguish entirely, in fact some of the hay is smoldering yet. The fire caught from a spark from the engine which is used in baling the hay. The loss will probably exceed $200. (Brainerd Dispatch, 17 February 1893, p. 4, c. 4)

01 June



A Blaze At the Northern Pacific Shops

Last Night Consumes $25,000

Worth of Property.


Prompt and Energetic Action Saves

the Lumber Yard.


It Means New Car Shops For Brainerd.


At 7:30 o’clock last night the alarm of fire was given, the blaze being in the Northern Pacific car repair shops in the Third Ward. A general alarm was turned in and soon the entire department of the city was at the scene of action. The blaze had started inside the building, which being saturated with oil and paint was a veritable tinder box, and it was no sooner discovered than the building was enveloped in a mass of flames. It was impossible to save the building and all efforts were bent on keeping the blaze out of the lumber yard and dry kiln which contains about $75,000 worth of stock, and in this the department were successful, and much credit is due to the efforts.

The freight repair shops, a structure 80x160 and the last of the old wooden shops was entirely consumed, together with ten cars, two refrigerator, one furniture and seven box cars. In this department some fifty men were employed and all the tools of the workmen were burned averaging about $30 to a man, as a reporter was informed this morning.

The cabinet shop, a building 30x46, and the bolt house, 16x30, were burned to the ground. The workmen in this department saved most of their tools.

The car foreman’s office a building 20x40, went with the rest, but Mr. Percy informs us that the records were nearly if not quite all saved.

The origin of the blaze is a mystery and can be attributed only to spontaneous combustion, as no workmen had been around the building since 5 o’clock two hours and a half before it was discovered, and no fire of any kind had been used about the building where it originated. When the fire was first discovered the inside of the building was a mass of flames.

The destruction of the car repair shops will certainly necessitate the building of new substantial structures to do the work in. Brainerd has long looked forward to the building of new car works and the people of our city will probably see work commenced on the improvements before many weeks. The men now employed there will be kept at work to the best advantage until better arrangements can be made.

The freight repair car foreman’s office has been moved into the store house for the present.

The total loss to the company is estimated at $25,000. (Brainerd Dispatch, 02 June 1893, p. 1, c. 2)

SEE: Northern Pacific Shops in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

28 August

Burned Three Buildings.

The three unoccupied buildings at the corner of Seventh and Laurel streets were completely destroyed by fire on Monday night. The blaze was not discovered until the rear of the second and first buildings was in flames and although the department responded promptly, there was no chance of saving them, as they afforded the finest fire trap in the city, being the three old rookeries removed from Sixth street to make room for the new McKay block. The fire was of incendiary origin and there was no insurance. W. D. McKay, who owned the property, had on the day of the fire bought the lots on which they stood and let a contract to have the buildings placed in repair, the idea being to place the three under one roof and brick veneer them. He had rented the place to a Little Falls party for a term of six years to be occupied as a hotel. The fire, of course, destroys this plan, but Mr. McKay informs us that he will build on the lots as soon as possible, but it is hardly probable that any move will be made towards putting up a building this fall. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 September 1893, p. 4, c. 5)

22 September

As we go to press a fire is in progress in the Patek building at the corner of 6th and Laurel streets occupied by Chas. Kinkele’s saloon. The fire caught in a bedroom over the saloon, just how we are unable to learn. The building as well as saloon fixtures are fully insured. The water pressure at first was very poor, but at this writing is quite strong. The fire will probably be extinguished without great loss. (Brainerd Dispatch, 22 September 1893, p. 1, c. 5)


08 January

Work of the Flames.

What looked as though it would be a disastrous fire before it was brought under control occurred on Monday evening at 6:30 o’clock in James Quinn’s building, next to Kelehan’s saloon on 6th street. The building was occupied by Wm. Gardner as a saloon and restaurant on the ground floor with furnished rooms above. The fire started in the roof and the department responded at once, but owing to the hydrant at the corner of 6th and Front street being frozen, it delayed matters somewhat, but as soon as the stream from another hydrant was turned on the blaze was soon brought under control, although the building was seriously damaged, the estimate being $500, covered by insurance. Mr. Gardner’s loss on furniture was total as he carried no insurance on it. The fire probably originated from a defective chimney. The building will be repaired at once. (Brainerd Dispatch, 12 January 1894, p. 4, c. 4)

06 March

Narrow Escape From Burning.

The livery stable of Gergen & Purdy on south Sixth street had a very narrow escape from destruction by fire on Tuesday night. A stove is located in the harness room and one of the employees about the barn had placed a quantity of harness oil into a basin to warm before using and had gone into the office shutting the door behind him. He had not been there long before a peculiar noise as if something had exploded was heard and looking out of the window the flames from the harness room were seen reflected on the building adjoining. The alarm was at once given and in a very short time the department was on hand and had the blaze under control before it had gotten out of the room where it originated. The damage done was mostly to the harness in the room, and several sets were ruined, but the loss was fully covered by insurance. The theory advanced as to the origin of the blaze is that the oil exploded and shot up to the ceiling, and as only that part and about half way down the sides of the room show any signs of fire, it could not have been otherwise. The proprietors feel somewhat elated over their good luck, as a stable the same size was destroyed by fire some three years ago on the same spot with considerable loss to the owners. (Brainerd Dispatch, 09 March 1894, p. 4, c. 4)

30 August

Olympic Theatre Burned.

Brainerd’s Olympic theatre burned last night being totally destroyed together with all the contents of the building. The fire was discovered at 11:45 but was under such headway that the untiring efforts of the fire department had no effect on the blaze. Humphrey Lynch the watchman at the building says the first he knew of the fire was when that part of the building near his room began to fall in and he barely escaped in time to save himself. The fire must necessarily have been of incendiary origin as the place was unoccupied and no fire had been in or near it for some months, and the construction [of] the interior of the building was such that once started the flames were bound to spread with lightning rapidity. The building was erected in 1893 by Kellehan & Quinn and was opened to the public on the 26th of June of that year, James Kellehan being the owner of it at the time of the fire. The building was valued at $6,000 and there was $3,000 insurance on it. (Brainerd Dispatch, 31 August 1894, p. 4, c. 4)

SEE: Olympic Theatre in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

26 November

The Old Cass County Courthouse


Cass County Courthouse located in West Brainerd, 1875.
Source: Engraving, Halsted Map 1875

On Monday evening fire destroyed the old frame building on the west side of the river known as the old Cass Co. courthouse. It was a relic of a past attempt to organize Cass, which was perfected, the courthouse being built, a complete set of books purchased and other arrangements made all at a cost of several thousand dollars, and then the county organization collapsed for want of a population to support it. Since then the building has stood empty, being used occasionally as a barn, until about two years ago, when Messrs. P. & E. Waite established an industry there for the manufacture of lumbermen’s supplies, such as logging sleds, tote sleds, snow plows, and cant hooks, etc. These gentlemen had succeeded in establishing an industry that was a credit to the city, employing almost constantly seven or eight men at good wages, and business was constantly increasing, but the fire will be a heavy blow to them as they had about $2000 worth of manufactured goods in the building when it burned, including 10 sets of logging sleds, two snow plows, about 40 tote sleds, besides all their tools and machinery. Their loss will aggregate $2500 with only $1100 insurance. The building was owned by Richard Ahrens and was insured for $1000. An alarm was given, but it was useless for the department to go as there is no hydrant within using distance, hence the building and contents were entirely destroyed. It is thought the fire originated from a defective chimney. The factory will be re-opened in a building owned by D. D. Smith at No. 150, 6th St. south. (Brainerd Dispatch, 30 November 1894, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: Cass County Courthouse in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


27 January

Barn Burned.

The large barn on Fourth street leased by John Bubar and used as a feed stable in connection with the Lumberman's Exchange Hotel, was burned early Sunday morning. The building was entirely destroyed and it was only by the hardest and most faithful work on the part of the department that Holst's blacksmith shop abutting it on the south was saved. The building was owned by Mrs. J. C. Rosser, of Grand Rapids, and insured for $400 in the American Ins. Co. It was worth between five and six hundred dollars, hence the net lost is not great. Mr. Bubar had about eight tons of hay stored there, which was a total loss. It was fortunate that the barn was unoccupied that night. The fire was of incendiary origin. The person who is supposed to have done the work is known, but it is not thought sufficient evidence can be found to convict. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 February 1895, p. 4, c. 5)

04 February

N. P. Oil Tank Destroyed.

Last Monday evening, about seven o’clock, a terrific explosion occurred that was felt in all parts of the city. A few minutes later the hoarse blast of the shop whistle and the shrill shrieks of the yard engines sounded the alarm of fire, and huge flames were seen leaping high in the air at the shops. A DISPATCH representative hurried to the scene of the trouble and found that the large oil tank in which was stored fuel oil for the stationery engine at the shops, had exploded and the oil was on fire and was burning fiercely. The fire department was already on the ground, but it would have been silly to try and extinguish the flames, so the firemen confined their efforts to prevent the fire from spreading, and in this they were successful. It was also stated at the time that John Headman, the night engineer, had been fatally injured by the explosion, but this was exaggerated, as Mr. Headman, though badly injured, will recover. He was taken to the Sanitarium as soon as possible after the injuries were received. It has since been learned that Mr. Headman opened the manhole of the tank and inserted his lantern for the purpose of seeing if oil was still running in from a car that had been unloading during the afternoon. Of course, when the lantern was thrust in the tank the gas that had generated from the oil exploded with terrific force, throwing Mr. Headman, it is reported, 80 feet, and setting the oil on fire. The tank contained 12,000 gallons of fuel oil which was all burned. (Brainerd Dispatch, 08 February 1895, p. 4, c. 5)

15 February

John Headman, the man who was injured in the oil tank explosion at the shops, has already recovered sufficiently to be able to leave the Sanitarium. (Brainerd Dispatch, 15 February 1895, p. 4, c. 3)

18 February



Horrible Fate of the Wife of Drayman

D. C. A. Stoops


Burned to a Crisp She Extinguishes the

Flames in the House.


On Monday afternoon the aged wife of D. C. A. Stoops, the veteran drayman, met with a death too horrible to contemplate. Her clothing caught fire from the kitchen stove, and, old and crippled as she was, before she could extinguish the flames they were burned off of her, and her body and limbs in places were burned to a crisp. Notwithstanding her horrible condition, however, she gathered pans full of snow and extinguished the flames in the house, which had caught fire from her burning clothes.

Mrs. Stoops, it seems, lives with her husband in West Brainerd, near the old court house, and they have no near neighbors. She was rather a heavy old lady, being 72 years of age and weighing about 200 pounds. One of her limbs was stiff, which, together with her age and weight, made it quite difficult for her to move about. She had been ironing that afternoon, and about 4 o'clock sat down close to the kitchen stove to rest. She picked up a newspaper and began to read, but being very tired she soon began to doze. The paper fell against the stove, it is supposed, and caught fire, which set fire to her clothing. The burning of her clothing first aroused her. She tried to smother the flames with her hands. but did not succeed in doing so. She then rolled on the bed and wrapped the clothing about her, attempting to smother the flames in this manner, but she did not succeed, so she rushed from the house as rapidly as she could and rolled in the snow, and in this manner succeeded in extinguishing the flames, but not until she was burned to a crisp in places. In fact, scarcely any clothing remained upon her, and the burned flesh dropped off of her hands and limbs to the bone. Notwithstanding her horrible, painful condition, she went into the house, and, after throwing a big overcoat about her, she seized a pan and with snow put out the flames that were devouring the bed clothing and the chair in which she sat. Frank Barber, who lives across the river, seeing the smoke coming from the house called to her, and to him she made known her condition. His wife and son immediately went to her assistance, and the boy was at once dispatched to town for Mr. Stoops and the doctor, and Mrs. F. E. Tiffany, her daughter, but nothing could be done for her. It was decided to remove her to Mrs. Benson's hospital, but the poor, suffering old lady was dead before they arrived there. She was burned about 6 o'clock and died about 8, during which time she was conscious and suffered untold agony. Her remains were buried on Wednesday, the funeral services being held at the Baptist church, Rev. Geo. E. Rowe conducting the services. (Brainerd Dispatch, 22 February 1895, p. 4, c. 5)

01 May

The Arlington Hotel Fire.

The Arlington hotel was the scene of quite a blaze on Wednesday morning, the alarm being given at 7 o’clock. The fire department was promptly on hand and saved the building from destruction, but not until somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 damage had been done, the water causing as much destruction as the fire. The origin of the blaze is a mystery as it started in a room on the third floor which was occupied by two of the dining room girls who had left the room at six o’clock, and at that time there was no signs of any fire which an hour later caused such a commotion. The fire seems to have started between the plastering and floor and burned up through the floor igniting the bedding and destroying everything in the room including the entire outfit of clothing belonging to the occupants of the room, the latter being a serious loss to the young ladies, amounting to $200. (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 May 1895, p. 4, c. 5)

SEE: Arlington Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


28 April



Mooers & Mooers Livery Stable Entirely

Consumed by Fire Early

Tuesday Morning.


The Gergen livery barn on Sixth street south, operated by C. G. and True Mooers, Jr., was burned to the ground early Tuesday morning. An electrical storm of no small proportions, accompanied by a heavy rain fall, was in progress at the time the fire was discovered, 2 o’clock, and there is not much doubt but that the blaze was occasioned by lightning. The alarm was given by parties living near the barn and the department arrived in short order, but the fire was so fierce and spread with such rapidity that their efforts were in vain, although they did excellent work and saved the buildings adjacent to the livery barn from destruction. James Wickham who owns a wagon and blacksmith shop near where the barn stood, was early on the scene, and entered the stable where the horses were kept, cutting six halters and endeavored to get out a valuable horse owned by himself but was unsuccessful. The fire from above came down through the floor and his hands were badly blistered. There were twenty-one horses in the barn, fourteen belonging to Mooers & Mooers, one to Harry Treglawny, one to James Wickham, one to Wm. Gergen, two to E. Erickson, of Houston, S. D., and two to a farmer whose name could not be learned, the latter saving one of his animals, the other twenty being burned to death. All the buggies belonging to the livery firm but one were saved, and also most of the harness. Stored overhead Wm. Gergen had a large number of buggies, sulkies, cutters, sleds, robes, blankets, etc., and, of course, were entirely consumed. On this outfit the gentleman carried $1,000 insurance, and on the building $3,000. Mooers & Mooers had an insurance of $600 on their horses and $900 on vehicles, and they estimate their loss at $2,800. The entire insurance, $5,500, was in the Elder agency.

Arthur Swanson, who slept in the barn, would undoubtedly have burned to death had he not been aroused by the first arrivals at the fire, which had then gained such headway that it was almost impossible to get into the building.

Wm. Gustafson’s residence was damaged to the extent of $200, and for a time it was thought it would burn in spite of the excellent work being done.

This is the second time in six years that a fine livery barn has been burned on this location, but in the first fire nearly all the horses were gotten out.

Mr. Gergen informs the DISPATCH today that he had decided to re-build, but not on as large a scale as before, and that the building will be used by himself, not as a livery, but for the purpose of taking care of the stock he has on hand from time to time.

Mooers & Mooers will at once purchase a number of horses and continue the livery business, although they have not yet decided on a location. (Brainerd Dispatch, 01 May 1896, p. 4, c. 5)

08 May

Paid the $3000 Policy.

George C. Main, special agent of the Philadelphia Underwriters, and Walter C. Leach, of the Norwich Union Insurance Co., are in the city this morning, and have adjusted the loss on the Gergen livery barn, the policy covering the building being $3,000, and a check for that amount was issued to Mr. Gergen through the J. M. Elder Insurance Agency. Mr. Elder states that this is the first loss ever adjusted and settled in full in this city without any question, stating as a reason that the entire line was placed in one agency and the policies were all concurrent, and the amount was sufficient to interest the agency in getting a full and speedy settlement, which was perfectly satisfactory to all parties interested. (Brainerd Dispatch, 08 May 1896, p. 4, c. 7)

A Statement of Facts.


We notice in last week’s issue of the DISPATCH an advertisement of the J. M. Elder Agency on the settlement of the fire loss on the livery barn of Messrs. Gergen & Mooers. In this article Mr. Elder states that this is the first loss ever adjusted and settled satisfactorily and in full in this city without question. This is a very strange way for him to advertise his own business, and is certainly not flattering to the companies he represents or to the adjusters who have settled his losses for him heretofore. We are willing, indeed, to substantiate a statement that it is not true in regard to losses in Brainerd settled in at least our own agency. We are loth to believe, too, that this would have been the first loss ever settled satisfactorily by the Elder Agency, but if it is so, we sincerely hope for him a better fortune in the future.

Another stern fact in connection with the loss is that it is not even yet paid in full. The $3,000 insurance on the livery barn was placed with several companies, all of his agency, and at least one of these companies has not yet paid, and will not pay under the present adjustment. We have the statement of W. B. McCord, special adjuster of one of Mr. Elder’s companies, to this effect. The entire article is misleading, and we are not willing that this advertising statement of Mr. Elder shall stand without contradiction.


Insurance Agents.

(Brainerd Dispatch, 08 May 1896, p. 4, c. 5)

As to Insurance Adjustment.


BRAINERD, May 7, 1896.

EDITOR DISPATCH:—In your issue of May 1st inst., we notice an article from the pen of one of our local insurance agents in regard to the settlement of the Gergen-Mooers’ loss by fire. Now, while we do not object to the agent “rushing into print” because he has had one loss “adjusted without any question,” we do object to the assertion that “this is the first loss ever adjusted and settled in full in the city without question.” We have not the slightest doubt but that this is the first loss that he has ever had “adjusted without question.” It is doubtless because of this fact that he is so anxious to advertise it to the world. The fact is that all the other agencies of the city have had a great many losses “adjusted without any question,” but they have not thought it at all necessary to tell their neighbors about it. If Mr. Elder wants to “toot his horn” he has a perfect right to do so, provided he states facts. But since the appearance of this great patent-lightning adjustment “ad,” we have been “credibly informed” that the loss referred to has not been ALL adjusted “without any question.” And it is now in order for this veteran underwriter to issue an extra and enlighten a waiting world upon the whys and wherefores of the “adjustment by the lightning process of losses without question.”


Insurance Agents.

(Brainerd Dispatch, 08 May 1896, p. 4, c. 7)

01 June

Disastrous Fires.


On Monday morning at 2:45 o’clock the residence of Mrs. J. S. Ambly, at the corner of Seventh and Maple streets, was discovered to be on fire. J. C. Smallwood, who was engaged in moving his grocery stock to a new location during the night, saw smoke issuing from the roof, and his clerk, Wm. Mooers, aroused the family who were sleeping, and but for his timely arrival it is quite probable that some of the members would have been suffocated, if not burned to death, and as it was Mrs. Ambly’s hair was badly scorched before she escaped. The fire originated in the kitchen, but from what cause it is not known, and had gained such headway that scarcely any of the contents were saved, all the clothing, furniture, etc., being consumed. The department was promptly on hand and rendered what service was possible under the circumstances. Chas. Iaichner, Mrs. Ambly’s son, is a member of Hose Co. No. 1, and sleeps at the hose house, and he lost all his clothing which he kept at home. There was an insurance of $500 on the building and $300 on contents. (Brainerd Dispatch, 05 June 1896, p. 4, c. 7)

28 August

An Expensive Morning Blaze.

J. J. Howe’s Lumber Mill located at Boom Lake, ca. 1896.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

A little before 6 o’clock this morning fire was discovered in the dry house at the J. J. Howe Lumber Co.’s plant. The fire department at once went to the scene, but the fire had gained such headway that but little could be done except to stop the progress of the blaze among the buildings which had not already been ignited. The dry shed, containing 40,000 feet of finishing lumber, the office building, warehouse and blacksmith shop were entirely consumed. The records and files of the old company were nearly all destroyed, but A. C. Wonderlich succeeded in saving the books of the new firm. In the warehouse was stored a quantity of sash and doors, and in the blacksmith shop was a quantity of valuable machinery and patterns.

J. J. Howe’s Lumber Mill located at Boom Lake, ca. 1896.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society
This marker, located at Boom Lake, commemorates Bly's sawmill and the later J. J. Howe Sawmill, 28 April 2018. A 3705x2409 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Carl Faust

The origin of the fire is a mystery, and can only be accounted for by the presence of tramps in the upper part of the dry shed, where were stored a quantity of blankets and bedding. The blaze was discovered by Fred Fogle, who occupies the mill boarding house, and when first seen the flames were issuing from all parts of it. A strong wind from the south was blowing and it did not take long to wrap the office building in flames so that it was impossible to get the contents out, and the attention of those present was turned to saving the large boarding house and planing mill.

At this time it is almost impossible to estimate the loss, but it will be in the neighborhood of $5,000 and $8,000, and is partially insured.

A Northern Pacific box car standing on the track filled with wood was partially burned. (Brainerd Dispatch, 28 August 1896, p. 4, c. 6)

The loss occasioned by the fire at the J. J. Howe Lumber Co.’s plant was adjusted yesterday by the Elder insurance agency satisfactorily to all parties. (Brainerd Dispatch, 04 September 1896, p. 4, c. 4)

SEE: 31 December 1892

SEE: 05 March 1899

SEE: 10 May 1900

01 September

Lightning Played Havoc.

A severe electrical storm visited this section on Tuesday afternoon during which time the Northern Pacific refrigerator building standing near the railroad track between Fourth and Fifth streets, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Immediately following the blinding flash came the terrific thunder, and many people saw the bolt strike the building splintering it in many places from top to bottom, and in an instant flames of fire burst out of the roof and cupola. The department turned out at once in the blinding storm and did effective work in saving the ice house and adjoining buildings. The building was owned by J. H. Koop and contained 600 bushels of oats in bins. It was insured for $800. During the progress of the fire lightning struck in several places in the city, splintering many electric light poles, and in one instance knocking two men down who were in the Last Turn saloon, but no serious damage resulted.

On the same afternoon the depot at Crow Wing was burned caused from lightning and much of the contents of the building destroyed. (Brainerd Dispatch, 04 September 1896, p. 4, c. 6)

23 September

Might Have Been Worse.

What came near being a disastrous fire on Wednesday afternoon was averted by the excellent work of the fire department. The blaze was in the alley between Fourth and Fifth street where a quantity of shavings had been ignited by some small children. A strong wind was blowing from the south and although the fire was discovered in a very short time after it started the flames were fanned into a furious blaze which soon enveloped D. E. Slipp’s barn. The department was at the scene in a very short time and turned their attention to saving Mr. Slipp’s house and adjacent dwellings, which they did after a hard fight although at several different times the buildings were on fire. The barn was completely destroyed together with a store house which contained a large quantity of bedding and winter clothing, and in the barn was stored 125 bushels of oats. An adjoining barn belonging to Chas. Foster was also burned. The strong wind carried burning brands onto the roof of the First Congregational church and fired that structure the water and fire causing a damage of some $400 to the property.

The loss on the church and the Slipp property was fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 25 September 1896, p. 4, c. 5)


15 January

B. & N. M. Depot Burned.

On Friday night the B & N. M. passenger and freight depot in this city was entirely destroyed by fire with all its contents. Two N. P. box cars that were standing on the side track by the depot were also consumed. How the fire originated is a mystery, but it had made considerable headway before being discovered. The stores of the company were in the depot, and they, together with considerable freight, were a total loss. Agent Smith places the loss of the B. & N. M. between three and four thousand dollars, which is fully covered by a blanket insurance on all the company’s property.

Temporary arrangements for depot facilities have been made until spring, when a fine new depot will be erected. A small building that stood near the mill boarding house has been moved up to the place where the depot stood, which will be used as an office, while another old shed has been moved up to store freight in. (Brainerd Dispatch, 15 January 1897, p. 1, c. 2)

The fire department was called out twice Tuesday afternoon, but in each case the fire was extinguished without any help from the fire boys. The first call was to the Last Turn, where a fire had been started in the attic from a defective chimney. The second call was the residence of Abraham Johns, on Fifth street south, where a blaze had been started by the stove pipe falling down. (Brainerd Dispatch, 15 January 1897, p. 4, c. 4)

The report of Chief McIntosh, of the fire department, shows that the fire losses of the city were $15,000, and the amount received on insurance was $11,051.41. The amount paid out for insurance was about $22,000, hence the insurance companies made about a hundred per cent on their Brainerd business. It would seem that justice would require a reduction of rates. (Brainerd Dispatch, 22 January 1897, p. 4, c. 4)

01 July

Freak of Lightning.

During the severe storm on Thursday morning lightning struck a house at the corner of Forsyth street and Fourth avenue in East Brainerd, owned by P. Rasch and occupied by J. E. Thomas, foreman of the N. P. boiler shops. Mr. Thomas’ family consists of himself, wife and three children and they were in bed at the time the crash came, the children being upstairs. The peculiar part was that none of them were even stunned although the house was practically wrecked, every room in it bearing evidence of the lightning’s work. In the room where the children slept the plastering was torn off and the wood work and furniture strewn around the room. In the kitchen the stove was turned around, tinware scattered about and the contents of the ice box mixed up together. A peculiar feature was that in all the evidence left by the lightning’s visit there was no place where a trace of burning could be found. (Brainerd Dispatch, 02 July 1897, p. 4, c. 5)

20 July

Some Serious Fires.

The Max Shapiro building at the corner of Sixth and Maple streets burned on Tuesday morning at 2 o’clock. The fire was first discovered by parties living in the vicinity of the building and an alarm was sent in and quickly responded to by the department but the blaze had gained such headway that it was impossible to arrest its progress and the attention of the firemen was directed toward saving the adjoining property with good success. When the fire was first discovered it was in the rear of the building in that part occupied by James Wickham as a blacksmith shop but before assistance arrived it had communicated to the wood working and wagon department of James Rhodes and also to the upper story which was used as a store room and painting department. So rapid was the work of the fire that absolutely nothing of value was saved, an empty tool chest belonging to Mr. Rhodes being the only thing removed from the building. Just how the fire occurred is a mystery although there is not much doubt in the minds of the public but that it was of an incendiary origin as on the night previous to the fire Alderman Adair noticed two men acting in a suspicious manner in that vicinity at a late hour and a half hour before the alarm was turned in Geo. W. Moody saw two men in that vicinity and their actions were such as to cause him to watch them for some time before he retired. There was an insurance of $700 on the building and Mr. Wickham carried a policy of $400 on his stock and tools and Mr. Rhodes $300.

Mr. Wickham is looking around for a favorable location and if he can find one to suit he will at once commence the erection of a building of his own and Mr. Rhodes will probably locate with him. Both gentlemen were doing a good business and their customers and friends will soon be in business again.


The residence of J. G. Smith at the corner of Fifth and Norwood street together with the contents was destroyed by fire on Tuesday night, the alarm being turned in about 12 o’clock. Mr. Smith’s wife and daughter were absent from the city having been at Gull lake for some days and the only occupants of the house was himself and his son. Mr. Smith was awakened by the smoke which nearly suffocated him and he had barely time to get out before the entire inside of the house was on fire, and his son, who was occupying a room in the second story, made his exit through a rear window. The entire building, inside and out, was wrapped in flames before the department arrived, and nothing was saved. Nothing accurate is known as to the origin of the fire. When Mr. Smith’s son, James, retired he attempted to turn on the electric lights and as they did not work he lighted a lamp and left it burning for his father, who had not been feeling well, in case he needed it in the night and it is thought that possibly it originated from the lamp exploding. There was an insurance of $500 on the building at $300 on the furniture. (Brainerd Dispatch, 23 July 1897, p. 4, c. 4)

22 September



Wednesday About 12 O’clock the Home of

S. Kaatz was Destroyed

by Fire.

The fire department was called out Wednesday to the home of S. Kaatz on Seventh street, this side of the Windsor hotel. Fire had started in one of the back rooms of the house, and there being a large pile of second hand goods which were particularly flammable, it found easy access into the other rooms of the house.

The residence had been occupied by Mr. Kaatz, a man past seventy years of age, who lived alone. He used part of the house for a storeroom for second-hand goods and the other part was used for living purposes.

Wednesday some time the old gentleman nailed up the doors of the house and said he was going to Minneapolis. It is not known positively whether the old gentleman went to Minneapolis or to Fargo, but the house was nailed up last night and he had gone away.

The origin of the fire remains a mystery. Mr. Kaatz’, son H. Kaatz, lives in this city and he states that the house had not been entered to his knowledge yesterday afternoon or last evening. He thinks probably when the old gentleman left the house that he left a lighted pipe somewhere, or perhaps a spark might have come from the stove. Young Kaatz states that his father had no insurance on the property at all, and he figures that the loss will reach $500.

The firemen did good service at the fire, saving considerable property and preventing a spread of the flames. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 September 1897, p. 5, c. 3)


02 January



The Sleeper Opera House and Other Property Destroyed by Fire With an Aggregate Loss of $40,000


Sleeper Opera House fire, 02 January 1898.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society
On 02 January 1898, the Sleeper Opera House, one of the finest play houses in Northern Minnesota burned along with Con O’Brien’s store. Theviot’s millinery store was badly damaged. The fire began in the rear of the opera house. The Feed and Seed sign is on the side of O'Brien's Mercantile Store on the northeast corner of Broadway (South Eighth Street) and Laurel Streets. A 1500x1341 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

BRAINERD, Minn, Jan. 3.—This city was visited yesterday by the most disastrous fire that has occurred here for several years and as a result the Sleeper Opera House [S 8th St (Broadway)], one of the finest play houses in Northern Minnesota, is in ruins and the large double store of C. D. O’Brien [221-223 S 8th St (Broadway)] with a large part of the contents is completely destroyed. The fire was discovered about 1:30 p. m., in the rear of the opera house, and although the fire department was quickly at work, the huge building in a few moments was a mass of flames. The flames quickly spread to the large general store of Mr. O’Brien and this was also consumed.

The opera house was built in 1882 by the late Judge C. B. Sleeper at a cost of $20,000. It had a seating capacity of over 1,000, but was too large for the city and has never been a paying investment. It was the property of the estate of the late judge. It was insured for $7,000 in the following companies: Manchester, $1,000; Northern Assurance company; $1,000; Queen, $1,000; Orient, $500; Hanover, $500; German of Freeport, $1,000; Norwich Union, $1,000; Royal, $1,000. The house will not be rebuilt. The loss on the store building of C. D. O’Brien was $3,000; insurance $1,500, $500 in the Orient and $500 in the North American, $500 in American Fire. O’Brien stock was valued between $10,000 and $11,000, two-thirds of which was destroyed. The stock was insured for $2,550, $500 in the Orient, $500 in the Manchester, $500 British America, $400 in the Niagara and $650 in the North American.

The second story of the O’Brien building was occupied as a residence by J. E. Russell and Pat O’Brien, both of whom sustained the loss of furniture, fully covered by insurance. The building on the east occupied by the Theviot millinery store [213 S 8th St (Broadway)] was quite badly damaged. The entire loss will aggregate $40,000 with not to exceed $12,000 in insurance. (Minneapolis Tribune, 03 January 1898, p. 2)



Sleeper Opera House Totally Destroyed

By Devouring Flames.


Con. O’Brien’s General Store Also Falls a

Victim to the Fire Fiend.




O’Brien’s store burns along with the Sleeper Opera House, 1898.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society
The Sleeper Opera House fire 02 January 1898. A 850x672 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society, Courtesy of the Birney Wilkins Family

On Sunday afternoon between one and two o’clock this city was visited by the most disastrous fire that has occurred here for several years. As a result of the fire Sleeper opera house has been reduced to ashes, while Con. O’Brien’s double store building adjoining was almost entirely consumed together with a portion of his large stock. The fire was discovered in the rear of the opera house about half past one, and the alarm was given immediately. The fire department responded promptly, but the blaze spread with such rapidity among the highly inflammable materials on the stage that before a stream of water could be gotten on the fire, the entire stage end of the large building was a mass of crackling, roaring flames, entirely beyond the control of a large city department. Nothing, whatever, was gotten out of the opera house, except some sleighs that were stored in the front rooms of the second story and the instruments, music and other property of the city band from one of the rooms occupied by the band as a practice room. It was only a few moments until the flames had completely enveloped the huge building. The wind was blowing from the north, which carried the flames in huge masses directly over Con. O’Brien’s large store building standing a few feet to the south. It was at first supposed that this building could be saved, and no effort was made to remove Mr. O’Brien’s large stock, but it was soon found that because of the strong north wind these buildings, too were doomed, and the removal of the stock was begun. Nearly every thing was gotten out, but most of it in a damaged condition. The flames leaping from the opera house, first caught the roof of Mr. O’Brien’s store and in spite of several streams of water, succeeded in eating their way downward until the building was practically destroyed. The building standing to the north of the opera house, occupied by Mrs. Theviot’s millinery store was several times on fire and it was thought that it would surely be destroyed, but each time the flames were extinguished. Everything was removed from this building before it had caught at all. The fact that the wind blew from the north carrying the flames away from this building, is all that saved it. The two small residence properties in the rear of the opera house had very narrow escapes, and it was only by the hardest work that they were saved at all.

The destruction of the opera house was a sad blow to theatre goers and all public spirited citizens of the city, as it unquestionably was the best and largest auditorium in Minnesota north of the Twin Cities and west of Duluth. It was undoubtedly too pretentious for Brainerd and has never paid running expenses and interest and taxes, hence a house of this kind will probably not be rebuilt again in the near future. Sleeper opera house was built in 1883, by a stock company headed by the late Judge Sleeper one of the most enterprising citizens Brainerd has ever had. Later the judge acquired full control and it was a part of his estate when he died some years since, and has been owned by the estate ever since. It cost about $20,000 when built and was insured for $7,000.

The loss of Mr. O’Brien will be quite heavy. The building was insured for $1,200 and was worth $3,000. Mr. O’Brien’s stock which he had just invoiced, amounted to over $10,000, and the loss and damage will amount to probably 50 per cent. Teams were secured by Mr. O’Brien and the goods were hauled into J. S. Gardner’s store room on Sixth street as fast as possible. The loss will undoubtedly be greater than the insurance which was $2,000.

In the second story of O’Brien’s store resided P. D. O’Brien and family, Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Russell and Joseph Miller and family, there being no insurance on their household goods which were considerably damaged by removal and much of it destroyed.


No sooner had the flames subsided than Mr. O’Brien began arrangements for the construction of a new building on the site of the one destroyed and White & White have drawn plans for the new structure. It is to be a one story building 48x84 with 16 foot ceiling, of solid brick with steel roof and plate glass front, and will be equipped with steam heat and modern appliances. Mr. O’Brien has been continuing his business just the same as though the big fire had not occurred. In the meantime he has rented the new store building of A. P. Farrar at the corner of Sixth and Laurel streets and has moved into it where his business will be carried on until his new business block is completed. (Brainerd Dispatch, 07 January 1898, p. 1, c.’s 2 & 3)

SEE: Sleeper Opera House in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: O’Brien Department Store in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Theviot (Bertha) Millinery Shop / Broadway Cafe in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

21 January

White & White have been awarded the contract for building the new O’Brien block at the corner of Eighth and Laurel streets and already have a force of men at work clearing the grounds preparatory to commencing the work of construction. The details of the building were published in this paper some time ago. The work is to be completed by May 1. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 January 1898, p. 10, c. 3)

04 March

The handsome new store building at the corner of Eighth and Laurel streets, being erected by C. B. White for Con. O’Brien, will be ready for occupancy April 1st, a month earlier than the contract called for. It will be a model store in all particulars. (Brainerd Dispatch, 04 March 1898, p. 10, c. 2)


24 January

About 11 o’clock Tuesday night a blaze was discovered in the attic of the frame building on Front street occupied by the Midway saloon. The alarm was given and the department responded quickly and in a few minutes the blaze was extinguished, not however, until the roof was practically ruined. The loss from the flames and water will probably amount to $300. The building was owned by Walter Davis and had no insurance. The fire department did excellent work in subduing the flames so quickly. Had it got a good start and got the best of the department, the loss would have been great, as the buildings on all sides are frame, and would have burned like shavings. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 January 1899, p. 8, c. 2)

SEE: Midway Saloon in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

05 March



The Old J. J. Howe Lumber Co.’s Plant

Goes Up in Smoke Early

Sunday Morning.


The old saw mill plant of the J. J. Howe Lumber Co. was completely destroyed by fire on Sunday morning. The fire occurred about 7 o’clock, and had made such headway when discovered that it was impossible to subdue the flames, the entire plant being a fiery mass before the fire department arrived on the scene.

The mill has not been operated for at least five years, but contained all the expensive machinery that goes to make up a large saw mill, and all was consumed. The building was an old dilapidated affair and was of very little value, but the mill machinery, including the mammoth engine and boilers, was very expensive, and was a total loss. The contents of the mill cost more than $30,000, and was estimated to be worth fully $20,000 when burned. It was the property of A. B. Barton, of Minneapolis and had no insurance whatever. How the fire originated is a mystery, as the plant has been locked and nailed up since the mill was shut down. A small shed about a block away that was used for a place of shelter by boys skating on Boom lake was burned the evening before and it may have caught from that, but it was probably the work of careless or mischievous boys or tramps. (Brainerd Dispatch, 10 March 1899, p. 10, c. 5)

SEE: 31 December 1892

SEE: 28 August 1896

SEE: 10 May 1900

28 December



Fire Last Night Destroys the Stock of

P. M. Zakariasen, Tailor.

At 10:30 last evening fire was discovered in the building occupied by P. M. Zakariasen, tailor, and who also carries a stock of gents’ furnishing goods. The department responded promptly to the alarm and succeeded in getting the blaze under control before it escaped from the room in which it originated but not until the large stock of piece goods, suits and gents’ furnishings were practically ruined, water and smoke finishing what the fire did not consume. The fire undoubtedly originated from the air tight sheet iron stove with which the place was heated and which probably exploded scattering the fire all over the room. Mr. Zakariasen closed his place a little after 9 o’clock, shutting up the stove and turning off the electric lights. The stock of goods inventoried about $4,500 and was insured for $3000 in the Murphy & Vallentyne agency. The building is owned by the Northern Pacific bank and was insured for $1000 in the J. R. Smith agency. (Brainerd Dispatch, 29 December 1899, p. 8, c. 2)


24 February



H. Spalding's Fine Residence Property

at Lake View Burned to the


Lake View originally built by C. B. Sleeper about 1886 and remodeled by Henry Spalding after his purchase in 1893, ca. Unknown.
Source: Oldtimers II: Stories of Our Pioneers in the Cass and Crow Wing Lake Region, Volume II, Carl A. Zapffe, Jr., Echo Publishing and Printing, Incorporated, Pequot Lakes, Minnesota: 1988

The splendid residence of H. Spalding at Lake View was totally destroyed by fire last Saturday morning. The fire occurred about 9 o'clock. Mr. Spalding was in the city at the time and did not learn of his loss until after dinner. The fire probably caught from a stove upstairs. It was a very cold day, with a high northwest wind, and a brisk fire was kept going. Mrs. Spalding says she filled the stove and then proceeded with her work downstairs. In about half an hour she heard something fall overhead, and on going to the stairs discovered that the whole upper portion of the building was in flames. She ran to the barn where the hired man was, and called him to assist her to subdue the flames, but their efforts were of no avail. An effort was then made to remove some of the more valuable of their goods from the burning building, but with the exception of a few pieces of solid silverware and cut glass articles that Mrs. Spalding prized very highly nothing was saved. No clothing whatever except what was worn was gotten out. Mr. Spalding figures his loss more than $5,000. A great many things were burned, that they would not have parted with for any consideration, although not of great intrinsic value. The building was insured for $3,000, and $750 was carried on the furniture and piano. Mr. and Mrs. Spalding have the sympathy of the community in the loss of their fine home. Indeed their many friends who have enjoyed their unbounded hospitality in the past feel a personal loss, and hope that they will rebuild in the spring. (Brainerd Dispatch, 02 March 1900, p. 1, c. 3)

SEE: 1885, 1893, 1900 Lake View Park in the Early Accounts of Brainerd page.

17 March



J. H. Burton’s Fine Residence on South

Sixth Street Totally Destroyed


On Saturday afternoon fire totally consumed the fine frame residence property of Yard Master Jas. Burton on 6th street south. The fire started in the basement over the boiler of the steam heating plant, and had made considerable headway when discovered. An attempt was made by Mr. Davy, a neighbor, to subdue the flames with a bucket, but the smoke created drove him out of the cellar. An alarm was turned in to the central hose house and the department responded promptly, but on arriving at the scene of the fire it was found the fire wagon did not carry hose enough to reach to the nearest hydrant, which is four blocks away, so another trip had to be made to the hose house before any water could be gotten on the fire. By this time the building was a mass of flames and was totally destroyed. Most of the furniture on the first floor was gotten out, but everything on the second floor was consumed. Mr. Burton estimates his loss on the building between $2,000 and $2,500 on which he had only $900 insurance. The loss on the furniture will be between $500 and $1,000, which was fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 23 March 1900, p. 1, c. 2)

20 April



The Town of Nary Destroyed Last



While the southern states have been drenched with rain, and badly flooded the past week, at a loss of millions, the northern part of Minnesota and the Dakotas have been suffering from a lack of moisture. Everything had become parched and dry, and a great deal of damage has been done by forest fires caused by sparks from locomotives and the carelessness of people burning rubbish incidental to spring cleaning.

On Friday afternoon the town of Nary, up on the B. & N. M., was practically destroyed by a forest fire. Every building in the town except the depot and a small saw mill was consumed by the flames. The buildings destroyed consisted of two general stores, three saloons, a large frame hotel, three houses of ill-repute, and a large number of small cabins or residence houses, with the contents of all. The town contained a population of between two and three hundred, and all are homeless as a result of the fire.

Numerous fires in this vicinity also frightened and alarmed our citizens, although no damages of any consequence have been inflicted. On Friday a heavy fire raged south of town, fanned to fury by the high wind, and Joel Smith’s buildings had a very narrow escape. Mr. Smith who was in the city, was notified, and he went down in a great hurry, and by hard labor succeeded in preventing the destruction of all his buildings. A crew of men from the shops with fire apparatus was sent down the same afternoon to Crow Wing and assisted the settlers and section men there in fighting the flames that were devouring the company’s wood. Small fires have been in progress in the woods and swamps all about the city, the department being called out Monday afternoon to extinguish a fire on the river flat, northwest of the city. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 April 1900, p. 1, c. 4)

25 April



Two Dwelling Houses and Two Barns



Quite a destructive fire occurred last Wednesday afternoon in the south part of the city. The residences of Jens Molstad and J. H. Dickinson were badly damaged, and Mr. Molstad’s and H. Turcotte’s barn and two outhouses were entirely destroyed. The contents of both barns, including a fine horse owned by Otto Nelson, which was in Mr. Molstad’s barn, were consumed, and the household goods in both houses were badly damaged by fire, water and smoke, or destroyed by the hasty removal.

The fire was started in Mr. Molstad’s barn by two boys playing with matches, and this barn and Mr. Turcotte’s close by were soon enveloped in flames. A high wind was blowing which carried large sparks and burning brands from the fierce flames several blocks. Mr. Molstad’s residence soon caught in this manner, and it was only by the untiring work of the fire boys in keeping all the surrounding buildings drenched with water that prevented a general conflagration. In spite of their efforts a burning brand set fire to the residence of J. H. Dickinson, two blocks away, and the roof was practically destroyed, and the house and contents badly damaged before the flames here were gotten under control. It looked at one time as if the wind and flames were masters of the situation, and only hard work and a fine water pressure prevented great loss.

Mr. Molstad’s residence was owned by Martin Anderson, who resides in Wisconsin. The damage to the house and barn is probably $800, which is covered by insurance. Mr. Molstad’s loss on household goods was quite heavy, and he had no insurance. Mr. Dickinson’s loss is probably five or six hundred dollars, which is fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 April 1900, p. 1, c. 4)

10 May

The fire department was called out yesterday morning to subdue a fire in a pile of rubbish that threatened Wm. Dresskell’s barn, and yesterday afternoon the boys went to the old mill yard of J. J. Howe & Co., to put out a fire that was burning the sawdust and chips that underlie the whole yard. (Brainerd Dispatch, 11 May 1900, p. 10, c. 2)

SEE: 31 December 1892

SEE: 28 August 1896

SEE: 05 March 1899

02 August



Bad Fire in East Brainerd Early

Yesterday Morning.


Total Loss About $2,000, All Covered

by Insurance.


Three residence properties were destroyed by the fire in East Brainerd about six o’clock yesterday morning, entailing a loss of about two thousand dollars, which was fully covered by insurance.

The houses were on 4th avenue, opposite the Lowell school building, and were all occupied. The fire started in the kitchen of Joe St. Peter’s house, it is thought, by a spark falling from the kitchen stove through a crack in the floor, and was not discovered until it had gained considerable headway. The alarm was given and the fire department responded, but the fire wagon did not carry enough hose to reach to the nearest hydrant, and a trip to the East Brainerd hose house was necessary for more hose. By this time St. Peter’s house was a mass of flame, and the fire had been communicated to the residences of Seth Maugh and W. E. Brockway on either side. The St. Peter and Maugh residences were entirely destroyed while the Brockway residence was quite badly burned. The loss was as follows:

Jos. St. Peter, on house $600, on furniture $150.

Seth Maugh, on house $600, furniture slight.

W. E. Brockway, on house $300.

Mr. Brockway’s house was occupied by Engineer Merwin and family, whose furniture was all removed, but suffered a loss of probably $50 damage in removing.

Mr. Brockway carried $300 insurance on his house, Mr. Maugh $300 on his house and $100 on his furniture, and Mr. St. Peter $400 on his house and $300 on his furniture.

The residents of that vicinity are indignant because of their lack of fire protection, and will make a vigorous kick to the council Monday night to have the water mains extended. Only one house would have burned if there had been a hydrant within two blocks of the fire. (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 August 1900, p. 1, c. 6)

03 September



At Bolin’s Ranch, 12 miles North of the

City—Loss Over $5,000.


A most destructive fire occurred at F. C. Bolin’s stopping place on the Cross Lake road, 12 miles north of this city, about 4 o’clock Monday morning, when practically all the buildings on the ranch were destroyed except the house.

Five buildings were consumed, including barn, granary, store house, hay shed 100 feet long, and other outhouses, and several stacks of grain containing approximately about 3,000 bushels. The hay shed had ten tons of hay, which was entirely consumed, and nine valuable horses were burned to death in the barn. Six sets of logging harness, four sets of logging sleds and a fine logging outfit were stored in the barn and were destroyed by the flames. In the store house a large quantity of provisions were stored for use in the winter, and all consumed by the fire fiend.

Mr. Bolin was away in Montana when the fire occurred, but was notified by telegraph and returned on Wednesday. He says his loss will aggregate considerably over $5,000, and can find only $300 insurance.

How the fire originated is not known, unless some tramp stopped there for the night, and carelessly lighted a match, but this is only conjecture. The house and contents were saved, although they were fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 07 September 1900, p. 1, c. 5)

An Expensive Fire.

Fire and water did considerable damage early Monday morning to the Big 9 shoe store and Dresskell’s jewelry store. The fire occurred about 2 a. m., and probably caught from the chimney in Dresskell’s store. The department responded quickly to the alarm and extinguished the blaze before the fire had made much headway, but both the stock of jewelry and Mr. Walters’ boot and shoe stock were badly damaged, more by water than by fire, the latter suffering the greater loss. Mr. Walters estimates his damage at $1,000, the jewelry store at $300, and the damage to the building is probably about the same amount. All the losses are fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 23 November 1900, p. 8, c. 2)


16 September



Brainerd Fire Department Re-

sponds Promptly and a

Spread is Stopped.




What at first promised to be a disastrous conflagration to the city of Brainerd was narrowly averted at an early hour Monday morning by the promptness and efficient work of the Brainerd Fire department. About 1:20 o’clock that morning an alarm was sent in from the first ward and the Hose Company No. 1 quickly responded.

Fire was discovered in the old blacksmith shop belonging to W. F. Holst on Fourth street, and when the department arrived the flames were issuing from the west end of the building.

The wind was blowing terrifically from the west and Chief Bennett at once grasped the situation, realizing that with such a gale directly from the west, that the entire business portion of the city was imperiled. He at once directed his attention to the buildings across the street and detailed men to watch the flying cinders as they raised and swept over the city. Cinders reached as far down as Eighth street and it is said that several buildings caught fire at one time or another. To avoid further calamities than had already occurred, the chief called out Hose Company No. 4, from Southeast Brainerd, and fourteen out of the membership of sixteen quickly responded, and appeared at the fire shortly after 2 o’clock. They did good work all night nearly and assisted materially in quenching the flames. The people of Brainerd should be tankful to the fire laddies for their efficient work.

It is understood that the building owned by Mr. Holst was covered with insurance. There was considerable machinery in the building at the time, including several new binders which were being stored there, which, of course, were not covered by insurance. The building just south of the Holst building was also burned. The buildings were both frame structures, but the last mentioned was being occupied everyday. It was owned by E. W. Lynch and was occupied by Ben Sowders, who conducted a blacksmith shop. Mr. Sowders had been in the building only since the first of the month, and it is understood that his tools, etc., which were bought of P. J. Karly, were uninsured, and the loss falls quite heavily on him.

The origin of the fire remains a mystery. The building wherein the fire started, has not been occupied for month and no one is known to have been in the building since about two weeks ago. It was used almost exclusively of late for storage purposes. The fire started in the northwest corner of the building and being of flammable material the structure soon went up in smoke. The Last Turn saloon had a close call and the building, which is owned by J. M. Gray, was badly scorched.

Mr. Holst had $1500 insurance on the building, but figuring in the building and the contents he claims that it is about a $3000 loss.

Mr. Lynch had $100 insurance on the buggies and wagons in the building belonging to him which was burned and $100 on the building. This about covers his loss. (Brainerd Dispatch, 20 September 1901, p. 6, c. 1)

11 October



Barn Belonging to J. W. Anderson in

Southeast Brainerd Damaged by

Fire—Another Fire.

Monday evening about half past 7 o’clock fire was discovered in a barn on the corner of Norwood and Hartley streets in Southeast Brainerd, and Hose Company, No. 4 quickly responded. No’s. 1 and 2 were also there. The barn was almost totally destroyed and some machinery which was inside was damaged so that it was rendered worthless. The loss was over $800. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were out on their farm at the time and only the two eldest children Serrie and Vivian were at home. They were the first to discover the fire. The cow was in the barn and was rescued just in time.

It is suspected that the fire was started by some maliciously inclined person or persons, and two young boys are thought to have taken part in the matter. The fire was thought to have been put out but Company No. 4 was again called out about 12:30. It seems that there was some dry hay in the box through which hay was dropped in from the loft to the manger and that a spark caught here and the fire started afresh. This was quickly extinguished.

Another fire was found eating its way into a little frame structure on Fourth street belonging to A. A. White. The building was not burned but it was a close call. The fire department did good work. It is the opinion that the fire was started by someone playing with matches.

At all three fires the department performed efficient and valuable service. (Brainerd Dispatch, 11 October 1901, p. 6, c. 2)

25 December



The Vanstrum Clothing Co. Sus-

tains a Heavy Loss by Fire

Christmas Morning.




Fire is Supposed to Have Started

from a Large Heating Stove

in the Store.

Early Christmas morning there was a rather serious conflagration at the store on Front street occupied by the Vanstrum Clothing Co. The department was called out and did efficient work but it had been a rather slow fire and was not detected until it got a good start and when the doors were opened the air fanned the already smoldering smudge into flames which spread rapidly.

The building which was owned by Walter Davis was not damaged to any great extent except by water and smoke. Water and smoke also played the greatest havoc with the clothing. The clothing in the front end of the store was completely saturated with water and filled with smoke.

C. L. Vanstrum, manager of the company, stated yesterday afternoon that he could not understand how the fire caught. They had been particularly careful about the fire and always attended to the stove before going home. He thinks, however, that someone might have dropped a match among some refuse before the store was closed at night.

Mr. Vanstrum considered the stock to be valued at $9,000. This is not fully covered by insurance. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 December 1901, p. 1, c. 1)


24 January



Beautiful Swedish Baptist Church

on Tenth Street, is a Mass

of Ruins.




The fiery demon was out in force last night and in its wake left ruin and devastation. Two alarms were turned in early in the evening and both fires proved to be disastrous ones. The most deploring conflagration was at the Swedish Baptist church at 524 south Tenth street. The edifice was completely gutted and the place where stood the beautiful little church, which was the pride of that part of the city, is today a scene of heaps of brick and debris.


Hardly had the members of the fire department returned from the Scribner fire when another alarm was sent in and the department quickly responded. This time it was discovered that a fire had started in the Swedish Baptist church on Tenth street south. It is claimed that the boys did valiant service in trying to save this building, but the pressure of water was such that they could do but little to quench the flames, which had made good headway before they reached the scene. It is said that the stream of water did not extend twenty feet from the end of the nozzle and it was utterly impossible to get a stream on the roof when the boys stood at one side of the burning building.

Swedish Baptist Church, located on the Northwest corner of Oak and South Tenth Streets, was dedicated on 25 August 1901 and burned on 24 January 1902. Notice the arc light at the top of the photo.
Source: The Word, a Century with Our Churches, Brainerd, Minnesota 1871-1971

The fire is supposed to have originated in the vicinity of the furnace in the basement. There was to have been a meeting in the church last night and the janitor lighted the fire in the furnace quite early and went away and left it. About 7:15 o’clock when Rev. A. A. Anderson showed up at the church he discovered that the place was on fire. The alarm was sent in at once and the department quickly responded.

Great crowds began to gather as soon as the flames were seen to soar from the roof and from the side of the building. It seemed almost impossible to save the building. Do what they would the firemen did not seem to get at the spot where the fire emanated and when the air got in the building it was but short work before the building was a mass of ruins. Luckily the wind was blowing from a northwesterly direction and the buildings which stood to the north and west of the church were saved.

As soon as it was discovered that the church could not be saved the firemen turned their attention to the residences, and succeeded in saving the home of Rev. Anderson to the west of the church, although it stood but six feet away from the burning structure.

The loss of this church to the members and congregation of the Swedish Baptist church is greatly to be deplored. The pastor, Rev. A. A. Anderson, with his flock have labored hard in the interests of the church. It was formerly the old frame structure but about a year ago they began to lay plans for some extended improvements. This summer their most sanguine hopes were realized. They expended three thousand dollars in renovating and remodeling the church. It was all re-plastered and rearranged on the interior and the building was brick veneered on the outside. It made one of the most imposing little edifices in the city. They have not been holding worship there more than three or four months. The improvements were virtually all paid for.

Another matter in this connection which is greatly to be deplored is the fact that there was but $1000 insurance on the building. There was $1,000 on the old structure and when the improvements were made the policy was changed to cover the building. The insurance is held in one of J. R. Smith’s companies.

The church property was valued at $3,500. This leaves the congregation in a bad way especially as many of the members are back on their subscriptions. They will make an effort to collect these and already there is talk of circulating a petition to raise funds to rebuild the church. Services will be held tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o’clock at the Presbyterian church. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 25 January 1902, p. 3, c.’s 3 & 4)

SEE: First Swedish Baptist / Temple Baptist Church in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

19 April



Frame Structures Belonging to J.

F. McGinnis Badly Dam-

aged Saturday.




William Costello’s Saloon Had

Narrow Escape—Buildings

Were All Insured.

There was quite a bad fire Saturday night on Seventh street south, which resulted in the total destruction almost of the row of old frame buildings between the M. J. Reilly and F. H. Gruenhagen blocks. The buildings were owned by J. F. McGinnis and were not considered very valuable, as they were among the oldest in the city.

The fire started in the small tailor shop belonging to Fred Ceyborski, who occupied the little building in the middle of the row. At the time Mr. Ceyborski happened to be out delivering a pair of trousers on Fifth street south. He left a large lamp burning on the table and it is thought that this lamp either exploded or was upset. The building being of flammable material, the fire soon spread with great rapidity and before the fire department was called at all, the flames had eaten their way through the adjoining walls, making their appearance first in the Arena Saloon, owned by William Costello. The flames soon reached the building to the south also, which was occupied by W. E. Barber, agent for the Singer Sewing Machine Co., and George Kimble, agent for the Kimball Piano Co. Both these gentlemen carried large stocks and it was thought that the loss here would be quite heavy.

They succeeded, however, in removing all their stuff with but little damage. Mr. Kimble stated this morning that the ends of two of the pianos were quite badly scratched, but beyond that he sustained no loss. When the fire started Mr. Kimble was five blocks away and he did not hurry back until someone told him that his store was on fire. When he got there none of the organs or pianos had been removed from the building but with the assistance of a few men they were removed before the fire got too hot.

Ceyborski’s loss was a total one as there is not a rag left of the tailor shop. It is understood that he had $300 insurance which he thinks will cover the loss.

When the fire started William Costello seemed destined to be the heaviest loser as he carried a big stock of liquors and his saloon fixtures are new and were but recently purchased. In this case, however, as in many others, fire will perform some great pranks. The fire seemed to get into the saloon through the wall just over the bar. It burned most fiercely, so hard in fact that it was impossible to stay in the room ten minutes after the flames made their appearance. With this intense fire and with a building that was dry and flammable it was thought that everything would be reduced to ashes but it was not so. Mr. Costello’s loss will not exceed $25 on stock or furniture.

Mr. McGinnis had the buildings fully covered with insurance. It is thought that he may build a solid brick block in place of the old shacks. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 21 April 1902, c.’s 3 & 4)


23 February




Home of August Schultz in East

Brainerd  Burned  With

Three Little Children.




And Went to the Fireman's Dance

At Gardner's Hall—a Pitiable

Sight to Behold.

It would seem as though human sympathy and feeling is a mere speck as weighed in the balance with the dreadfulness and horror in which grim death clothed himself last night, lurking in the form of an insurmountable monster, and finally lowering down on so innocent a prey as three little children, ages eight, three and one year old, and snuffing their little lives out in a manner that was heartrending.

The forms of eight year old Amelia, three year old Minnie Schlimmer [sic] [Schlemmer] and one year old Beatrice [sic] [Augusta] Schultz, lie at the morgue of Losey & Dean cold in death. They are clothed in their little night robes, and they look as though asleep, the poor little ones not even showing an expression of having suffered the slightest pain. Tears could not be kept back by those who witnessed the pitiable sight.

Last night about 11:30 o'clock a fire alarm was sent in from East Brainerd and the department responded quickly to the little one story frame building at 412 First Ave. Mr. and Mrs. August Schultz lived here, and also Mr. and Mrs. Frank Schlimmer [sic] [Schlemmer], uncle and aunt of Mr. Schultz.

As soon as the firemen arrived on the scene it was supposed that there was no one at home, the folks having gone to the firemen's dance at Walker [sic] hall. The flames had gained considerable headway and it was given up as a hopeless task to even try and quench them and save the tiny structure. The firemen turned their attention to the house near by, but when a shrill voice yelled out in the midnight air that there were three children inside the house, all attention was turned to the rescuing of human life.

It was learned that Mr. and Mrs. Schultz and Mr. and Mrs. Schlimmer [sic] [Schlemmer] had gone to the dance, leaving three small children alone, locked up in the house. Amelia Schlimmer [sic] [Schlemmer], the oldest, only eight years of age was a particularly bright child, and no danger was feared with her at home, although the youngest babe was but one year old. The giddy whirl of the dance went on and on, and there was not a presentiment in the minds of those who had locked their children at home, that any danger would come to them.

Emil Gose [sic], of East Brainerd, was the first to try and rescue the children. The little house was by this time full of smoke and water and the structure had been about completely gutted. Mr. Goes [sic] got on his hands and knees and crept in through the dusk and smoke, groping about trying to locate the bed where the children were. He finally found the bed and feeling his way beneath the quilts, felt the warm form of the children. He clasped one of them and made for the door. This was the second child, aged three years. She was already dead when taken to the open.

The second trip back to the bed was even more difficult than the first as Mr. Grose [sic] himself was nearly prostrated. He made his way back, however, and picked the other two children up in his arms and reached the outside, but it was too late. While in his arms, the oldest girl, Amelia, breathed her last, and the baby of Mr. and Mrs. Schultz had died before he reached the bedside. The three year old girl was alive when he reached the bed but she died before she was carried to the outside door.

The three bodies were taken to the home of a neighbor near by and the parents at the dance were notified of what had happened.

The scene at Gardner hall when Mrs. Schultz was informed of the affair was an affecting one. She became hysterical and could not be controlled The Schultz and Schlimmer [sic] [Schlemmer] families hastened home and found the reports to be only too true.

No one seems to know exactly how the fire started, but it is presumed that a lamp which was left lighted in the bedroom where the children were, exploded. Mr. Schultz states that it would have been impossible for it to have started from either one of the stoves. One strange thing about the fire was the fact that it seemed to burn all over except around the bed where the little folks were quietly sleeping. The bed was not touched by the flames although the roof and walls around it were ablaze. It is thought, however, had the fire department not arrived when it did that the little folks would have been burned to a crisp. As it was they were not burned at all and it is doubtful if they ever knew that there was a fire.

Mr. Schultz stated this morning that he did not intend to leave their baby in the house at first. He had taken the child to a neighbors, but she started to cry so he took her back home again and put her to bed with the two other children.

Coroner Osterlund was notified of the accident and he accompanied Undertaker Losey to the scene. The bodies of the children were ordered removed to the morgue and this afternoon jurors were summoned to hold an inquest.

The loss of the house and its contents has faded into nothingness as compared with the sacrifice of human life. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 February 1903, p. 3, c. 1)

25 February




Coroner's Jury Returns a Verdict

Arraigning Parents of Child-

ren Suffocated




And there was no Criminal Intent

—Funeral of Little ones


As announced yesterday Coroner Osterlund summoned a coroners jury to ascertain and fix the responsibility [for the death] of the three children who lost their lives in the East Brainerd fire Monday night. The hearing was in Losey & Dean's undertaking room and after the evidence was all submitted, the jury returned the following verdict:

Cause of death, purely accidental by suffocation in absence of all other members of the family except said deceased children. We find no criminal intent whatever on the part of said parents, but think that said parents are chargeable with gross carelessness in leaving said deceased children alone in the house with lamps left burning.

But three witnesses testified before the jury, August Schultz and Frank Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer], the parents of the children, and Emil Guse [sic], who so bravely went into the charred building and brought out their bodies. Both Schultz and Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] are Germans and hard to understand when speaking English, in fact the latter could only testify through an interpreter. Their testimony was substantially as follows:


My name is August Schultz. Live at 412 1st Ave. N. E. Am married, have one child, Augusta, aged 13 months. Saw her last at 9 o'clock last night. We intended to leave our baby at Behme's. I was getting ready to go to firemen's dance. The baby woke up and my wife stayed from 15 to 20 minutes and brought her back. I told my wife we could not keep her there so put her in our bed. She went sound asleep and we put Amelia Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] in bed to sleep with her. They were both soon sound asleep and my wife said they would both sleep better than in strange house. Thought they would be all right for a couple of hours. Mrs. Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] did not intend to go out at all. I went around and looked at the stoves. It was not cold and I put the fire out in the heating stoves, and fire was out in the cook stoves. I scratched the coals off and put in the ash pan. This was the big stove in the front room. Must have been after 9 o'clock when my wife went around and looked after things. The house is frame, has 5 rooms, one story high four rooms are end to end, with kitchen to the right side of the second room. The cook stove was in the kitchen. Room occupied by Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] was in the rear of kitchen. Big stove was in sitting room. Slemmer's [sic] [Schlemmer’s] cook stove was in summer kitchen in rear, and is only stove they have. Left one lamp burning on kitchen table, am not sure but my wife left lamp burning on bureau in bedroom. Lamp was common standing lamp with no shade, flat burner. Never had any trouble with burner. Mr. Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] and wife went ahead of us to dance. When we left all the children were asleep in bed in bedroom. Never left a child in the house except this time. We left at 9 o'clock and got back a little before 12 o'clock. Generally leave light burning all night. We left hall at 12 o'clock. Stopped at Mike Remmel's and got glass of beer. Man on bicycle notified me of fire at my house, and I went there as fast as I could. They told me to go to the corner where the children were all right. When I got there they were dead. The fire seems to have started in Slemmer's [sic] [Schlemmer’s] room. There was no scorching of bed clothes. The furniture in the front rooms was all right. Back rooms were charred. There was a door by the bed. The wall of back room was not burned through. I had not been drinking during the day. My wife wanted to go home she said, "well are we going now?" Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] and I went ahead and stopped at Mike Remmel's. After we went in my wife and Mrs. Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] went in back room. Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] was to stay at home. I think they got mad because I took my baby to Behme's. I didn't like to leave children alone, always took them with us. Think that Slemmer either set lamp too close to wall or clothes or that it exploded. The stuff that burned was in Slemmer's rooms and my kitchen and the bed room. All the lamps were cracked to pieces.

Mr. Slemmer [sic] [Schlemmer] testified substantially as above through J. H. Koop, interpreter.

Emil Guse [sic], the man who rescued the bodies, testified as follows:

Heard the alarm about 11:30. Ran down to see what I could do. Someone said there were three little children in the house, so I started to search and found them and brought them out. The hose was not turned on when I went in. It was pretty dark in the room. The fire broke through in the northeast corner. I went in the front door. Happened to put my hand on the bed. Went in on my knees. Took one out and went back after the others. There were signs of life in the two largest children. They struggled some. Did not run across any glass. The fourth room was all ablaze. The most fire was in the two back rooms. Mrs. Behme, I think told me there were children in the house. Was right at the front door when told. Took the oldest one out first. Took two last trip. Boarded with Schultz' years ago. They are honest and respectable, never knew them to leave children before. Found the children in bed. Did not notice lamp burning on bureau.

The jury was composed of the six following well known citizens: F. E. Kenny, A. M. Opsahl, J. Carlson, J. H. Koop, J. Martin and P. M. Zakariasen.

The funeral of the children, Amelia and Christina Slemmer, aged 8 and 4 years respectively, and Augusta Schultz, aged 13 months, will take place tomorrow morning from the Catholic church at 10:30. The little ones are lying in [the] morgue at Losey & Deans, and a large number of people have gone to see them. It is a pitiful sight and brings the tears to the eyes of every one viewing them. (Brainerd Dispatch, 25 February 1903, p. 3, c. 2)

07 June




Disastrous Fire in Heart of City Sweeps Away

$30,000 Worth of Property in a

Very Short Time




Armstrong Hotel is Completely Destroyed at an

Aggregate Loss of $19,000—Others

Were Heavy Losers


The following is a complete list of those who sustained losses in the big fire yesterday afternoon:

Adam Armstrong, hotel, furniture, barn and contents, and other buildings, $19,000; insurance $6,000.

Peter Wolvert, household furniture, $100; no insurance.

Mrs. Lena Shupe, household furniture, $50; no insurance.

James Gillispie, frame building and stock of harnesses and other goods, $3,000; no insurance.

Adam Bellmuth, laundry fixtures, $250; insurance $200.

P. J. Kiley [sic], blacksmith shop and stock, $3,500; insurance $550,

J. R. Burns, residence, $800; insurance $500.

Mrs. Mattie Winters, household furniture, $400; no insurance.

Mrs. Charlotte McGillis, residence and household furniture, $1,200; insurance $700.

Len Mahle, household furniture, $300; no insurance.

Richard Thompson, household furniture, $300; no insurance.

A. A. White, barn, $500; fully insured.

Mrs. J. M. Gray, building, $250; no insurance.


On the eve of the big firemen’s convention and tournament of the State Firemen’s association, which will be held in this city commencing Tuesday, Brainerd was visited by a conflagration yesterday which was one of the worst in its history, and for a time there was eminent danger of the heart of the city being completely swept away, leaving nothing but a barren waste on the south side of Front street from the ravine to Third street to greet the eyes of the visiting firemen, but the Goddess of fortune stepped in at just the opportune time and by the sudden shifting of the course of the wind this great calamity was averted.

As it was, almost in the twinkling of an eye, and before the firemen could check the flames, about $30,000 worth of property went up in smoke, and every building, shack or barn on Block 49, bound on the north by Front, on the south by Laurel, on the West by Third and on the east by Fourth, except the old building which has for decades been located on the corner of Front and Fourth streets and known as the “Last Turn” saloon and another old building owned by P. B. Nettleton next west of it and occupied by S. L. Avery as a carpenter shop, was reduced to ashes and the block was given the appearance of desolation in a short time. The fire was not entirely confined to this block either. Doing as best they could the firemen could not stop the flames spreading to the blacksmith shop owned by P. J. Kiley [sic] on the south side of Laurel street and it too was destroyed, together with a small building owned by J. M. Gray and occupied by Adam Bellmuth as a laundry.


The fire alarm was turned in from the Armstrong hotel, owned by Adam Armstrong, at just 12:05 yesterday afternoon. The department responded quickly and discovered smoke issuing from one of the upper rooms in the third story of the hotel. The flames at this time had not spread from the confines of the room, although the house was filled with smoke in a comparatively short time. Every precaution was taken, therefore, and the attention of the department was concentrated on this one spot. Three lines of hose were quickly run out, but alas just at this time, at the most critical moment, at a time when all damage which resulted could have been averted, the water was slow in coming and it was fully fifteen minutes before a stream was secured at all. When the boys did get a stream the deplorable sight that greeted the eyes of those who stood by was appalling. It was impossible for the firemen to throw the water higher than ten or fifteen feet and the pressure was distressingly light. And there they fought with might and main with this very inadequate flow of water, and it being a very dry day and the wind blowing a gale they could make very little headway. It was one of the worst examples of fire fighting ever exhibited, through no fault of the men who were willing to go in and if necessary risk their lives to save life and property, but through the fault of a lack of water pressure, and the incident is greatly to be deplored. There is not the slightest doubt in the world but if there had been sufficient pressure when the firemen first arrived that the flames would have been confined to three or four rooms, at least to that portion of the building where the fire first started. It is stated that when the fire started one of the boilers at the pump house was being cleaned, and was disconnected. A changing of the wind, a sort of providential enactment, saved the city from a million dollar fire, and had this come to pass the blame could be justly credited to the very inadequate service rendered from the pumping station of the Minnesota Water Works company.


The fire for nearly an hour was confined to the Armstrong hotel, and it was not until the wind began to rise and fan the flames on in their fury after the impediment of an iron sheeting about the building had been burned and crumbled to the ground, that the thought of the other buildings in the block being in danger and a greater portion of the city being reduced to ashes, was entertained by the firemen. The flames ate their way from the rooms in the third story to the west part of the hotel, which was the main part, and they soon had enveloped the entire building. The hotel was a seething mass of fire and smoke in a short time and almost completely gutted before the adjoining buildings caught fire. To the rear of the hotel a large barn belonging to Mr. Armstrong was the next to take fire and then came the adjoining two buildings, also owned by Mr. Armstrong, Nos. 310 and 312, Front street. The roofs of these buildings caught fire and it was not long before they were completely enveloped. At 312 Front, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Wolvert made their home. Both were out fishing at the time and did not return until last evening. Their furniture was mostly taken out but the loss to them will be about $100.


It was evident that not a solitary building belonging to Adam Armstrong and his tenants would be saved and after all hope had been given up, the attention of the firemen was directed to the two buildings at the east end of the block, the one owned by Mr. Nettleton and occupied by S. L. Avery as a carpenter shop and the other owned by J. M. Gray where the “Last Turn” saloon is located. It was considered most important that these buildings be either saved entirely or else dynamited and removed in order to check the spreading of the flames on down Front street. Every effort was therefore brought to bear on this point, constant streams of water were played here and the firemen took great caution. Fighting against odds as they were it looked as though they never could stop the onward pace of the flames and several times the roofs of both these buildings and the adjacent out houses caught fire, but at a time when it seemed as though these two buildings must go, and when it was deemed advisable to turn attention to the Renslow laundry across the street in a moment of eminent danger to the entire business district of the city, the wind which had been blowing almost direct from the west, changed and seemed to shift slightly to the north and finally to an almost northwesterly direction. This diverted the course of the sparks, flames and smoke and instead of going further east, the fire spread very rapidly southward, carrying everything in its fiery path to destruction.

The first building to become enshrouded in a cloud of flame and smoke after the fire began to spread was just south of the Armstrong hotel owned by A. A. White and occupied by Drayman Secoy. Mr. Seacoy had been forewarned and everything of value was removed from the barn. The fire made short work of this building, eating its way through the dry rafters in streams of flames, and rising high in the air again, wafted by the strong wind to the house owned by Mrs. Charlotte McGillis, 219, Third street, which in a space of a few moments was devoured. Then came the house and barn belonging to J. R. Burns on the corner of Third and Laurel streets and it too met the fate of the other buildings. All the little old shacks in the center of the block were wiped out in an instant and they served as excellent carriage for the fire as it swept on in a southeasterly direction toward the large frame building owned by James Gillispie on the corner of Laurel and Fourth streets, which now seemed doomed. This was soon afire and here again some $3,000 worth of property went up in smoke. The building owned by P. J. Kiley [sic] across the street to the south from Gillispie’s was also in eminent danger. The firemen turned their attention to this, but it too was soon ablaze and burned to the ground, entailing a loss to building and stock of about $3,500. Mr. Kiley [sic] conducted a blacksmith shop here. An old frame shack just south of the Kiley [sic] blacksmith shop, owned by Mrs. J. M. Gray and occupied as a laundry by Adam Bellmuth was also entirely destroyed and here is where the firemen checked the flames, returning to quench the smoldering debris left in their pathway.

The strictest watch had to be kept of the roofs in block 45 and 47, and indeed several of them did catch fire. Even an awning in front of a restaurant on Sixth street caught fire and was burned. But once the fire had run its course in a southeasterly direction from the Armstrong hotel the danger of further devastation was past and all breathed easier.


Adam Armstrong, who was proprietor of the ill-fated hotel which has been known as the French hotel to old timers, was the heaviest loser. This scene of former activity and progress on the corner of Third and Front streets has been changed to one of desolation, and, when the smoke had cleared away, about the only thing thing that could be seen that was recognizable and that marked the spot where once stood the hotel, was a large pile of ice, the ice house belonging to the hotel having been completely destroyed.

Mr. Armstrong estimates his loss at about $19,000 or $20,000 and he carried but $6,000 insurance which is in one of Attorney T. C. Blewitt’s companies. The genial landlord since he first took hold of this hotel had made many improvements. Only this past year he had expended something in the neighborhood of $2,500 on improvements and the hotel was by far the best of its class in the city, steam heated and with all the other modern conveniences throughout. It was a frame structure and additions have been built from time to time to the original building in a substantial manner. Besides this hotel one of the best barns in the city, located on the back of his lots, was also destroyed, together with all the outhouses, ice house, chicken coops, etc., etc. Considerable stuff was removed from the hotel in the way of furniture, etc., but the bulk of furnishings on the second and third floors and in the kitchen were destroyed with the hotel.

James Gillispie, who is a horse trader and who also conducted a junk shop in his building on the corner of Laurel and Fourth carried no insurance at all and his loss will reach $3,000. P. J. Kiley [sic] has the sympathy of a large number of friends. He lost nearly everything he had in his blacksmith shop, including the stock and much of the stuff that was left there by customers for repair. His loss will reach in the neighborhood of $3,500. The houses which burned on Third street were occupied by tenants who had small families. In the J. R. Burns’ house Mrs. Mattie Winters lived and she lost all her furniture which was valued at about $500. J. R. Burns owned the house which is at 223 Third street, it was an old frame shack and there was $500 insurance on it. Mrs. Charlotte McGillis’ loss will aggregate $1,000. She owned the house that burned at 219 Third street and estimated it to be worth $1,000. She carried $700 insurance on the house and furniture. In this house two other small families lived, Mr. and Mrs. Len Mahle and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thompson. They lost all in the way of furniture and the loss in each case is fixed at $300 with no insurance. The barn of A. A. White next to the McGillis home was valued at $500, fully insured.


Little is known about the origin of the fire, except that it started in one of the rooms on the third floor of the hotel, presumably from a cigar butt left by an occupant. One of the first to discover the fire was Maurice LaMoine, who is employed as bartender for Mr. Armstrong. He was in the office of the hotel when he thought he smelled smoke and when he went to investigate found the fire had started in the room above referred to.

As soon as the alarm was given great crowds gathered on Front street and about the scene of the fire and as the smoke issued from the hotel building the crowd increased, until it was the largest ever seen in the city at a fire.


Great credit is due the members of the Brainerd fire department in their efforts, handicapped as they were by a lack of water pressure. Due credit should also be given those who are not firemen who assisted materially, and none are more grateful for the services of these men than the firemen themselves. The fire was not without some little serious mishaps. R. L. Weeks, who is a gallant fire fighter, had his hand quite badly burned while trying to pull a hose around the south side of the hotel. Some of the hose had become heated and started to burn and in the hurry Mr. Weeks grabbed a piece that was burning and the hot rubber stuck to his hand. Sam Weeks, his son, became exhausted from the heat and smoke and was carried from the fire almost helpless. Frank Fuller was another young fireman who became exhausted and had to be carried to the Central hose house. E. T. Peters, not a fireman but who worked valiantly, also became exhausted and was forced to retire.

Although deploring the fire and extending every sympathy to the losers Brainerd business men feel very grateful to think that the calamity did not end more seriously. There is a sort of sentiment now since the fire that Brainerd needs, more than any one thing, a more adequate and up-to-date water works system. The present system has not been tested before in many moons to its full capacity, and even granting that repairs were going on, it is figured that should a fire start with unfavorable wind there would be nothing in the world that would save the city from entire destruction.


Very little insurance was carried by those whose properties were destroyed. Of the $30,000 property destroyed there was but $7,750 insurance, a condition which to say the least is deplorable.


A resident of the mill district said that he was asleep when the alarm was turned in. His wife woke him and he sauntered down town slowly and when he arrived at the scene of the fire the water had not started running through the hose.

One fireman said that they had to put the nozzle through a rail fence to keep from getting their boots full of water.

One man who lost his building was mad, very mad, because the firemen would not let the whole town burn up and save his building.

The roof on R. D. King’s store caught fire once and R. D. came nearer losing his happy home than he did last winter.

When Adam’s saloon caught fire there were all kinds of men who were willing to render service in saving the stock.

Mrs. Adam Armstrong had an elegant menu prepared for yesterday’s dinner at the hotel and the meal was about to be served when the fire broke out.

An appropriate subject for a sermon yesterday morning would have been, “What is Hell?”—church was out just in time for the poor sinners to see a picture of what it is supposed to be with the lid off.

The companies from East and Southeast Brainerd responded quickly and did good service.

The old “Last Turn” is fire proof. It has been through some dozen fires and has always come out with the never-touched-me banner flying to the breezes. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 08 June 1903, p. 3, c.’s 1-4)

Buildings Destroyed

West Front Street

Adam Armstrong [306-308 W Front St] French Hotel

Peter Wolvert [312 W Front St] household furniture

South Third Street

Charlotte McGillis [219 S 3rd St] residence and household furniture

Richard Thompson [219 S 3rd St] household furniture

Len Mahle [219 S 3rd St] household furniture

A. A. White [Arthur A. “Artie” White, S 3rd St] barn

Mattie Winters [223 S 3rd St] household furniture

South Fourth Street

James Gillispie [224 S 4th St] harness stock

P. J. Kelly [Kiely] [302 S 4th St] blacksmith shop

Adam Bellmuth [312 S 4th St] laundry fixtures

Mrs. J. M. Gray [312 S 4th St] building

Lena Shupe [320 S 4th St] household furniture

West Laurel Street

J. R. Burns [201 W Laurel St] residence

NOTE: The Armstrong/French Hotel may have originally been this building:

Wm. Paine will move his building on Laurel street, now occupied by D. W. Whitford, to Front Street between Third and Fourth, and refit it for a lumbermen’s boarding house and hotel. (Brainerd Dispatch, 28 May 1886, p. 4, c. 4)

08 June



BRAINERD, Minn., June 8.—Brainerd was visited by one of the worst fires in its history yesterday afternoon and for a time the entire business district of the city was threatened. Fire broke out in the Armstrong hotel [French Hotel], situated in lower Front street, and although the department responded quickly great loss of property resulted on account of the very low pressure of water which made it almost impossible for the men to cope with the flames fanned by the high wind.

Before the fire was checked the buildings in a whole block in the business district were consumed, entailing a loss of $30,650. The loss would have been much greater but for the fact that the wind changed at the critical moment and the fire headed in another direction.

The Armstrong hotel [French Hotel] is one of the best in the city and is the heaviest loser. Very little insurance was carried, something less than $8,000 on the entire number of buildings burned.

The fire broke out in one room of the hotel. There was a fierce wind blowing from the west. The fire spread rapidly to adjoining buildings and on several occasions roofs of the largest structures in the city caught fire.

R. L. Weeks, a fireman, had his hand badly burned and Sam Weeks, Frank Fuller and E. M. Peters were overcome by the heat and smoke and nearly perished.

The following is the list of losses: Adam Armstrong [French Hotel 306-308 Front Street], hotel, hotel furniture, barn and contents and other buildings, $19,000, insurance $6,000; Peter Wolvert, household furniture, $100, no insurance; Mrs. Lena Shupe, household furniture, $50, no insurance; James Gillispie, frame building and stock of harness and other goods, $3,000, no insurance; Adam Bellmuth, laundry fixtures, $200, no insurance; P. J. Kelly [Kiely], blacksmith shop and stock, $3,600, insurance $550; J. R. Burns, residence, $500, insurance, $500; Mrs. Mattie Winters, household furniture, $400, no insurance; Mrs. Charlotte McGillis, residence and household furniture, $1,200, insurance $700; Len Mahle, household furniture, $300, no insurance; Richard Thompson, household furniture, $300, no insurance; A. A. White, barn, $500, fully insured; Mrs. J. M. Gray, building $250, no insurance. (Minneapolis Tribune, 08 June 1903, p. 5)

09 June




Never Before Have the Heaviest

Taxpayers and Others Been

So Much Interested



Feared that Result of Fire of Sun-

day will Cause Insurance

Rates to be Tilted.

Never before in the city of Brainerd have the business men and the heaviest taxpayers been so worked up over a matter as they are that of the water works question and the future policy to be pursued in its government and control. The fire of Sunday, a repetition of former such catastrophes, has awakened property holders of the city to a realizing sense that immediate action must be taken in order to meet the requirements of the city from a standpoint of fire protection and also to prevent if possible a further raise in the now excessive rates in the city.

To this end the strongest taxpayers of the city are about to get together to take up this matter and discuss it in a calm, deliberate manner, considering the welfare of the city as a whole and setting aside what personal feeling or interest any one individual may have in the subject.

The fire of Sunday has prompted some of the business men to call a meeting and it will be held immediately after the firemen’s tournament is over.

In a conversation with some of the leading business men of the city it has been ascertained to a degree that city ownership is most favorably considered as being the correct solution of the now very perilous system in this city.

The history of the establishment of the plant by C. F Kindred, and the events of its control down to the present day, reads like a book. The plant was built at a time when Brainerd was not more than one-third of its present size, when the machinery required to maintain a proper service was very small, when no great stress was laid any way on a water works system, for Brainerd was then but a mere town. But to think that after all these years, when Brainerd by rapid progress has reached the 11,000 mark in its population, that the equipment at the pumping station has not been increased in size or capacity to any great extent and that the same service rendered some fifteen years ago is in reality dished up to the people of the city today, it is no wonder the plant is considered entirely inadequate and out of all proportion to the just demands of a people who have interests here to protect, to say nothing of the inconvenience of the service in other ways.

As has been reiterated in the DISPATCH time and time again the franchise held by Ambrose Tighe and his Minnesota Water Works company expires in January, 1907, and the question now is what is to be done. The sentiment as expressed by almost every business man in this city is that to extend the franchise of this company, a company that has in the past given the poorest kind of service and which gives no assurance that service will be better in the future would be public suicide and would utterly demoralize the best interests of the city.

President Tighe of the Minnesota Water Works company is naturally the man to whom the city is looking to now. He has been a potent factor in the matter of regulating the water works system for many years and there is not a business man or one who has held office that is not acquainted with his manner of doing business. In dealing with Mr. Tighe the city council has a great question to decide and they should decide according to the sentiments of the heaviest taxpayers, at once. They are dealing, they must understand, with one of the shrewdest men in the business and every time Mr. Tighe appears before the council he seems to have a sort of hypnotizing influence and for the past years he has had things about his own way.

It is believed by the taxpayers and others, however, that in this case the council will not give in an inch to the water works management, they are all men of a different stamina.

There should be no reason in the world why the city should extend the franchise of the Minnesota Water Works company or the contract which Mr. Tighe has asked for. He has been asked to make a price for his system and he did not respond. He simply went on to make a statement of the exigencies of the occasion, laying special stress on the demand of the N. P. for an independent water main, and on this score, before he would go ahead and make the improvements said to have been asked, wanted the council to pass a resolution extending his contract for twenty years. This the council did not do; and rightly so, they would not take any action on the proposition of Mr. Tighe.

Nobody wants to do President Tighe or the Minnesota Water Works company any dirt, but the time has arrived when Brainerd should have a water works system commensurate with her demands. President Tighe in his suave manner will put the best light on everything but he should be dealt with according the measure of good which the city has derived from his system, and this is very, very small.

The approaching meeting should be well attended by all. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 09 June 1903, p. 2, c.’s 3 & 4)

SEE: Pump House / Water Works in the Brainerd Utilities page.

17 December



BRAINERD, Dec. 18.—Fire last night completely gutted the First Avenue hotel at East Brainerd, entailing a loss on the building and furniture of $6,000. Mrs. George Forsythe owned the building which was valued at $4,000 and carried no insurance. George Rappel, who conducted the hotel, had $1,000 insurance. The fire is thought to have started from an air-tight stove in one of the halls upstairs. (Minneapolis Tribune, 18 December 1903, p. 1)



One of the Largest Buildings in

East Brainerd Destroyed by

Fire Last Night.



Against Flames and Had all They

Could Do to Save Other

Buildings Close By.

Last night fire completely destroyed the First Avenue hotel located just north of the East hotel in East Brainerd, occupied by George Rappel, and something like $6,000 worth of property went up in smoke.

The alarm was turned in about nine o’clock and the fire department companies from the different wards made quick runs to the scene, but the building being a frame structure there was little hope of saving it from the start, and attention was turned to the adjoining buildings and the saving of the furniture of the hotel. Once the wind began to fan the flames which pierced the south wall the building seemed to be enveloped in smoke and fire and it was but a short time before the roof fell and the walls caved in.

The building was owned by Mrs. Geo. Forsythe and she estimates her loss at about $5,000. It was occupied by George Rappel and he conducted a boarding house, having a large number of roomers and boarders all of whom lost nearly all of their effects. Nearly all the furnishings were consumed with the building and Mr. Rappel places his loss at about $1,500 with $1,000 insurance, which he took out but a short time ago in one of A. P. Rigg’s companies. (Brainerd Dispatch, 18 December 1903, p. 4, c. 4)



George Rappel’s Boarding House

Burns on Thursday Evening.


Katz’s Second-Hand Store Scorched—Fire

Starts in Basement of City Hotel.


The boarding house of Geo. Rappel on N. E. First avenue, in East Brainerd, was destroyed by fire early on Thursday evening. Fire was discovered in the attic about 9 p. m., and the wooden building burned so rapidly that it was practically in ruins before the flames were entirely extinguished. Considerable of Mr. Rappel’s furniture and household goods generally were removed from the burning building in safety, and his loss, which was fully covered by insurance, will not be heavy. The house was a large three-story frame building, which was built for a hotel by Dr. J. R. Howes, a former resident of Brainerd about twenty years ago. It was owned by Mrs. Geo. Forsythe, who had it overhauled and put in thorough repair after acquiring possession a year or so ago. It was valued at $3,500 to $4,000, and we understand was uninsured. The fire started in the attic, and is supposed to have caught from a chimney.

There was a small blaze at Harry Katz’s second-hand store in the Gardner block on Laurel street about 9:30 Wednesday evening, which was quickly extinguished by the fire department. Mr. Katz estimates his loss at about $300, which is covered by insurance. The building was but slightly damaged. The fire is supposed to have originated in a pile of mattresses which were near the stove pipe.

An alarm was sent in from the City hotel at 5:30 Thursday morning caused by a table which was used for filling lamps on in the basement taking fire. The flames were promptly extinguished before any damage resulted. The fire is thought to have started from a lighted match having been thrown carelessly on the floor. (Brainerd Tribune, 19 December 1903, p. 1, c. 4)

NOTE: This was one of the two locations in Northeast Brainerd of the Lumbermen’s Hospital.

SEE: Lumbermen’s Hospital in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


01 January




In Almost a Twinkling of an Eye the

Old Landmark is Gutted and

Reduced to Ashes




Loss Estimated at $50,000 And the

Insurance Carried Amounted

to Only $25,750




Springfield Fire and Marine—$2000.00


Phoenix of Brooklin [sic]—1500.00

Phoenix of Hartford—2000.00

German American—2500.00

London & Lanashire [sic]—1500.00

Continental of N. Y.—1500.00

National of Hartford—1000.00

St. Paul Fire and Marine—2000.00

North British & Mercantile—750.00

Traders Insurance company—1500.00

Phoenix of London—750.00

Hartford Insurance company—1000.00

Fire Association—750.00



Home Insurance company (on building)—$1500.00


N. Y Underwriters (on building)—$1500.00






GRAND TOTAL—$25750.00

Arlington Hotel at the southwest corner of 6th and Washington, ca. 1889.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society
Arlington Hotel fire, 01 January 1904.
Source: James S. Drysdale, Photographer, Crow Wing County Historical Society

If the old omen that a bad beginning is invariably followed by a good ending contains a whit of truth, Brainerd should fare well for the balance of the year 1904, so far as conflagrations are concerned, for the start made could not have been much worse, and that too on New Year’s day, when the Arlington hotel, a veritable landmark, the leading hostelry in the city and at least one of the most pretentious structures in Crow Wing county, was reduced to ashes in almost the twinkling of an eye, the approximate loss being $50,000.

The big three story, brick veneered building, which from its central location, has loomed up for the past fifteen years in rather majestic proportions, was the scene of one of the most disastrous fires Friday morning that has been witnessed in Brainerd for many years, and the hotel having undergone radical changes during the past few weeks from a managerial standpoint, the city has sustained a severe blow from a commercial view.

Fire was discovered as early as five minutes to 6 o’clock in the morning, the first to scent the flames being Mike Morgan, who had charge of the bar and lunch counter on the night shift. John Harding, night clerk, was busying himself about this time calling the help about the house and had about finished this task when Mr. Morgan called to him and said that he smelled smoke in the bar room. The boys went into the bar room and could see smoke issuing from cracks in the floor. At first Mr. Harding thought perhaps that a pile of wood in the basement close to the furnace had caught fire and he went to the scene at once. There he met L. DeCoster, the engineer, and by this time he also detected smoke spreading about the southwest wing of the building and was about to give an alarm. The two went up on top of the boiler and found that the smoke was coming from the direction of the laundry room.


Arlington Hotel floor plan on the 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

The two men hastened to the laundry which is located on the first floor in the southwest wing of the hotel, and on opening the door smoke poured out in large volumes and fire was seen about the stove located in the room. Mr. Harding called up to Mr. Morgan to turn in an alarm and then directed his attention to the guests.

Before the fire was discovered by Mr. Harding and Mr. DeCoster, Mr. Morgan had been up to Manager Trent’s room, which was located on the third floor and called him, and a few minutes later Mr. Harding had sounded the alarm throughout the corridors and halls of the hotel, taking great precaution to see to it that every occupant in the house was called, and for a short time there was great confusion. The department arrived on the scene a few minutes past 6 o’clock and a hose was laid through the hotel to the laundry, but there being so much inflammable material here the whole interior had begun to blaze and the flames had commenced to eat through [UNREADABLE] work of [UNREADABLE]. It was evident that the hotel was doomed and as soon as all the guests in the house and the help were called and had safely reached the first floor, the efforts of those present were directed to saving what they could of the furniture, stock, fixtures and personal effects.


By the time the guests were all called smoke had filled the halls and as they came from their rooms their eyes were dimmed with great clouds of it, but the hotel management used every precaution against the probable loss of life and every person in the house was rescued without a single injury. There were one or two cases where there was slight danger that there would be added to the catastrophe a fatality or two, but strenuous work and the judicious handling of the crowd prevented this. Miss May Trent, daughter of Landlord Trent, occupying room 33 on the third floor, was one of the hardest to awaken. Her door had to be kicked down and she was dragged from her bed. A Mr. and Mrs. Charles Boss, of Duluth, both deaf and dumb, occupied room 14 and it was with some difficulty that they were awakened and made to understand the danger of the situation. Their door was also kicked in and they were taken out in safety. The help, which occupied rooms from 47 to 53 inclusive on the third floor in the northwest wing of the house, all got out safely and they saved most of their personal effects. They had been called by Night Clerk Harding some time before the fire was discovered and consequently most of them were dressed when the general alarm was given.


Fortunately, on account of it being New Year’s, there were not many guests in the house at the time, so the situation was not quite so strenuous as it might have been on other occasions. H. W. Winship, of Chicago, who represents a clothing house, occupied room 6. He was awakened in good season but he lost two valuable trunks which were in the sample rooms on the ground floor in the northwest wing of the building. Besides Mr. Winship the guests from out of the city who were in the house were: Chas. Boss and wife, of Duluth, room 14; John F. Smith, Philadelphia, room 16; Jacob Bachler, Wheeler, N. D., room 9; Thos. F. Logan, Minneapolis, room 7; Theodore Hollister, Duluth, room 8; A. Runnison, Winnipeg, room 17, and Louis Jette and A. Mangamary [sic], Duluth, occupying room 43.

Theo. Hollister, of Duluth, who had been in the city trying the cases for the Minnesota & International in the district court occupied room 8 and had some little difficulty in getting out. He lost some valuable papers and a few law books in the fire. Chas. Boss left a pocket book with a considerable amount of money in it in his room No. 14, in his hurry to make his escape from the building with his wife. The gentlemen guests turned in and did valiant work in assisting others in the house to save their effects.


Among those who were regular boarders at the hotel and who occupied rooms there, E. A. McKay and Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Glunt were the heaviest losers. Mr. and Mrs. Glunt occupied suite 26 and 27 on the third floor. They had quite a large amount of goods in these two room and very little of this was saved. E. A. McKay made a rather hurried exit from his room, No. 35, on the third floor and lost several valuable articles, but after he had reached the ground floor he discovered that he had left his purse with $500 in it in his room. He secured a ladder and got into the room from the outside and was successful in getting hold of the pocket book and safely descended to earth again. Naturally Mr. and Mrs. George Trent and Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Kapler were the heaviest losers of personal effects. Both families occupied suites on the third floor over the office. They did not succeed in saving much of their furnishings etc., and some very valuable articles were consumed. Mr. Kapler carried $750 insurance on his personal effects. John Harding, the night clerk, and Mike Morgan, who was attending the lunch counter during the night, lost everything they had except the clothes they had on their backs. They occupied room 40 in the southwest wing of the hotel. Horace Wise, day clerk, occupied room 31 in the same wing and he managed, when coming out, to carry most of the more valuable articles that he owned down with him. Engineer Robert Carr was a regular occupant of room 30 and he was out on his run at the time, so everything in his room which he owned, consisting largely of wearing apparel, went up in smoke. George H. Cook, superintendent of the Brainerd Lumber company, occupied room 5 and the room being on the second floor, everything in it was saved.

The help, occupying rooms on the third floor in the southwest wing, as follows, Frank Cross, cook; William Parker, porter; George Sundine, second cook; L. DeCoster, engineer; Misses Lorine Sorenson, Josephine Lerick, Rose Kerr, Fanny Hill, Lydia Myers and Nancy Christiansen, waitresses; Mrs. Wetterby, pastry cook; Miss Mary Schumacher and Miss Amelia Jensen, chamber maids, and Miss May Dowling, laundry girl, saved every thing, except Miss Sorenson, who forgot to take out her purse which contained something like $12 in money.


Having been assured that there was no further danger of loss of life Messrs. Trent and Kapler and the hotel force turned in and assisted the firemen and others in trying to save as much of the furnishing of the hotel as possible, but by 7 o'clock the seething flames had eaten their way through the frame work of the building, and as it was brick veneered it was futile for the firemen to try and head off the fiery elements. It was but a matter of time when the draft would whip the sparks which were hidden between the brick and woodwork into raging flames and once they did commence to pierce out through the roof the entire building was enveloped in a sea of fire. The wing where the fire started was of course the first to go, but the fire had crept up over the roof making the task of the firemen more hazardous every moment until they were obliged to abandon the building entirely. By 8 o’clock the flames issued from the windows of the second and third stories and there was nothing that could be done to save the structure from complete destruction. A large amount of the furnishings of the building had been carried out into the street and piled up. Most of the stock of wines and liquors in the bar room were saved, although there was a heavy loss from breakage in handling the bottles. Much of the personal effects of Messrs. Trent and Kapler was carried to the home of James Cullen and to the N. P. depot and were later taken to the vacant store room in the Con O’Brien building on Laurel Street.

By 10 o’clock the old structure had been nearly gutted from corner to corner and at noon there was nothing left to mark the place where once stood this old landmark but a smoldering, smoking mass of debris and from $40,000 to $50,000 worth of property had gone up in smoke in a comparatively short time.


The building was owned by R. R. Wise and he carried $15,000 insurance on it in the agencies of Keene & McFadden, R. G. Vallentyne and T. C. Blewitt. Keene & McFadden carried the bulk of the insurance, both on the building and furniture, $12,000 on the building and $7,500 on the furniture. T. C. Blewitt and R. G. Vallentyne had $1,500 each on the building and J. R. Smith had $2,500 on the furniture. Mr. Wise estimates that his loss will reach about $25,000, so that he will be actual loser of something like $10,000, according to his own statement. He had leased the hotel to Messrs. Trent and Kapler a few months ago and these gentlemen had only taken charge Nov. 1. Much sympathy is expressed for both gentlemen, not only on account of the loss which they sustained in the way of stock, fixtures and furniture, but they had built up an excellent business during their short management of the hotel. They carried $10,000 on the furniture, which will in all probability cover the loss, but since they took charge of the hotel they expended a large sum of money in making improvements. Several thousand dollars had been expended by them, and they had begun to realize the effects and Brainerd certainly appreciated their efforts in trying to give the city a first class hotel. Special attention had been given by them to the culinary department of the hotel and the kitchen and dining room had been re-arranged and transformed into rooms which had the tone of a very well regulated and modern hotel, and they had also made extensive improvements throughout the building and were continually making changes at a big expense. Mr. Trent has had particularly hard luck, and there is not a man in the city but who sympathizes with him, for only two years ago he was completely burned out at Long Prairie, where he conducted a first class hotel.


Every credit should be given the members of the fire department in their efforts. They were powerless of course to save the building, but they did much to save property and hold the flames in check from spreading to adjoining buildings. Once or twice the Y. M. C. A. caught fire, but the flame was quickly extinguished. On account of the early hour when the alarm was turned in there was not a very large crowd out at first, but as the report of the fire spread about the city large crowds began to gather and there were upwards of three thousand people present to see the spectacular burning of the structure when the walls began to fall.


The Arlington hotel was built in 1888, and the old building had a rather notable record. A part of the structure was a hotel at Minnewaukan, N. D., and Mr. Wise moved it all the way to Brainerd, remodeled and brick veneered it. The hotel was opened in February, 1889. Brainerd has had several hotel fires in its history and three of the leading hotels that the city ever had were located within a block of the Arlington. The old Headquarters, which was located on the south side of the track, burned on December 12, 1882 [28 November 1882]. The Villard, located on the corner of Main and Sixth, burned in 1886 [04 May 1887], three years before the Arlington was built. The old Commercial [burned 10 October 1890] and the old Stratton, both on Fifth street south, burned in the early eighties.

T. E. Rutherford has been with R. R. Wise as manager of the Arlington for about 13 years. He was still stopping at the hotel but managed to get out with all his effects.


The firemen did nobly, but there was a gang about the hotel who thought they were helping that ought to have been locked up.

It did not take long for the liquor left around the bar to disappear, and several men were seen with good “jags” on. A lot of liquor was carried off by thieves.

Jerry Glunt saved his boots.

One man is said to have been overindulgent in saving things and threw washbowls and pitchers out of the window and then grabbed an arm full of pillows and carried them down stairs.

Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Kapler lost heavily, Mrs. Kapler losing a trunk full of fancy articles and a diamond brooch.

Several firemen worked all night putting out the fire.

The office safe was removed to the street so that the contents were all preserved.

One traveling man who occupied a room on the second floor had the gall to offer a kid fifty cents to go up to his room and get a pair of overshoes when the fire was at its height of fury.

A $450 piano belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Kapler burned. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 02 January 1904, p. 3, c.’s 1-4)



BRAINERD, Minn., Jan. 1—This morning, at 6 o’clock, fire broke out in the Arlington hotel and before the flames were subdued $50,000 worth of property had been destroyed.

The fire caught in the basement beneath the laundry and was first discovered by John Haiding, night clerk, who gave a general alarm.

There were some thirty guests in the house at the time and little difficulty was experienced in getting them out of bed and safely out of the building.

As the fire started in a remote part of the building, it was some time before it ate its way into the main building.

Great confusion resulted from the general alarm of fire, but there was little trouble experienced in saving all the occupants of the hotel and no one was even injured in the mad rush for the exits.

Attorney Theodore Hollister, of Duluth, lost some valuable papers and law books but escaped on his hands and knees to the floor below.

Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Boss, a deaf and dumb couple recently married, were the last persons to be taken from the building.

They were sleeping soundly and were not aware of the fire until carried from the building.

George H. Cook of Minneapolis, superintendent of the Brainerd Lumber Company, managed to get out and saved most of his personal effects.

R. R. Wise, who owned the building, estimated his loss at about $30,000. He carried $15,000 insurance.

The furniture, stock and fixtures, valued at $20,000, were owned by Trent and Kapter, and they carried but $10,000 insurance. (Minneapolis Tribune, 02 January 1904, p. 3)

The Arlington Fire

Drysdale has got some fine views of the Arlington fire now for sale at the new gallery corner 6th and Laurel Street. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 04 January 1904, p. 3, c. 4)



R. R. Wise May Rebuild, Although

Nothing Definite Has Been

Decided Upon.


Business Men Would Like to See

Messrs. Trent & Kapler Locat-

ed Here Again.

Now that the smoke has about cleared away after the burning of the Arlington hotel, there is considerable talk about the proposition to build a new and modern hostelry for Brainerd, and it is believed that it will be but a short time before work will commence on such a structure, although there is nothing tangible as yet, and in all probability no steps will be taken until after the insurance is adjusted and paid on the old Arlington.

There is some talk already that R. R. Wise will rebuild, but Mr. Wise states that he has no plans in this direction at present. Mr. Wise owns some good locations in the heart of the city. It is not probable that the new hotel, when built, will be on the same old site, for Mr. Wise’s lease for the ground expires in five years.

There is also some talk of forming a stock company and building a first-class hotel. Whichever way the wind blows Brainerd business men would like to see Messrs. Trent and Kapler at the helm again. Mr. Trent especially proved himself a first-class hotel man, enterprising and conscientious in his efforts on behalf of patrons; public spirited and, although but a short time a resident of the city, responsive to any demand made on him within reason.

Those who have been talking the hotel business up aver that nothing short of a modern $75,000 hotel will do Brainerd now. There is not much doubt but that such an investment would be a winner when such a hotel is built. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 04 January 1904, p. 3, c. 1)

SEE: Arlington Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Ransford Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

25 February







BRAINERD, Minn., Feb. 26.—Brainerd has again been visited by a devastating fire in the heart of the business center, entailing a loss approximating $100,000. About one-half is insured and some of the leading business places are entirely destroyed.

The fire started in the rear of L. M. Koop’s dry goods and notion store, about 8:30 o’clock last evening, and before assistance could be secured, the large two-story frame structure was enveloped in a seething mass of flames and this, with adjoining buildings, were doomed.

Those who sustained losses are given as follows: L. M. Koop, dry goods and notions [614-616 Front Street], loss $35,000; insurance, $20,000; L. Hohman, confectionery and cigars [616 1/2 Front Street], loss, $1,800, insurance, $1,500; Linneman Bros., clothing [624 Front Street], loss $18,000, insurance $14,500; J. H. Welliver, barber shop [612 1/2 Front Street], loss $300, insurance $200; Mrs. C. Grandelmyer, millinery stock and building [612 Front Street], loss $6,000, insurance $5,000; Frank Ady, household goods [614 1/2 Front Street], loss $1,500, insurance $1,000; Z. E. McCullough, household furniture, loss $900, insurance $350; Mrs. Severin Koop, loss on building, $12,000, insurance $8,000.

The fire burned fiercely, once it was started, and for a time the big Sleeper block and first National bank block were in danger, but a solid brick wall helped the firemen materially in their work.

The flames spread with rapidity to the east and at a time when it was thought the flames were under control, the Cale block [622 Front Street] caught fire and while the firemen succeeded in saving the building, the stock of dry goods [Cale Dry Goods, 618 Front Street] was damaged to an extent of $25,000, making a total loss of over $100,000. (Minneapolis Tribune, 26 February 1904, p. 1)



Over One Hundred Thousand Dol-

lars Worth of Property Was

Wiped Out


Koop Block in the Heart of the City

is Consumed—Insurance is


L. M. Koop—Loss—$40,000—Ins.—$24,000

Mrs. E. M. Koop—Loss—$12,000—Ins.—$8,000

L. Hohman—Loss—$1,800—Ins.—$1,600

L. J. Cale, stock and building.—Loss—$20,000—Ins.—$19,000

Mrs. C. Grandelmyer—Loss—$6,000—Ins.—$5,000

Linneman Bros.—Loss—$18,000—Ins. $15,000

Z. E. McCullough—Loss—$1,000—Ins.—$300

A. M. Opsahl—Loss—$400—Ins.—$400

Linneman & Carlson—Loss—$500—Ins. $1,000

C. D. Johnson—Loss—$100—Ins. $500

Frank Ady—Loss—$1,500—Ins. $300

TOTAL—Loss—$101,300—Ins. $300





Insurance Company North America—$1,000.00

Norwich Union—$1,000.00

Detroit Fire & Marine—$2,500.00

British America—$1,000.00

Western Assurance company—$1,000.00

Commercial Union—$2,000.00

Philadelphia Underwriters—$1,000.00

Fireman’s Fund—$3,000.00

Scottish Union & National—$1,000.00

Penn. Fire Ins. company—$2,000.00


Province Washington company—$1,000.00

Liverpool & London & Globe—$1,000.00

Palatine Insurance company—$1,000.00

Aachen & Munich—$1,500.00



Niagara Fire Insurance company—$1,250.00

Aachen & Munich—$750.00

Liverpool & London & Globe—$1,000.00

New York Underwriters—$1,000.00



Norwich Union—$1,000.00


Detroit Fire & Marine—$1,000.00


Niagara Fire Insurance company (fur.)—$600.00

New York Underwriters (stock)—$600.00

Detroit Fire & Marine (building)—$1,800.00



Detroit Fire & Marine—$1,000.00

Aachen & Munich—$1,000.00

Connecticut of Hartford—$1,000.00

Scottish Union & National—$1,000.00

Liverpool & London & Globe—$1,500.00

Pennsylvania Fire Association (fixtures)—$500.00




German American of New York—$1,000.00

Fire Association, Philadelphia—$500.00

Phoenix of Brooklyn—$500.00

London Lancashire—$1,000.00



Phoenix of Brooklyn—$300.00


Phoenix of Brooklyn—$200.00












Northern (building)—$2,000.00

Franklin (building)—$1,000.00

Royal (building)—$2,000.00

Royal (household goods)—$1,000.00



Northern (stock)—$250.00


Royal Exchange—$500.00




Milwaukee Mechanics—$2,500.00

Commerce of Albany—$1,500.00

North German of New York—$1,000.00

Union of Philadelphia—$3,000.00




New House—$2,000.00

State of Illinois-$2,000.00



State of Illinois (stock)—$1,000.00


American Fire—$500.00



German of Freeport—$1,00.00

Western Underwriters—$1,000.00

German of Peoria—$1,000.00



Western Underwriters—$1,000.00

German Peoria—$1,000.00






Stock and building—$3,500.00

Following almost in the wake of a fire when Brainerd sustained the loss of the Arlington hotel and $50,000 worth of property went up in smoke, the city has again been subjected to the terrible ordeal, for last night she was within the clutches of the fiery demon and over $100,000 worth of property in the heart of the city was leveled to the ground and the scene this morning was that of devastation and ruin.

The fire started in the rear of the L. M. Koop dry goods store and before it could be checked the entire Koop block and the Grandelmyer building were leveled to the ground, the various tenants losing heavily, those sustaining losses being L. Hohman, L. M. Koop, Linneman Bros., J. H. Welliver, Z. E. McCullough, Frank Ady, Mrs. C. Grandelmyer, L. J. Cale, Johnson’s Pharmacy and W. T. Larrabee. Some of these occupied rooms upstairs in the Koop block and sustained the loss of a large amount of household goods.


It was shortly after 8 o’clock that fire was scented for the first time in the Koop building, one of the first to perceive the smoke issuing from the front of the building being J. H. Welliver, who had just closed his barbershop and was ready to go home. The smoke was then coming out of the front door and the front windows, but not in any great volume, and at that time it was thought that it would be but a small matter to put the fire out.

Mr. Welliver at once turned in the alarm, but he had not dreamed of the start the fire had made to the rear of the building where it evidently originated. For a few moments before the alarm was turned in massive flames were piercing the air and they seemed to roll out of the rear end of the building in torrents.

Shortly after the fire started two or three small explosions were heard to the rear of the Koop building, which were followed by large gushes of smoke and fire from the windows and it was then easy to be seen that no human effort could ever save the building. The Koop building was a two story frame structure and was one of the oldest in the city, and the flames made rapid headway among the old dry timbers.


The Grandelmyer building, located just west of the Koop block, was also a frame structure two stories high and it was evident from the start that this building was also doomed. The work of saving many of Mrs. Grandelmyer’s personal effects was commenced at once, but the building was soon a mass of flames and took but a short time to reduce it to ashes. Very little of the stock was saved.


For a time it was confidently thought that the Sleeper block, which adjoined the Grandelmyer building to the west, would go, but the material that the block was build of saved it. There is a solid brick wall on the east side of the building and the windows are all provided with iron shutters, so the building was virtually fire proof, so far as the windows were concerned, the fear was that the roof would finally catch fire or that the flames would ultimately eat their way to the rear of the block and thus get a start. Fortunately the roof was heavily laden with snow and it is thought this helped to save the building. The excellent work of the firemen in this connection was also a great help. They kept the water on the rear of the building and watched that nothing got started there.

It was thought that the whole block was doomed, however, and if this went there was no telling where the fire would end. THE DISPATCH had a close call and the force was ushered into service and the files and all valuable papers were removed to the postoffice building. Others in the block also got ready to move out, but it was not long before the anxiety of those in this end of the First National bank block was quieted, for after the Grandelmyer building had burned for some time the burning walls and timbers, which hugged the Sleeper block, were torn down and the fire was soon under control at this end.

J. F. McGinnis, who recently bought out H. I. Cohen’s dry goods store in the Sleeper block, was in imminent danger from the first and it was one of the wonders that he did not sustain some loss. The great stock of dry goods was protected by the one wall only and had it not been for the iron shutters on the east side there would have been a heavy full loss.


When the fire was at its fiercest height Front street was lined with people for three blocks, the sound of the alarm and the spectacle of the burning calling them out from all parts of the city in large numbers. The firemen and those who were included in the burning district had plenty of assistance, but it was but a short time before the whole building was enveloped [so] that it was difficult to save anything.


The heaviest loser of this big conflagration was L. M. Koop. Nothing whatever was saved of this massive stock of dry goods and notions, and at this one store alone a $40,000 stock was consumed. Mrs. Koop carried but $24,000 insurance. The stock had but recently been replenished with thousands of dollars worth of fine spring and summer goods, only last week something like $7,000 worth of dry goods were moved in.

Much of this stock might have been saved had they turned in to do so in the first place, but there was no one around, and by the time anyone got down to the store the interior was full of fire and smoke. Mrs. Koop did not reach the scene of the fire until after it had gotten a good start. She stated that she left the store shortly after 6 o’clock and everything seemed to be in good shape then. All the valuable papers were in the big safe located in the office and it is presumed that everything will be found in good shape when the safe is opened as it is fire proof. Mrs. Koop’s loss is greatly deplored and she has the sympathy of a large number of friends in this city.


While the Koop block, which was owned by Mrs. Severin Koop, is an old building it was nevertheless a profitable one for the owner, as it was centrally located and every room, both upstairs and down, was rented. The building as it stood was valued at about $12,000 and it was only partially insured, but it will probably take three times that amount to replace the building, as it would now under the city charter have to be a solid brick.


Of course in a fire of this kind there are always a lot of wise ones who are ready to criticize anything and everything, and last night some fault was found with the manner in which the firemen handled the fire, but be it said to their credit they worked faithfully to the last and did some excellent work. There is no doubt in the world that but for their efforts the Cale block, including the Johnson Pharmacy and Linneman & Carlson’s store, with several tenants up stairs, would have been reduced to ashes and they certainly did good service with the pressure they had on the Sleeper block. The pressure was something fierce last night as no stream at all could be secured during the first moments of the fire. Some thought that the trouble originated from the fact that there were too many hose on one main. At any rate the firemen have the thanks of those who sustained losses, who realize that it would have been much worse but for their efforts. They certainly deserved credit for their work.


The flames ate their way from the rear of the Koop store to the front and also commenced to spread east and west. When the fire did really pierce through the roof and the whole was a mass of flames it was a spectacular sight, for the wind seemed to raise a little and the fiery elements danced as though in happy glee as the burning embers cracked and crumbled. The great mass of dry material made the fire very hot and windows on adjoining buildings several hundred feet away were affected. It was not over half an hour after the fire started that the flames had almost completely encircled the space between the Cale and the Sleeper blocks, and the firemen therefore had little to do in trying to stop the fire before it had destroyed all this property, as no human effort could ever do so. Their attention was turned to keeping the fire from spreading to the adjoining blocks and they were successful in this.


Up over the Koop store rooms were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ady and family and Mr. and Mrs. Z. E. McCullough. Both families succeeded in getting out of the building but lost most of their furnishings. Mr. and Mrs. Ady lost something like $1500 worth of household goods on which they carried $300 insurance. Mr. McCullough carried $350 insurance on about $1000 worth of household goods.


Among others who sustained heavy losses were Linneman Bros., the clothiers, who were located in the same store room with Mrs. Koop. They carried about an $18,000 stock which all burned and had $15,000 insurance. They could not get anything out at all. Herman was at home when the alarm came, and when he got down town everything was a seething mass of flames.

L. Hohman, of the confectionery store, will come out quite lucky as he was pretty well insured. He estimates his loss at $1800 and carries about $1500 insurance.

J. H. Welliver, the barber, was fortunate enough to be on the ground when the fire first started and his furnishings and fixtures were all carried out. He did not carry insurance and his loss will be from $250 to $300.

Mrs. C. Grandelmyer owned the building in which she conducted her millinery and dressmaking establishment and she estimates her loss at $6000, and carried about $5000 insurance. Of course there are hundreds of little personal effects that cannot be estimated.


While the firemen thought they had the fire under control smoke was discovered coming from the roof of the Cale block and on investigation it was found that the fire had made headway and had become seated in the roof of the building. The combined effort of the firemen was turned to this building and for a time it was thought that the block was doomed to burn to the ground, which would add another $75,000 to the loss already sustained which was variously estimated from $75,000 to $100,000. The firemen were obliged to dig into the roof and when they got to the seat of the fire had to deluge the building with water. No time was had to remove any of the big stock of dry goods out of this building and it was soon saturated with water and with the added loss from smoke rendered the stuff virtually worthless. Mr. and Mrs. Cale lived in rooms up stairs as did Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Larrabee and they sustained heavy losses from the damage done to their household goods. It is estimated that the loss to L. J. Cale on his building, stock and household goods will reach $20,000. The fire was soon under control and was checked at this point. The Johnson Pharmacy sustained considerable loss from water, about $100 it is thought. Linneman & Carlson had a stock of trunks in the basement of the Cale block and these were slightly damaged before being removed.

The heat from the fire also damaged the Opsahl building to the extent of about $400. All the skylights were broken and Mr. Opsahl states that he lost a large number of negatives. He is fully covered by insurance.


Little is known of the exact origin of the fire. There are all kinds of stories how it started, but it seems that they are simply conclusions and not based on fact.

There were several roomers in the Cale block who lost heavily by moving their furniture from the building. They are: W. T. Larrabee, Andrew Robertson and John Smiley.

By 11:30 o’clock the fire was under control and no further damage was done. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1904, p. 3)

27 February



Firms Who Were Burned Out Making a Skirmish for

Temporary Quarters




But Time Enough Has Not Elapsed

for Anything Definite to


Now that the smoke has cleared away after the big conflagration, those who were burned out along Front street are busying themselves trying to find locations where they can start up again, and so far as THE DISPATCH can learn every firm will engage in business again in Brainerd with new stocks and new equipments.

For a time it will be very inconvenient, but the firms will arrange their business to conform with circumstances. Of course it will take several days to adjust the losses, and until this work is done nothing definite can be announced.

Those who owned the buildings which were burned, Mrs. E. M. Koop and Mrs. C. Grandelmyer, are figuring already on putting up buildings on their lots. Mrs. C. Grandelmyer has decided that she will start work as soon as the frost is out of the ground, on a modern two story solid brick block. For the present she has rented room upstairs in the Bane block for her dressmaking parlors and is looking around for a small space for her millinery department.

Interest of course will be centered about the Koop property during the next few weeks and every one will be anxious to know what will be done. It is understood that Mrs. Koop is contemplating to build, but that she wishes to sell one of the lots on this street. Plans have been sort of talked of for a solid brick block on this location to cost in the neighborhood of $20,000, but of course nothing has as yet matured and in all probability there will be nothing definite done for some time.

L. J. Cale, who lost heavily in the fire, was not burned out so that he will be able to continue right along, but for a few days, which will be consumed in settling with the fire companies. He states that he will have lumber on the ground ready to make all necessary repairs and that inside of a week or ten days everything will be in apple pie order again.

L. Hohman, the confectioner, has two or three locations in sight and will engage in business at once, buying a complete new stock of all kinds of candies, fruits, cigars and confectionery. He has, it is understood, about decided to rent the Keene-Nevers building vacated some time ago by A. Mark.

It will be good news to her many friends to learn that Mrs. L. M. Koop will engage in business again with an entire new line of dry goods and notions. She will in all probability be accommodated temporarily in the J. W. Koop building on Seventh street.

Linneman Bros. also contemplate engaging in business at once as soon as temporary quarters can be secured. They will probably occupy quarters in the Koop building on Seventh street or the Gruenhagen building.

J. H. Welliver has not determined exactly where he will locate again with his barber shop. He has one or two good locations in sight, one of which is under the H. P. Dunn & Co.’s drug store in the First National bank block.

So Brainerd will not lose much from the fire, it is the individuals who will lose, for all the firms who were in business seem to have determined to go ahead and start all over anew, and that is the kind of stuff in the business man that makes a city.


For the past few years Brainerd has really been fortunate with fires, but the last two months have been record breakers and the losses for that time will exceed all the losses for the past ten years in fire. The insurance companies naturally have felt that they had to tilt insurance rates in this city during the past few years for various causes, but they have made money from Brainerd at that, and up to a short time ago could have little fault to find. For instance, in the year 1902, according to the report of the state insurance commissioner, the amount of premiums paid to different companies doing business in Brainerd, other than mutual companies, was $33,991.50 as against $9879.12 paid by the company in losses for that year. The business has run about that way in Brainerd for the past ten years, but the year 1904 will be a clipper in this line.

There is one advantage to those who now own buildings adjoining the burned district. Their insurance rates will not be as high in the future. The frame Koop block was always considered a dangerous proposition and insurance men always watched the building with anything but goo-goo eyes.


The fire department from the shops turned out and did good service helping the boys.

L. J. Cale did a nice thing by the firemen who worked that night. He gave them a twenty to spend and also invited each one around to help himself to a suit of underwear.

Col. [sic] C. D. Johnson said he was not so much deluged with water as he was with advice.

Attorney A. E. Bowe got excited and commenced to throw his furniture out of the building.

Mrs. Bowe, while carrying her furs down stairs, was assisted by some gentleman(?) who told her he would take care of them. He did, and she has not seen them since.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ady saved a hair mattress, the only thing they saved, and now someone has exchanged with them and they would like to trade back.

Herman Linneman’s fine hunting dog burned in the fire.

The Koop block was the oldest in the city. [Not true since Bly’s Block, built in 1872, was still standing.]

The department was called out again yesterday to quench some of the flames that had gotten a fresh start in the debris. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 February 1904, p. 3, c.’s 1 & 2)

SEE: Koop Blocks in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Cale Block / Empress Theatre in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Grandelmyer (Caroline) Millinery & Dressmaking Shop in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

05 April



Frame Structure on Seventh Street

Owned by J. F. McGinnis was

Destroyed by Fire




F. J. Murphy, M. J. Reilly, Singer

Mfg. Company and J. F.

McGinnis Are Losers

At noon today an alarm was sent in from Seventh street and the department quickly responded to the call which was from the small frame building owned by J. F. McGinnis next to the M. J. Reilly block. When the members of the department arrived the flames were penetrating through the walls and a delay in getting the water turned on was caused from the fact that the hydrant on the corner of Seventh and Front was frozen, so the fire soon got in its work.

The building was soon enveloped and it seemed as though the M. J. Reilly block just across the alley to the north was doomed, but fortunately the wind sort of whipped the flames in another direction and the fire was contained to the one building.

The building was occupied by F. J. Murphy, who conducted his plumbing business on the north side and the Singer Mfg. company, who occupied the south half. Agent Orne, of the Singer Mfg. company, was away at the time of the fire as also was Mr. Murphy. The fire caught in the rear end of the plumbing shop and as the building was nothing but a skeleton frame shack it burned very rapidly.

Some of Mr. Murphy’s stock of plumbing goods was removed from the building and it is thought that the $500 insurance he carried will cover the balance. The Singer Mfg. company carried insurance, but most of the stuff was owned by Agent Orne and he carried no insurance.

J. F. McGinnis, who figures his loss at about $1,000 carried $500 on the building. M. J. Reilly had several tons of feed in the rear of the building and this was damaged. He carried no insurance on this.

Manager Walker, of the Brainerd telephone exchange, loses quite heavily from burnt cables, wires, etc.

This is the second time this old building has burned within four years. The last time it burned it was not completely gutted and it will be remembered that there was a fierce fight between Mr. McGinnis and the council over the matter of rebuilding. Mr. McGinnis finally won out by a technicality and notwithstanding it was in the fire limits, put up the frame structure that was burnt today. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 05 April 1904, p. 2, c. 4)

27 April



Another Disastrous Fire Destroys the Hartley

Block—One of Best in City.




It Started in the Basement of the Slipp Store.

Good Work of Fire Department.


Hartley Block—Loss—$25,000—Insurance—$8,000

A. E. Moberg, dry goods—Loss—$25,000—Insurance—$11,000

Slipp Bros., hardware—Loss—$15,000—Insurance—$6,000

C. H. Kyllo, household goods—Loss—$400—Insurance—$100

Chas. Ekman, household goods—Loss—$800—Insurance—$300

A. P. Faust, household goods—Loss—$500—Insurance—$200

A. C. Lagerquist, tailor—Loss—$200—Insurance—None

Geo. All, boots and shoes—Loss—$400—Insurance—$200


After a series of some four or five fire alarms yesterday, and when most of Brainerd’s peaceful populace had retired for the night another alarm was turned in at 11:15 o’clock last night which proved to be a forerunner of another disastrous conflagration equal to others which have been inflicted on the city during the past five or six months. It would seem as though the fire demon had it in for the metropolis of Northern Minnesota and would with evil intent sweep from the land some of the most substantial and well sustained business places.

The fire department was prompt in its response and in less than five minutes after the alarm was turned in there was a crew working like beavers at the scene of what was then a mere smudge in the rear of Slipp Bros.’ hardware store on Front street. The smoke issued from the basement and the rear windows of this store building in great volumes and in a few moments towers of black smoke rose heavenward and formed pictures like mammoth mountains. On account of this dense smoke it was almost impossible for a time for the firemen to work their way to the very seat of the fire and do effective work, even though it was nearly half an hour before any flames were detected from without.

The firemen concentrated every force at the spot where they thought that the fire started from and they succeeded quite admirably in getting a good gauge on the situation at an early stage of the big game. But do what they would they could not well get ahead of the ferret-like, creeping flames that had eaten their way into the very heart of the big Hartley block in which the Slipp Bros. store is located.

When the first alarm was turned in few in the city realized that the fire would amount to anything as this was one of the many calls made on the department to go to the park to put out fires yesterday, but when the shop whistle blew it was realized full well that the fire was of some consequence, and there was a general concentration of people from all directions and by 12:30 o’clock they lined Front street several files deep.

It was not long before the flames began to show most disastrous results. It is the general conclusion throughout the city that the fire started from spontaneous combustion and when the refuse and dry material in the basement of the Slipp Bros. store was once aflame there was no power that could quell the fiery elements in their madness and rapid pursuit for more food to devour. Although there was no wind and the night was as clear as crystal the flames seemed to eat their way unassisted to the different nooks and crevices of the building.


It was realized that there were several roomers on the second floor of the building who were in imminent danger. Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Kyllo, who lived in the Hartley block, were among the first to scent the danger and Mrs. Kyllo at once gave the alarm to others in the block. Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Faust were aroused with difficulty as the smoke in a few moments had completely filled the rooms. Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Ekman, who also roomed in the building, got out all right but saved very little of their household effects. Mr. and Mrs. Kyllo saved but little of their effects. Bert Finn, who also lived in the block, was at a dance when the alarm was turned in and did not save a dollar’s worth.


In a comparatively short time the flames had eaten their way through the partitions and floors and finally burst out through the roof. Then it was that the firemen realized that the Hartley block was doomed and attention was turned to the other buildings adjacent to this block. The Wise block to the east was greatly in danger. It is a frame structure and it was thought for a time that there was nothing in the world that could save it. Great torrents of cinders and sparks poured out over the building and several times the roof caught fire but two or three streams on this building did effective work and it was saved.


At about 1 o’clock there was but little question about the fate of the Wise [Bly’s Block] building. Up to this time none of the tenants had made any stir about moving out, but they thought that the building would surely go and they began to hustle. One of the first to move out of the building was R. F. Walters, the shoe man, he got nearly everything out and across the street. This seemed as a sort of incentive for others and large forces of men were ushered into service and carried material out of the building with great rapidity. The Swartz drug store was one of the first places of attack and the room was fairly stripped of its contents so that it had the appearance of a badly arranged bowling alley. Everything was carried over in the N. P. park. The R. F. Walters’ stock of shoes was all taken out. Then down the line C. L. Burnett, the jeweler, moved everything out, even to the safe and everything was moved across the street. J. H. Murphy, of the firm of J. F. Murphy & Co. was rather reluctant about moving anything out of the room in which he was located, but when the flames seemed to envelop all the buildings from the rear he decided that he had better do something to save the stock and ushered a large crowd of men into service. All of this stock was moved across the street into the L. Hohman store. All this work counted for naught, however, as the building was ultimately saved. J. F. Hawkins, the meat market man, who occupies the room facing on Front street, did not think it was worth time to move anything out and he opened up this morning doing business at the same old stand.


While there was a hurry and scurry around the east side of the Wise [Bly’s] block there was also something doing west of the Hartley block. It is the general supposition that had there been a little wind the whole block clear to Fifth street would have gone up in smoke. As it was the massive brick wall between the Hartley block and the Towne-McFadden block seemed to stop the flames in their mad rush. The firemen did excellent work in saving the buildings to the west. It grew pretty warm in the Olaf Skauge drug store and much of the material was moved out, but there will be little damage here except that resulting from smoke. Drs. Groves and Nicholson, who occupy rooms over the drug store moved everything out and their loss from breakage, etc., will amount to considerable. The sparks and cinders at one time fell like hail on the roofs of the City hotel and other adjoining buildings. All the guests at the City were aroused and there was a general scrimmage about the place to get out. Even the tenants in the rooms over the buildings west of the City hotel moved out to be sure that they would not suffer loss. The fire, however, was confined to the one building, the Hartley block, and beyond the damage here the loss will amount to very little.

The Hartley block is a mass of ruins and all the occupants and tenants in the building suffered heavy losses. The block, while one of the oldest in the city, was one of the best and most substantial. It was a solid brick block and its estimated value was $25,000. The building is owned by the Harrison estate and is presumably in control of George Harrison, of Minneapolis. There was but $8,000 insurance on the building which is about one-third the loss. Slipp Bros., who conducted a hardware store in the block, are among the heaviest losers. It is estimated that their stock was valued at $15,000 and not a shingle nail was saved. They were partially insured. A. E. Moberg was the heaviest loser perhaps outside those who owned the building. His mammoth stock of dry goods and clothing was consumed. He states that his stock would invoice $25,000 and he carried but $11,200 insurance. Nothing was saved from the big stock at all as the storeroom a short time after the fire was filled with dense smoke, so thick that it was even impossible for Mr. Moberg to get his books in the safe when he arrived on the scene. To an outsider it seemed as though there was no possible show of saving the other buildings in the block but the fact that there was no wind, coupled with the fact that the Brainerd fire department did good service, saved the balance of the buildings in the block.


The Brainerd fire department never did better work and they are complimented on all sides today. They seemed to be able to do the right thing at the right time and it is unanimously the verdict that it was the best piece of work in the fire fighting line that has ever been seen in Brainerd.


There was another feature that was commendable. The water pressure was excellent and the firemen could ask for nothing better. The streams were good and strong, in fact, so strong that several hose were burst. This helped materially and one reason that the other buildings were saved was on account of the excellent service rendered by the water company.


As compared with the losses the insurance carried is very light. The Hartley block was estimated to be worth at least $25,000 and there is but $8,000 in insurance carried in the Keene & McFadden agency. A. E. Moberg with a dry goods and clothing stock of $25,000 carried but $11,200 on stock and fixtures. The Slipp Brothers’ stock of hardware would total $15,000 and they carried but $6,000 insurance. The tenants in the second floor carried but little or no insurance to speak of. Regarding the losses of those who moved their goods from the Wise block insurance men in the city state that they will all be paid. This will amount to considerable.


Fortunately there were few injuries although there were one or two close calls. John Hessel, Jr. was holding a nozzle in the Slipp building when the barrel of oil exploded and he was thrown some twenty feet but escaped with slight injuries. Roy [sic] Hall was slightly injured also. When the big north wall of the building fell there were several firemen working in close proximity and they had a hard time of it trying to get out of the way. They did, however, make their escape without injury.


One of the losers in the Hartley building was A. G. Lagerquist, the tailor, who occupies a room on the second floor. Besides losing all his effects he had $120 in a drawer. Fortunately, however, the money was found this morning. It had been covered by a pile of brick and the flames did not get at it.

The list of those who sustained loss and who will ask for insurance are: Groves & Nicholson, Olaf Skauge, A. E. Moberg, Slipp Bros., Chas. Ekman, C. H. Kyllo, A. R. Faust, A. G. Lagerquist, M. K. Swartz, J. F. Hawkins, J. F. Murphy & Co., R. F. Walters, C. L. Burnett and George Allen. The latter was completely burned out but says he will be open again for business in a few days. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 April 1904, p. 3, c.’s 1-4)


Fire Starts in Heart of City at 11:30, and at 2:30 Is Still Burning Fiercely.

THE LOSS IS $250,000

Salvage on Large Stocks of Goods

Is Slight—Many Firms Lose


BRAINERD, Minn., April 27.—Fire started last night in the Hartley block in the heart of the city, and it is thought the entire business portion is doomed.

The flames spread rapidly through the Hartley building [518 Front Street], and also to the Wise block [Bly’s Block, 522-524 Front Street] on the corner, and soon got beyond control of the fire department.

The fire started about 11:30 and by 1:30 o’clock this morning the scene was one of awful devastation, and the loss will, it was estimated at a late hour, reach nearly $250,000.

The fire began in the basement of Slipp Bros.’ hardware store [520 Front Street] which is in the Hartley block, and as there was considerable oil and refuse there the flames spread rapidly.

All the tenants of the Hartley block and Wise building were notified, and the work of saving their large stock commenced at once, but the salvage will amount to a petty sum compared with the loss.

The Hartley building is doomed and the Wise building is burning.

Other buildings in danger are the Towne, McFadden building [512 Front Street], City hotel [510 Front Street], opera house and others across the street to the east.

The estimated loss at this time, is as follows:

Hartley block, owned by Geo. Harrison of Minneapolis, $25,000; insurance $8,000.

Wise building [Bly’s Block, 522-524 Front Street], loss, $10,000; insurance $8,000.

R. F. Walters, boots and shoes [208 South Sixth Street], loss, $6,000; insurance $4,500.

C. L. Burnett, jewelry [210 South Sixth Street], loss, $5,000; insurance $2,000.

J. F. Murphy & Co., clothing [212 South Sixth Street], loss, $13,000; insurance $9,000.

It is thought the entire block from Sixth to Fifth street, facing Front street, will go.

Slipp Bros., hardware [520 Front Street], loss, $15,000; insurance $8,000.

A. E. Moberg, dry goods [516 Front Street], loss, $30,000; insurance $11,000.

Olaf Skauge, drugs [514 Front Street], loss $10,000; insurance $5,000.

M. K. Swartz, drugs [524 Front Street], loss, $12,000; insurance $6,500.

J. F. Hawkins [522 Front Street], loss, $3,500; insurance $1,500.

(Minneapolis Tribune, 27 April 1904, p. 1)

BRAINERD, Minn., April 28.—It was thought for a time yesterday that the entire block between Fifth and Sixth streets would go up in smoke, as a result of a conflagration which started late Tuesday night, but by the miraculous work of the firemen the flames were confined to the Hartley block [518 Front Street].

The excellent water pressure and the prompt work of the department avoided one of the most disastrous fires to the history of the city, and though the loss will not reach the figure as first reported, the total will be $67,000, partially covered by insurance.

The Hartley block [518 Front Street] was valued at $25,000; insurance, $8,000.

Slipp Bros. hardware [520 Front Street], loss, $15,000; insurance, $6,000.

A. E. Moberg, dry goods [516 Front Street], loss, $25,000; insurance, $11,200.

George Allen, boots and shoes [518 Front Street], loss, $500; insurance, $200.

Others who lose from the destruction of their property by smoke, breakage, etc., are J. F. Murphy & Co. [212 South Sixth Street], C. L. Burnett [210 South Sixth Street], M. K. Swartz [524 Front Street], R. F. Walters [208 South Sixth Street], J. F. Hawkins [522 Front Street] (Minneapolis Tribune, 28 April 1904, p. 1)



R. R. Wise Said to Be Planning

on a Proposition of this





And Mr. Wise is Said to Have

Secured an Option on

the Same.

Rumors at times are started by unscrupulous persons who have nothing else to do and when fanned by the average gossip spread rapidly, but the class of rumors which are based upon positive facts are ofttimes given out by the papers and they serve well the purpose for which a paper is placed in a community, to get the news red hot from the griddle.

There are well authenticated rumors going the rounds in Brainerd now, and the indications are that they will soon merge into authoritative facts from those most deeply interested. They are to the effect that R. R. Wise will soon commence the erection of a $100,000 hotel [Ransford Hotel] on the corner of Front and Sixth streets on the site now occupied by the Wise [Bly’s Block] building and the lots where stood the Hartley block which burned night before last.

It has been known for some time that such a project has been talked of, but nothing definite has been given out by Mr. Wise himself. In fact, he is in St. Paul now and it is understood that his business has to do with such a proposition.

Coupled with the fact that there has been considerable talk regarding a hotel where the Wise [Bly’s Block] building now stands, is the statement from a reliable party that Mr. Wise had an option on the Hartley block before it burned and the purchase price is said to have been $14,000. The gentleman who gave the information states that it was his belief that the fire would make no difference with this deal; that it will be made anyway and that the insurance money on the building will go to Mr. Wise anyway. This would be considered a good deal for the gentleman, as he would be paying but $6,000 for three lots that are worth at least $15,000 of any man’s money.

The location for a hotel is an ideal one and the erection of a substantial building would be a great addition to the city. It is said that the plans are for a hotel something on the plan of the Waldorf at Fargo, a three story brick block, modern and in every respect up-to-date.

THE DISPATCH reporter tried to see Mr. Wise today but he is in St. Paul. T. E. Ruthorford was seen but he had nothing to give out on the matter. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 28 April 1904, p. 3, c.’s 1-2)

BRAINERD, Minn., April 28.—It was thought for a time yesterday that the entire block between Fifth and Sixth streets would go up in smoke, as a result of a conflagration which started late Tuesday night, but by the miraculous work of the firemen the flames were confined to the Hartley block [518 Front Street].

The excellent water pressure and the prompt work of the department avoided one of the most disastrous fires to the history of the city, and though the loss will not reach the figure as first reported, the total will be $67,000, partially covered by insurance.

The Hartley block [518 Front Street] was valued at $25,000; insurance, $8,000.

Slipp Bros. hardware [520 Front Street], loss, $15,000; insurance, $6,000.

A. E. Moberg, dry goods [516 Front Street], loss, $25,000; insurance, $11,200.

George Allen, boots and shoes [518 Front Street], loss, $500; insurance, $200.

Others who lose from the destruction of their property by smoke, breakage, etc., are J. F. Murphy & Co. [212 South Sixth Street], C. L. Burnett [210 South Sixth Street], M. K. Swartz [524 Front Street], R. F. Walters [208 South Sixth Street], J. F. Hawkins [522 Front Street]. (Minneapolis Tribune, 28 April 1904, p. 1)

27 May

27 May 1904. The sidewalk in front of the site of the old Hartley block has been nailed up and pedestrians walked up to their ankles in mud through the street this morning. (This Was Brainerd, Brainerd Dispatch, 27 May 2004)

SEE: Hartley Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

04 May



Brainerd Again Suffers the Loss

of Considerable Property in

Fire Last Night.




Loss is Quite Heavy and the In-

surance Carried Will Not

Exceed $3,200.

Brainerd is certainly in disfavor with the fire king, for it would seem as though there was a whole nest of bugs about the city that have been busier than bees in honey making time during the past month or two. Brainerd is called upon again to explain the whys and wherefores of another rather disastrous fire which occurred last night when the old Brainerd skating rink, a frame structure 75x150 feet, was burned to the ground with all its contents, including a large amount of furniture and storage goods placed there by D. M. Clark & Co., the big furniture house. The total loss is estimated at about $22,000.

This time the people of the city, particularly those most interested in property, are not satisfied to allow this fire to pass muster without a few words of comment as to the origin. It is believed on all hands that this fire was of an incendiary nature and that there is every reason to believe now that some miscreant is doing some dirty work. No possible excuse can be offered for this fire last night since it started at the point where it did and at that hour of the night. Mr. Clark stated last night that there had not been a soul in the building since early yesterday morning and there was no plausible way for the fire to start from the inside as great care had always been taken about the material that was put in the building. Once the fire had eaten its way into the dry material it made short work of the structure.

The fire following so closely the Eau Clair fire on Fifth street south caused great surprise. On account of the first fire which occurred about 10:30 o’clock a large number of people in the city had been aroused from their slumbers and really had not settled down again before the second alarm was turned in so that there was an unusually large crowd present to see the demise of the famous old skating rink, which was situated at the corner of Sixth and Kingwood streets.

Among the first to see the fire were a number of traveling men seated in front of the City Hotel and they gave the alarm. They state the building seemed to catch between the Martin Shear and Clipping company building and the old rink at a point almost in the center of the big building. The flames seemed to jump from the ground to the roof on the outside and leaped by bounds to the top of the building and then spread rapidly all over the roof like so much boiling oil. The massiveness of the old structure and its very dry makeup made the sight a spectacular one and looked to one a distance from the center of the city like a much larger fire than it really was.

The work of the firemen is greatly to be commended again at this fire. They did excellent work and their service was greatly appreciated. The danger was after the fire had once got a good start, to the adjoining buildings, the home of N. H. Ingersoll on the west and the homes of Mrs. Fanny Smith, George Ames and D. D. Smith on the north. Great, massive volumes of fire pierced the air and seemed to lap clear over the street on these buildings and several times they caught fire and it was thought sure that no power could save them. The sparks and embers the size of a man's hand even covered the roof of the First Congregational church. The N. H. Ingersoll house on the corner of Kingwood and Fifth streets, was in the greatest danger and it was so hot at times that it was almost impossible to stand at the rear of the house. But the excellent work of the department at this point was effective and the barn within a few feet of the rear end of the old rink did not even burn.

Water was carried to the roofs of the buildings to the north and the fire was kept within bounds. It was miraculous how the fire was confined to that one building but the water pressure was good and the fire laddies did efficient work.

The fire started shortly before midnight and D. M. Clark, of the firm of D. M. Clark & Co., was just taking the train to go to St. Paul. He did not go but returned to the building to lend what assistance he could. It was feared at first that there was something like 200 pounds of dynamite in the small addition to the rink on the south side but it was discovered later that it had not been removed from the N. P. depot.

The fire last night again demonstrated the necessity of more good hose for the city fire department. As the fire was burning at the fiercest there were several breaks in the hose and hundreds of feet had to be discarded.


The building that was burned has been used for years by D. M. Clark & Co. as a store room. They had at this time the largest amount of furniture and stoves that had ever been in the building, it being the spring of the year when the rush of business is just starting. Mr. Clark stated this morning that he thought he had in the neighborhood of $5,000 worth of furniture here, all new. Then there was at least that much or more furniture that had been stored there and a large number of Brainerd people lost heavily. The firm of D. M. Clark & Co. is in no way responsible for the goods that were stored in the building. There are some very bad losses among these people. For instance M. P. Orchard put a $100 worth of furniture in the building just a few days ago. He intended to have it insured but did not get around to it. P. J. McKeon, who runs the boarding cars on the M. & I. in the summer, lost about $1,000 worth of stuff, which included cooking utensils, bedding, etc., etc. Brainerd Lodge, B. P. O. E., lost some scenery and regalia that was stored there. A large number of people in the city at this season of the year have their stoves stored for the summer and a considerable percentage of the loss was in stoves stored in this manner. L. A. LaJoie, who moved to Chicago a short time ago, lost all his furniture and T. V. Grant had something like $1,500 worth of furniture in the building.

It would be impossible at this time to itemize or specify the exact losses of each individual, but the approximate figure, $22,000, is considered about the total.


The building was a notable one and has contributed materially in the past to the amusement of Brainerd people. In the old days when roller skates were all the fad this rink was one of the most popular in the country. Since that, the rink has been used for various purposes and one winter there was an ice rink here. The building was erected by the Farrar estate, and was worth perhaps $1,000.


It is estimated that the total insurance will not best the actual loss. D. M. Clark & Co. had but $1,000 on the big stock of furniture and stoves and the individuals who had stored household goods, etc. in the building carried but little. The building was insured for only $1,000. The loss then is almost total.

As near as can be ascertained it is not thought that there was over $1,200 insurance on the entire building stock and storage.


The building adjoining the rink and occupied by the Martin Shear & Clipping company was also gutted. The loss here will amount to several hundred dollars, but it is thought that the machinery is injured but slightly. The building is a total wreck.


The following is a complete list of the individual losers: L. A. LaJoie, S. R. Adair, Joseph Dechaine, R. G. Vallentyne, E. F. Atwood, F. H. Billings, R. Clouston, J. L. Camp, J. P. Early, Chas. Harvey, N. A. McPhail, F. E. Miller, Carl Slanden, E. M. Stitt, C. B. White, P. J. McKeon, Thos. Mooers, Daniel McIntosh, L. Tasche, Ernest Black, J. A. Thabes, George Greibler, Ed Lien, Alex McIntosh, N. P. Bank, August Erath, Cora Carey, L. B. Stewart, Chas. Breason, J. Drew, J. E. Suntrie, L. H. Herrmann, W. Caulkins, Mike Seaberger, Mike Dwyer, T. V. Grant, R. J. Gilbertson, B. P. O. E., Mrs. Grandelmyer, Robert Ozard, C. A. Carmichiel, Samuel Johnson, William Dahl, William Strachan, Julia McFadden, A. L. Mattes, George Allen, Frank Horton, W. H. Crowell, S. F. Alderman, Lizzie Moore, W. E. Entriken, E. L. Smith, Allen Christiansen, George Mahood, P. E. MCabe, M. P. Orchard, G. S. Robinson, Roy Lawrence, R. W. Wood, T. M. Reilly, Johnson Farraro, G. Johnson, R. J. Holden, J. F. Murphy & Co., Charles Torkelson, F. Brayton, Walter Davis, John Carlson, John C. Huson, C. A. Laing, D. E. Hamilton, Charles Metcalf, Harry Edwards, H. Spaulding, Jerry Flickwir, Mary Pillon, R. P. Lynch, Rev. A. Matson, T. B. Johnson, S. Goodman, Mrs. Dressen, Andy Wallace, William Meekins, Margaret Halpin, W. H. Cleary and the First National bank.

The individual houses and insurance will be hard to ascertain for a time.


At about 10:30 o’clock the department was called to South Fifth street where it was discovered that two barns belonging to Henry Eau Claire were afire. The department did good service in confining the fire but the buildings were a total loss. The barns were occupied by a man by the name of John Guyette. He has 12 horses, but eleven of them happened to be turned out last night and but one of his horses perished. The loss is estimated at $1,000 and there is $2,000 insurance.

Chas. Hoffman was one of the first to see the fire. He was just retiring for the night when he thought he heard some noise and going to the window saw the fire between the Martin building and the old rink and it was creeping to the roof. He sent in an alarm and then hastened to get the horse and buggies out of the stable. The house of Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman also had a close call, but not as close as some of the other houses as the wind was very favorable to this location. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 05 May 1904, p. 3, c.’s 1-3)



Twenty Thousand Dollar Loss Is Caused by Destruction of Factory And Warehouse.


Believed That Fire Bug Is at Work—D. M. Clark and T. Eau Claire Losers.


BRAINERD, Minn., May 5.—It seems that Brainerd is doomed and the firebug is abroad in the land with a revengeful spirit for following in the wake of the disastrous fire of a few nights ago, when the Hartley block was destroyed, fire broke out again last night at 12 o’clock in what is known as the old Brainerd skating rink [SW corner of Kingwood and North Sixth Streets], used by D. M. Clark & Co., furniture and hardware, for a store room.

It is estimated that there was fully $10,000 worth of goods stored here, most of it being a part of the new spring and summer stock of D. M. Clark & Co. It is estimated the building was worth $3,000.

The Martin Shear and Clipping company factory [219 North Sixth Street] adjoining the rink also burned, entailing a loss approximating $5,000, so that the total loss of last night’s fire will be close to $20,000.

Just an hour before this the department was called to the South Side, where a barn belonging to T. Eau Claire caught fire. Before the fire could be put out it burned and the loss will reach several hundred dollars.

The fire is thought to have been of an incendiary nature and in view of the recent disastrous fires much feeling has been wrought up. (Minneapolis Tribune, 05 May 1904, p. 1)

SEE: Roller Rinks in the Bridges, Mills, etc. in Brainerd page.


30 January


Wise Building In Heart of City Destroyed, Several Firms Losing Heavily.


BRAINERD, Minn., Jan. 31.—Fire last night destroyed the Wise building [Bly’s Block, 522-524 Front Street] in the heart of the city, and from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars’ worth of property was consumed.

The fire started in R. F. Walters’ shoe store, the alarm being turned in about 8 o’clock. It was first discovered in the basement of the building, and before it could be controlled the entire structure was enveloped in flames.

This building was the only one of the group left standing last spring, when the Hartley block was burned, the building was practically empty at the time and was being fitted up to be used in conjunction with the new Ransford hotel building, and all its contents, were reduced to ashes.

The building was owned by R. R. Wise and the estimated value is $10,000, upon which there is about $7,000 insurance. The stock and fixtures of R. F. Walter’s [208 South Sixth Street] shoe store was entirely burned, estimating the loss of about $7,000. The jewelry store of C. L. Burnett [210 South Sixth Street] was also gutted, the estimated loss about $1,000.

Walter’s stock was insured for $6,000 and Burnett was covered by $500 on the fixtures. The new Ransford was threatened for a time, but the fire was under control at 10 o’clock, and no further danger of spreading. (Minneapolis Tribune, 31 January 1905, p. 1)




Wise Building and Two Buildings

South Were Wiped Out En-

Tailing Heavy Loss


The Total Loss Will Reach $18,600—

Insurance Carried Amounts

to $12,065.80.


R. R. Wise, buildings—Loss, $10,300.00; Insurance, $6,300.00

R. F. Walters, stock and fixtures—Loss, $7,600.00; Insurance, $5,405.80

C. L Burnett, stock and fixtures—Loss, $700.00; Insurance, $660.00

Total—Loss, $18, 600; Insurance, $12,065.80

Wise Block, formerly Bly’s Block at the southwest corner of 6th and Front, ca. 1904.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

The city of Brainerd was visited by another fire Monday, which in some respects was a counterpart of the fires which played havoc last year, although the amount of property destroyed and its importance to the business interests of the city does not in any way equal some of the former conflagrations. The fire destroyed the old frame Wise [Bly’s Block] building on the corner of Front and Sixth streets and the two small frame store buildings to the south, occupied by R. F. Walters, the shoe dealer, and C. L. Burnett, the jeweler, the estimated total loss being about $20,000.

The fire was first discovered a few minutes before 8 o’clock by H. W. Linneman and J. C. Davis, who were on their way to Columbian hall to attend the meeting of the business men of the city for the purpose of organizing a commercial club. As the gentlemen were passing the store occupied by R. F. Walters, Mr. Davis saw a puff of smoke and fire issuing from the building as though there had been an explosion and he ran across the street to the D. F. McIntosh saloon and sent in the alarm. Being centrally located and the hour early in the evening it did not take long for a large crowd to gather and it seemed as though the entire city was aroused in a very short time. The department was at the scene of the blaze promptly and the members did valiant service, but the flames found ready access into the interior of the old frame structure and waited for any waft of air to fan them on beyond the control of the fire fighters.

The members of the fire department found difficulty in the first place in getting at the real source of the fire and thus were not able to check it as soon as they might have. This was due largely to the amount of smoke that filled the Walters shoe store shortly after the fire started.

A constant stream was played on the small shack which seemed to be the hot bed of the fire fiend, but this had little effect on the flames, for they seemed to have eaten their way underneath the timbers of the foundation of the structure and had worked their way to the basement of the Wise building, the big frame structure on the corner. Great caution was taken to keep the flames from getting a start in the new Ransford hotel next to the Wise building and in this respect the firemen did excellent service and showed good judgment.

At first it was thought that the fire would be but a trifling matter and that it would be confined to the Walters’ shoe store, but it was soon discovered that the firemen would have more than the seemingly little smudge in the small store to contend with and every energy was strained to obtain the best results. It was but a short time before five streams of water were playing on the building, and even with the vast volume of water it did not seem to quell the fire, for it had eaten its way into the walls of the old building and here and there flames burst forth from the sides, front and roof and it was not long before the whole thing was given up and the energies of the firemen directed toward preventing a further spread of the flames and especial attention was turned toward the new Ransford.

Fortunately the building on the corner was empty except a room on the second floor which was occupied by R. R. Wise as an office. This building was peculiarly constructed and though the oldest in the city was as well built as any frame structure in the northern part of the state. On account of the solidity of the building fire did not seem to make the headway that it does ordinarily in a frame building. The second floor, for instance, was very heavy and the space between the outer siding and inner walls was filled with sawdust. Considering the fact that the building had been built as far back as 1872, it would seem as though the material would be of such an inflammable character that it would be but a short time before the whole would be reduced to ashes. Not so, however, as the fire seemed to creep and crawl, and at no time was there what might be called a fierce conflagration.

By 9 o’clock Front and Sixth streets were crowded with men, women and children who had been attracted by the sound of the fire alarm and the rising flames which lighted the winter skies.

The two small frame shacks occupied by R. F. Walters the shoe dealer, and C. L. Burnett, the jeweler, which were located just south of the Wise building were doomed. Both Mr. Walters and Mr. Burnett were at home when the fire alarm sounded, and they had not the slightest idea of the danger to their places of business until sent for by kind friends. On this account but little of the stock, especially in the shoe store, was saved.

For a long time it looked as though there was no danger that the fire would spread to the building on the corner, but flames soon appeared on the roof which seemed to have pierced through between the solid brick wall of the new Ransford and the frame structure, and as soon as they reached the top a slight southwesterly gale seemed to fan them on to destruction.

When the fire first started, R. R. Wise, proprietor of the Ransford, was showing a party of friends, composed of Judge J. T. Sanborn, Fred Sanborn, Judge Alderman and Judge W. S. McClenahan through the building. Just as the fire alarm sounded it was thought that smoke was scented in the corridors of the new hotel, and when the first floor was reached this was found to be true, for no sooner had they reached the outer door than they heard the cry of fire, and saw people rushing toward the corner building.

Contractor Nelson, who has charge of the work in the new hotel building, was soon on the scene and being acquainted with the surroundings did good work. Only a day or two before, the large fireproof doors had been hung between the Ransford and the old building, and, fortunate it was for it is thought that the new structure would certainly have burned but for this fact. The doors worked nicely and after they were closed it is thought that not a particle of smoke even crept through.

The bitter cold of the night greatly hampered the firemen in their work and they suffered intensely, but notwithstanding they are entitled to all kinds of praise for their unswerving diligence. When it was seen that the old frame structures could not be saved they directed their attention to the new building and streams of water were played on the roof, front and back, so that the fire did not even get a start in this building.

Through some crevice smoke got into the new building in large quantities and this damaged the walls which had just been decorated, to a considerable extent. The varnish is probably in very bad shape and the walls will have to be all gone over again. Then too the new maple floors were warped from the dampness and this will cause considerable extra trouble in repairing. The greatest damage in the new building is in the basement. The floor in the basement of the new building is some lower than the basement floor of the old building and the water which flowed in torrents into the old structure found its way to the new basement. It soon filled the fire box of the new boiler and the heating plant had to be shut down. All night men were kept busy pumping the water out of the basement and it was not until late today that they got the water out so that a fire could be built. The building will have to be thoroughly aired out and most of the finishing work gone over again.

The firm of J. F. Murphy & Co. was especially fortunate. This clothing firm occupies a small frame building one door south of Burnett’s jewelry store, and strange as it may seem, the structure did not once catch fire. It is thought that the goods in the store were not damaged a cent’s worth from smoke. A stream of water between this building and the Burnett store saved the building.

The fire started in the basement of the R. F. Walters’ store from a stove which was used to heat the building, and it must have burned some time before it bust out so that it could be noticed from the outside.

The total loss of property, including building and fixtures, is about $20,000 and there is a total of $12,065.80 insurance carried. Mr. Wise carried $5,000 on the large frame structure on the corner and $500 each on the stores occupied by R. F. Walters and C. L. Burnett, making a total of $6,000 on the buildings. R. F. Walters states that his stock inventoried $7,600 not long ago, and upon this stock he carried $5,405.80. C. L. Burnett did not carry any insurance on his stock but had $660 on fixtures. His loss will be about $700. The loss from smoke and water on the new Ransford building will be about $300 which is fully covered in a policy carried by Mr. Wise with the Keene & McFadden agency.

The fire was rather spectacular at times, but it is said that it was during the early hours this morning that it was at its height. It was after everyone but the firemen had gone home that the building really was reduced to ashes, for when the people left there was still a skeleton of the old structure standing.

By noon Tuesday there were hardly a semblance left of the old building and the corner upon which has stood a notable building, now looks barren.

There are all kinds of rumors already in the air regarding the building up of this corner. It has been generally conceded that the old frame structure was an eyesore to Brainerd and many are not displeased to know that it has been leveled to the ground, but it might be of some solace to the friends of Mr. Wise to know that it would have been moved out in the spring anyway. The corner will now probably be built up with a solid brick structure, with stores on the ground floor and rooms in the upper stories for the hotel.

The firemen were especially favored Monday with the water pressure, which was the best ever.

By the burning of this corner building a veritable landmark in Brainerd has been removed. The building was constructed in the spring of 1872 by E. H. Bly for general store purposes and it was known for years as the Bly block, a rather pretentious structure for Brainerd in those days. It was afterward used for various purposes and at one time was known as the Hartley building. It was a particularly well constructed building, being finished throughout on the interior in hardwood. I. U. White and his father worked on the building when it was being built. (Brainerd Dispatch, 05 February 1905, p. 2, c.’s 1-3)

24 February

Local News Notes.

R. R. Wise has some thirty or forty men at work clearing away the debris caused by the recent fire on the corner. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 February 1905)

It was thought that the men and teams put to work at the scene of the fire on the corner of Front and Sixth streets were doing nothing more than clearing the debris away. It has been found different, however, for today Mr. Wise had the men start in on the excavation and work will commence, it is understood, on the foundation for a new building soon. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 February 1905)

28 February



Nearly a Hundred Men Worked Yesterday

on Excavation for New Building on

Front Street.

The work of excavating for the new building on the corner of Front and Sixth streets is nearly completed. It has been a busy scene for the past five or six days and Mr. Wise is to be complimented on the good work that has been done. The building in which J. F. Murphy & Co. are located still stands, but it is understood that arrangements are being made to move it away so the excavation can be made here also. It will be but a day or two before the mason work will commence. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 28 February 1905, p. 3, c. 3)

01 March

The stone is being hauled from the old Arlington site to the site of the new building being put up by R. R. Wise on the corner of Front and Sixth Street to be used in the foundation. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 01 March 1905, p. 2, c. 2)

02 March



Special Meeting of the City Council Held

Last Night to Act on R. R. Wise’s

Request to Locate Old Building

A special meeting of the city council was held last night, called primarily to act upon the request of R. R. Wise, who asked permission to move the old frame building now being occupied by J. F. Murphy & Co. Several locations were suggested, but the council did not seem to want to be arbitrary in the matter in the light of the fact that Mr. Wise was making extensive improvements in the city and it being considered that where ever the building was moved it would not be a permanent location.

Mr. Wise requested that he be allowed to move the building to the corner of Front and Sixth streets, across the street to the north from the First National bank. After some discussion this request was granted. It is understood that there was some objection, but the matter was considered in the right light and they decided that they could stand it for about ninety days, by which time it is thought the new Wise building will have been completed.

Mr. Wise also asked that he be allowed to purchase some twenty or more tons of crushed rock from the city. This request was also granted. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 03 March 1905, p. 3, c. 1)

03 March



Old Wise Building Being Moved Today to

the Corner of Sixth and Front for

J. F. Murphy & Co.

The old Wise building occupied by J. F. Murphy & Co. is up on rollers today and is being moved to the corner of Front and Sixth streets where it will occupy a space just inside the curb facing west. It is expected that the building can be moved in two or three days. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 03 March 1905, p. 3, c. 2)

NOTE: One is left to wonder what happened to the “old Wise Building” after “about ninety days” were up. Was it then moved back to where it originally stood?

06 April

Local News Notes.

The rain played havoc with the area wall on the east side of the new Wise building on the corner of Front and Sixth streets last night. Every precaution was taken to prevent any damage to this wall by water, but it seems that the heavy rain and the condition of the gutter was the cause of a heavy deluge of water. The entire wall for a length of about fifty feet caved in, causing considerable damage and a large amount of inconvenience. (Brainerd Dispatch, 07 April 1905)

28 April

Local News Notes.

A. V. Snyder has rented one of the store rooms in the Wise building and will move to the new location as soon as the rooms are ready. (Brainerd Dispatch, 28 April 1905)

09 May

Local News Notes.

R. R. Wise stated this morning that the new building on the corner of Front and Sixth would be completed by June 15. Some of the stores will be ready before that time and the tenants will move in. (Brainerd Dispatch, 09 May 1905)

SEE: 30 January 1905

SEE: 11 March 1907

SEE: Bly’s Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Ransford Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Journal Press in the Newspapers of Early Brainerd page.


22 January




Many Business Houses are Totally Destroyed.




BRAINERD, Minn., Jan. 23.—Starting in the basement of the Reilly dry goods store [209-211 South Seventh Street], fire yesterday swept a whole business block of this city and caused a loss of nearly $80,000. Indirectly, the fire cost a life. Mrs. Elizabeth Cossins [706 Front Street], age 90, a prominent woman of Brainerd, dropped dead when she heard of the fire.

With a high wind fanning the flames, it was not put under control till after midnight.

The following firms were wiped out entirely by the fire and their losses:

Reilly block [209-211 South Seventh Street], dry goods and hardware, $8,000, insurance, $3,500; he also lost $2,000 worth of household goods, insurance, $500; H. P. Dunn, residence, [209 1/2 South Seventh Street] $2,000, insurance, $1,000; Brockway & Parker, grocers, $7,000; insurance, $2,000; M. J. Reis, dry goods, [211 South Seventh Street] $7,000, insurance, $1,000; Citizens State bank [201 South Seventh Street], building and fixtures, $10,000, insurance, $3,500; R. Parker [704 Front Street], dry goods, $6,000 on building and $15,000 on stock, which was partially saved; A. F. Sorenson [207 South Seventh Street], jeweler, $500, insurance, $350; William Graham [205 South Seventh Street], music dealer, $500, no insurance; A. P. Reymond [706 Front Street], damage to his jewelry stock, $500.

Hundreds of citizens aided in fighting the fire, which was reached with great difficulty on account of it eating its way through the center of all the buildings. It cannot be ascertained just what caused the fire, but at the time an explosion was heard, the report coming from the basement in Reilly’s store.

Several of the telephone wires were cut, so as to not endanger the fire fighters. All of the buildings destroyed were two stories high. (Minneapolis Tribune, 23 January 1907, p. 1)



Worst Conflagration in Months

Devastates the Corner of Front

and Seventh Streets




With Insurance of About $16,000—

Fire Was an Extremely Hard

One to Fight


Brockway & Parker, loss $7,000, insurance $2,000

M. J. Reis, loss $8,000, insurance $1,000

M. J. Reilly, building and fixtures, loss $7,000, insurance $3,000

M. J. Reilly, household goods, loss $2,000, insurance $500

H. P. Dunn, household goods, loss $1,000, insurance $300

A. F. Sorenson, jewelry, loss $500, insurance $300

Wm. Graham, music store, loss $500, insurance none

Citizens State Bank, building and Fixtures, loss $8,000, insurance $3,000

R. Parker, dry goods, loss $5,000, insurance $5,000

R. Parker, building, loss $8,000, insurance $1,000

R. Parker, household goods, loss $1,000, insurance none

A. D. Polk, law office, loss $100, insurance $100

C. A. Allbright, law office, loss $100

A. P. Reymond, jewelry, loss $100

Total, loss $48,600, insurance $16,200

One of the worst fires in some time occurred in Brainerd Tuesday. As a result the entire Citizens State bank corner, clear to the alley on the south and to the wooden building occupied by A. P. Reymond, is a mass of ruins. The total loss is near $50,000 with an insurance of a little over $16,000.

The alarm was turned in just as the clerks were getting ready to close up for the night. It proved to be from the grocery store of Brockway & Parker in the Reilly building on Sixth [sic] [Seventh] street. The smoke was first seen coming from the basement by M. J. Reis, whose dry goods store occupies the south half of that building. He rushed to the basement to discover the source only to be driven back by the smoke, which rolled up in such volumes as to force him and his clerks to leave the store without even securing the books. The smoke also poured up into the grocery store of Brockway & Parker but they succeeded in getting out their books before being forced to leave the building.

The fire boys turned out promptly, but were unable to get into the building because of the intense smoke which rushed out of every crack and crevice in the building. The building was a brick veneer and the smoke went up between the walls and the plastering so quickly that the families of M. J. Reilly and H. P. Dunn, who occupied the second story of the building were compelled to flee for their lives and were unable to save anything. The boys fought stubbornly for nearly four hours with hope of success in their efforts to confine the flames to that building but it proved impossible and shortly before ten o’clock the flames appeared in the windows of the Citizens State bank and about the same time broke out in the rear end of R. Parker’s dry goods store.

Shortly after the fire broke out the occupant of the adjoining building began to move out. The stock of A. F. Sorenson, the jeweler, was nearly all carried into Johnson’s Pharmacy, as were the contents of the law offices on the second floor of the Citizens State bank building. The stock of Wm. Graham’s music store on the first floor was removed to a place of safety but he had a room on the second floor which was stored with sewing machines and graphophones [sic] [gramophones] which were all destroyed.

When it became evident that the bank building was bound to go a force of men set to work taking out the bank fixtures which were taken to a place of safety and the radiators and plate glass were also removed. R. Parker was a heavy loser. The upstairs of his building was recently refurnished in hard wood and he lost his entire household goods. A portion of the dry goods stock was carried out but the loss is heavy. The jewelry store occupied by A. P. Reymond was also scorched, the stock having been all removed to a place of safety. It was owned by R. Parker.

The fire boys stayed by the fight against the fire for six hours and finally checked it, saving the small wooden building occupied by A. P. Reymond almost intact. The fire was very stubborn and characterized by unusually heavy smoke, which together with the cold made it a very severe test of the endurance of the firemen.

The ruins of the bank building are sheeted with ice, and the sidewalk is heaped with it. The cellar of Johnson Brothers’ Bakery is flooded with water to the depth of two and one-half feet. They have a large amount of canned goods in the basement but hope that it is uninjured. The labels will all be spoiled doubtless, but it was in cases and is for their own use in baking it can be kept sorted out and will probably be of some value.


Mrs. H. P. Dunn and little Joe were driven out by such fierce flames that she was only able to catch up a sack of money that was in the room and grab a wrap for herself and little one.

The Misses Reilly grabbed an armful of wraps which were thrown in Brockway & Parker’s sled and taken to the Brockway home. This was all that was saved out of their elegant home.

Had the fire broken out in the night it would almost have been a miracle if there had not been loss of life.

C. D. Johnson enjoyed a laugh at the expense of Attorney A. D. Polk, who carefully carried a pint bottle half full of ink down to the drug store and then spilled it on the floor. Charley says he would have given Mr. Polk another bottle of ink if he had left that one in the flames.

The fire boys did good work last night and had good pressure, but owing to both buildings being brick veneer they were unable to get at the fire.

The restaurants and lunch counters did a rushing business last night. A short session in the cold fighting or watching the fire was a first-class appetizer.

The burglar alarm in the Citizens State bank worked overtime, the heat setting it going about nine o’clock last night and it was still attracting attention this morning.

The large volume of water turned onto the fire resulted in the flooding of the basement in the Walker block in which is located the telephone exchange and Johnson Bros.’ Bakery. The three feet of water put out the fires and it was necessary to pump out the basement before the heating apparatus could be put in operation this morning.

The one story frame building which has stood for many years and is an old landmark escaped the flames although the fire burned right up to it. Many of the onlookers advised the wrecking of this building in order to make sure of stopping the progress of the flames, but the fire boys did the work with water.

The freight depot furnished shelter for the Parker stock, the bank fixtures and much of the salvage from the other buildings. (Brainerd Dispatch, 25 January 1907, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)



Prominent Business Corner

Is Wiped Out.


East Side of Seventh Street, From

Front to Alley, In Ruins.


Our city was visited with a most disastrous fire on Tuesday evening which, originating in the basement of Martin J. Reis’ dry goods store, 211 South Seventh street, spread to the buildings adjoining on the north as far as the Citizens State bank on the corner of Front and Seventh streets, a distance of half a block, all of which were destroyed, and the building adjoining the bank on Front street on the east, owned by R. Parker, and occupied by him as a dry goods store, with dwelling rooms on the second floor, was left in ruins, the walls still standing but the interior gutted by the devouring flames. The small frame building adjoining the Parker building on the east, occupied by A. P. Reymond as a jewelry store, was also damaged by smoke and water.

The fire started shortly before 6 o'clock in the furnace room in the basement of the Reis store, when smoke was discovered issuing from the basement. The alarm was promptly given and the fire department soon arrived but had great difficulty in locating the fire, owing to the dense smoke which was by this time pouring from the lower part of the building. The flames seemed to have been confined at the start to the inside of the walls, and for a long time the persevering firemen were baffled. In the meanwhile the heavy smoke prevented the occupants from removing anything from the burning building.

This building, two stores in height, was owned by M. J. Reilly, and the dwelling rooms over the two stores below were occupied by Mr. Reilly and H. P. Dunn and their families. On the first floor were M. J. Reis’ dry goods store and Brockway & Parker’s grocery store. Messrs. Reilly and Dunn lost all their furniture and household goods, and even the clothing of themselves and families. They saved nothing whatever of their personal effects. Mr. Reilly lost $150 in money, and Mrs. Reilly and the girls several valuable pieces of jewelry. None of the goods in the stores of Mr. Reis and Brockway & Parker were saved; everything is a total loss. Mr. Reis even lost his books, which as the store was still open, were not in the safe. Brockway & Parker have their books left—that is all.

The occupants of the adjoining buildings on the north side in the meanwhile had been busy removing their goods from the path of the flames, and thus succeeded in saving most of their property. The building which extended from the corner of Front street to the Reilly building on Seventh street was owned by the Citizen’ State bank. The corner room was occupied by the bank, the next store room on Seventh street by Wm. Graham’s music store, and next and adjoining Brockway & Parker was A. F. Sorenson’s jewelry store. Nearly everything was removed from these rooms, though we understand Mr. Graham had some sewing machines and other goods stored in the vacant office rooms over his store, which were lost.

The fixtures in the bank, and even the plate glass windows in the front, were taken out. The rooms over the bank were occupied by the law offices of A. D. Polk and C. A. Allbright, and these gentlemen also succeeded in removing their effects to a place of safety. Mr. Parker saved a small portion of his stock of dry goods, and also part of his household goods.

Hundreds of citizens crowded the streets, and there were many who voluntarily aided the firemen in their gallant efforts to check the progress of the flames, but this was done with great difficulty on account of the fire eating its way through the centre of all the buildings. It was not finally gotten under control until long past midnight. The fire probably started from the furnace, but in what manner is a mere matter of conjecture.

The losses are heavy, as the insurance carried was comparatively small because of the very high rates exacted by the insurance companies. Following is a careful estimate of the losses, with amount of insurance carried:

M. J. Reilly, building and fixtures, $7,500; insurance $3,000. Household goods, clothing, etc., $2,000; insurance $500.

M. J. Reis, stock of dry goods, $7,000; insurance $1,000.

Brockway & Parker, stock of groceries, $7,000; insurance $2,000.

H. P. Dunn, household goods and clothing, $1,500; insurance $300.

Citizens State bank, building, $6,000; insurance $3,000.

R. Parker, building, $5,000; insurance $1,000. Dry goods stock, $5,000; insurance $5,000. Household goods $1,000; no insurance.

Wm. Graham, sewing machines and graphophones [sic] [gramophones], $800; no insurance.

A. F. Sorenson’s loss will probably reach $200 to $250; insurance $300.

A. P. Reymond, damage to stock of jewelry, $100; covered by insurance.

The owners of the burned buildings all express themselves as intending to rebuild in the spring, and modern brick buildings will replace the burned structures. Of those who were burned out the following have already moved into temporary quarters: Citizens State bank, in Fitger building, corner Laurel and Eighth streets; R. Parker, O’Brien block, Laurel street; Wm. Graham, Ransford block, Sixth street; A. F. Sorenson, with Skauge Drug Co., 712 Laurel street; A. D. Polk, Ransford block.

Brockway & Parker have bought J. F. Dykeman’s stock of groceries and will continue the business at his stand.

M. J. Reis expects to be in business again inside of a month. He has rented the Zakariasen building, 716 Front street. (Brainerd Tribune, 25 January 1907, p. 1, c.’s 4 & 5)

SEE: Citizens State Bank in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Reilly Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

11 March



Ransford Was Saved but Upper

Story Was Gutted and the

Roof Burned




Expert Insurance Man Speaks

in High Terms of the Work

of the Fire Boys


R. R. Wise, damage to hotel building—loss $15,000; insurance Full

Thos. H. Beare, damage to furniture—loss $7,000; insurance Full

J. F. Murphy & Co., damaged clothing—loss $5,000; insurance Full

C. L. Burnett, jewelry damage—loss $500; insurance $3,000

J. A. McColl, confectionery—loss $1,000; insurance Full

Wm. Graham, musical instruments—loss $100; insurance None

P. M. Zakariasen, tailor—loss $150; insurance None

W. W. Latta, barber shop—loss $200; insurance $400

W. F. Host, warehouse—loss $3,000; insurance $1,500

W. F. Holst, machinery—loss $6,700; insurance $3,000

The fire which broke out in the Ransford hotel Monday at 2 o’clock was finally quenched, but not until heavy damage had been inflicted upon the east wing of the building and its contents. Almost the entire north half of the roof was destroyed. So much so, at least, that it will all have to come off and an entirely new one be put on, or practically so. The rooms on the third floor are badly damaged by fire, water and smoke and those on the second slightly damaged by fire and badly by smoke and water. The store rooms on the first floor were completely flooded, while the rooms in the basement were drenched and partially filled with water.

The fire was caused by the upsetting of a candle in the closet of Mrs. Thos. H. Beare’s apartments in the north end of the new part of the building. Mrs. Beare, who was in the room at the time immediately gave the alarm and Manager Geo. Trent, with an insurance man named Cornell, rushed upstairs and grabbing the fire extinguishers standing in the hall turned them on the blaze which was then confined entirely to the closet, but without effect. Others were brought until the contents of six had been used with absolutely no effect on the fire. Meantime the alarm had been turned in and the fire department summoned. By the time they got the line of hose laid the smoke was so dense that it was almost impossible to reach or find the flames which had run up the partitions onto the third floor and into the garret. It was only by the most stubborn work with four lines of hose that the fire was at last conquered, after it had burned its way through the roof in many places.

There was no lack of pressure throughout the entire fire, although at one time there were four streams playing on the Ransford and two on the Holst building.

Much of the contents of the rooms was removed to the main portion of the hotel and little was burned, though much was nearly or quite ruined by the water and smoke.

The boys were a little slow in getting at the fire for lack of long ladders on the hose wagon, but stuck to it manfully and saved the building only by heroic work. John B. Lee, an independent insurance adjuster, who happened to be in the city adjusting the loss on the property of the late Richard Ahrens in speaking to the DISPATCH regarding the fire, said that never in his entire experience had he seen braver or more determined work done than in the Ransford fire Monday. He said the volunteer boys, with imperfect apparatus, went into places from which veteran paid firemen would shrink, even if protected with the best of apparatus. He also spoke of the gallant work done in the way of salvage. The amounts of losses are at best but a crude estimate as yet and are about as follows, as given by the owners:

R. R. Wise estimates the damage to the building, including the damage to the main part from smoke at about $15,000. The entire building was insured for $25,000, and was worth over twice that amount. Mr. Beare’s loss is probably from $7,000 upwards and he has $12,000 insurance on the furniture of the hotel. Mr. Wise had his office on the second floor and everything in it and his bedroom adjoining was drenched and badly damaged. The law offices of A. D. Polk, Judge J. H. Warner and Geo. H. Gardner were also drenched, but these gentlemen got most of their belongings out before they were seriously damaged.

On the first floor the fixtures of the Ransford bar were badly demoralized by water. J. F. Murphy & Co. covered their clothing stock with tarpaulins, oilcloths and whatever was available and it is as yet hard to estimate the damage. The stock is valued at $10,000 and the loss is amply covered by insurance.

The jewelry stock of C. L. Burnett was moved out, except a couple of large wall cases and some other furniture. It was taken to the circle front store, just across the street and returned to its old location this morning.

Mrs. Grandelmyer suffered some loss in the moving out of her millinery stock, but it was all in a place of safety before the water began to come through the ceiling.

Wm. Graham moved his stock out and into neighboring buildings, but moved a part of it back later in the evening. He fixes his loss at about $100, with no insurance. Mr. Graham is especially unfortunate in that he suffered a severe loss in the fire on Seventh street in January last and had at that time no insurance. He intended taking it out in his new location but had as yet neglected to do so.

J. A. McColl’s Bazaar was severely wet down. Some of the goods were removed before the deluge came, but the damage will probably come close to $1,000. He carried $1,350 insurance on the stock.

The basement was occupied by W. W. Latta’s barber shop and P. M. Zakariasen’s tailor shop. Mr. Latta estimates his damage to his outfit by water, etc., at $200, with insurance of $300, while Mr. Zakariasen reports a damage of $150 with no insurance. Mr. Zakariasen has leased rooms on the second floor of the Walverman block and will reopen there at once.

F. G. Ohmert, and another worker whose name could not be learned were almost overcome while assisting in the Ransford fire. Mr. Ohmert lay flat on the floor for 20 minutes in the densest smoke, without a mouth protector, holding the hose, and when he got out he was scarcely able to walk or speak.

The boiler pits in both parts of the building were three feet deep in water when the fire was over and it was necessary to put a crew of men at work with pumps to remove the water so that the heating plants could be operated.

Mr. Wise set a crew of ten men at work and kept them at work the entire night and this morning had the floors entirely clear of water and several of the tenants commenced to move back into their old quarters.

The occupants of the offices in the south end of the building are all back in their old quarters today, as comfortable as if they had never to make a hurried exit. Mr. Wise moved his own office furniture out after the fire and cleaned up his office and moved back again this forenoon.

Mr. Wise lost no time in getting at the work of putting a new roof on the building and C. B. White was on hand this morning taking measurements and ordering material for the roof while a crew of his men was set to work tearing away the damaged roof.

The closet where the fire originated was at the south end of the hall on the second floor. A board partition had been put across out about two feet from the end of the hall so as to make a closet for the use of Mrs. Beare, who had her private apartments close by. One of the hotel girls was on her knees scrubbing the floor of the closet and in some way the flames caught the clothing hanging up and the room was all ablaze in an instant. The fire ate through into the partition on the floor above and in almost no time the cock-loft or garret was afire. From there the fire spread to the entire north end of the roof and burned through the roof before the water was of much avail. A line of hose was carried to the top of the main part of the hotel and with two or three carried in at the windows and up the stairs simply drowned the fire out.


W. F. Holst places the value of his building [811 Front Street] at $3,000 with an insurance of $1,500. On stock his loss was $6,700 according to an inventory taken only a couple of weeks ago and he had $3,000 insurance thereon. Mr. Holst states that he has not the slightest idea how the fire could have caught as there has never been any fire in the part of the building where it was first discovered so far as he knows. The warehouse was locked up but the office was open, he having just gone up to see the Ransford fire. When he got back the entire building was a mass of flames and other parties had got out his safe and some of the office furniture before he arrived, also a small amount of machinery. There was considerable apprehension felt for a little while lest the heat of the fire should explode the big gasoline storage tanks of the Standard Oil company which is situated just west of the machinery warehouse. Thanks to a favorable wind the snow was not even melted off the tops of the big tanks. Had they exploded the damage would have been almost incredibly great and some loss of life would doubtless have occurred. As it was there were no serious injuries.


The following is the insurance, so far as can be learned as carried by the various agencies in the city:

Wm. Nelson

Wise building—$10,000

Keene & McFadden

J. F. Murphy & Co.—$3,000

C. L. Burnett—$300

Thos. H. Beare, furniture—$1,000

Smith Brothers

Wise building—$7,500

Thos. H. Beare, furniture—$1,000

J. F. Murphy & Co.—$500

Henry I. Cohen

J. F. Murphy & Co.—$1,000

Wise building—$2,500

Thos. H. Beare, hotel furniture—$3,000

W. W. Latta, barber shop—$400

T. C. Blewitt

J. A. McColl—$1,000

M. E. Ryan

J. F. Murphy & Co.—$2,000

(Brainerd Dispatch, 15 March 1907, p. 1, c.’s 1-3)

Little Blazes

Mrs. Thos. H. Beare is almost prostrated by the fire and excitement.

A standpipe and hose would have paid for themselves a thousand times over at the Ransford.

Despite the fire the Ransford was doing business at the old stand last night and the dining room was well filled.

Mayor Wise gave the entire building up for gone at one time and made the remark that he saved a suit of clothes out of his office this time which was more than he did the last fire.

Geo. Trent says he must be a hoodoo. This is the third hotel fire he has been in during the past few years. One at Long Prairie, the burning of the Arlington and this fire. He hopes, however, that the old rule of three times and out will prove true and that the hoodoo is now broken. (Brainerd Dispatch, 15 March 1907, p. 1, c. 3)



Big Hotel Is Badly Dam-

aged by Fire.


W. F. Holst’s Machinery Warehouse

and Stock Also Burned.


The elegant Ransford hotel, the pride of Brainerd, narrowly escaped total destruction by fire on Monday afternoon, and for a couple of hours or so, when the fine structure appeared to be doomed, the excitement was intense. As it was the building was badly damaged.

About 2 p. m. a girl employed in the hotel, while engaged in some household work in the apartments of Mrs. Thos. Beare, wife of the proprietor of the hotel, on the second floor, accidentally overturned a lighted lamp in a closet, setting fire to a lot of clothing hanging there. The flames spread rapidly, and the fire worked its way up to the third floor and thence to the roof. The firemen soon had three streams of water playing on the burning building, but little headway seemed to be made. Smoke was issuing from the windows on the Sixth street side of the building, and soon great volumes of black smoke rose from the roof. It was thought by many that nothing could save the building, but the firemen, aided by many willing volunteers, made a stubborn fight for over two hours and were finally rewarded with success.

The roof of the east wing of the hotel is almost a total loss and the rooms on the third floor are badly damaged. The damage by fire on the second floor is not so great, but the rooms were deluged with water, and of course considerable damage was done both by water and smoke.

The Ransford was built about two years ago by R. R. Wise, at a cost of something like $50,000, and it is considered one of the finest hotels in the state outside of the Twin Cities and Duluth. It is difficult to estimate the damage to the property, but conservative judges place it at from $7,000 to $8,000, and possibly more. Fortunately, the loss is fully covered by insurance.

Mr. Beare’s loss in hotel furniture, etc., is roughly estimated at from $2,000 to $2,500, which is also insured.

The occupants of the store rooms on the first floor mostly succeeded in removing their property to a place of safety before great damage was done by the water, though J. F. Murphy & Co., the clothing merchants, sustained considerable loss from this cause. The damage to the Murphy stock will run from $2,000 to $3,000; fully insured. The following also sustained slight losses: C. L. Burnett, jeweler; J. A. McColl, fruit and confectionery store; Wm. Graham, music store; Mrs. C. Grandelmyer, millinery store; P. M. Zakariasen, merchant tailor (basement); and W. W. Latta, Ransford barber shop (basement); all fully insured except Mr. Graham, whose loss is about $100.

A. D. Polk, J. H. Warner and Geo. H. Gardner, whose law offices were on the second floor, also moved out of the building. Their losses by water and moving, are small.

The occupants of the store rooms have returned to their former quarters and are again doing business “at the old stand.”

While the hotel fire was at its worst the excitement was intensified by the discovery that W. F. Holst’s agricultural machinery warehouse, on East Front street, nearly three blocks away, was wrapped in flames. This was a wooden structure and burned so rapidly that it was soon in ruins, notwithstanding the gallant efforts of the firemen to quench the flames. Mr. Holst’s loss on the building is placed at $3,000, with $1,500 insurance; on stock, $6,700 with $3,000 insurance.

The origin of the warehouse fire is a mystery. The flames had gained great headway when discovered and a stiff wind blowing at the time it was feared they might communicate with the oil tanks nearby and cause an explosion, when the results would have been disastrous in the extreme.

Altogether, it was a pretty lively afternoon for a “blue Monday” in our usually quiet city. (Brainerd Tribune, 15 March 1907, p. 1, c. 5)

SEE: 30 January 1905

SEE: 21 October 1929

SEE: Bly’s Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Ransford Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

25 June



Sleeper Block Gutted With Loss of $61,000—Clothing Merchants Suffer Heaviest Loss.

BRAINERD, Minn., June 27.—The Sleeper block of this city was gutted by fire last [sic] evening. The building was occupied by the Brainerd Dispatch and Smith Bros., a law firm. Frank Drosky, clothing and John Carlson, clothing.

The Drosky suffered a loss of $13,000, insurance $8,000; the Carlson loss $28,000, insurance $15,000. The Dispatch saved its forms, mailing galleys, books, etc., and will issue today as usual. The loss is $5,000, insurance $2,000. Smith Bros., office furniture was all removed. The building was solid brick worth $15,000, insurance on which was $10,000. (Minneapolis Tribune, 27 June 1907, p. 1)



The Loss on Stock and Buildings Will be Close to

Sixty Thousand Dollars—Insurance in the

Neighborhood of $36,000




John Carlson, Frank Drosky, the Dispatch and the

Sleeper Estate the Heavy Losers

Sleeper Block, ca. 1882. A 1563x1721 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

One of the heaviest fires for some time put the Sleeper block out of commission Tuesday evening destroying the Sleeper block and the clothing stocks of John Carlson and Frank Drosky and the printing plant of THE BRAINERD DAILY AND WEEKLY DISPATCH.

The fire was discovered by John Carlson, who was in the store attending to some correspondence. He heard the roaring and crackling of the flames and on investigation found the flames coming out of the rear end of the basement of Frank Drosky’s clothing store, which occupied the east store room in the building. He immediately gave the alarm, and the fire department responded promptly, but the basement did not extend under the one story addition which was erected three years ago and the smoke was too thick to permit anyone to enter the store. The fire spread through the basement despite all the fire boys could do and though they fought it stubbornly they could make no headway against it. About half past eleven the presses of THE DISPATCH, which were in the rear end of the second story part, over Carlson’s clothing store, went through into the basement and it was then easier to get at the flames which were making a seething furnace of the clothing store below. After fighting it a half hour or so longer it became evident that the flames would be continued to that building and R. J. Holden, who had commenced to move the stock out of his Buffet saloon adjoining, suspended the work.

Nothing was saved from the clothing store of John Carlson, and but very little from that of Frank Drosky. The office furniture, the forms of THE DAILY DISPATCH and a couple of cases of body type were saved, together with the files of the DAILY and WEEKLY DISPATCH and the mailing list. The books were also saved. The only printing material saved, besides the forms and type above referred to was the new staple binder recently purchased, which was standing near the door and was carried out.

The material saved was removed to temporary quarters in the Dressen building on South Sixth street across the hall from the Tribune office, where the paper is being issued today through the courtesy of the Brainerd Tribune and Brainerd Arena, who kindly offered the use of their plants.

It was found this morning that a small portion of the stock in the rear end of the clothing stores was not burned but it was badly damaged by water and smoke and is comparatively worthless.

The origin of the fire is an utter mystery. There was some shelving, etc., belonging to J. F. McGinnis, stored in the rear end of the basement and Mr. Drosky says there was some rubbish there, but there had been no fire in the basement for many weeks. There were many rats in the basement and Mr. Drosky’s theory is that they gnawed the insulation off some of the basement electric wires and thus caused the fire.

Sleeper Block, ca. Unknown. A 1110x1854 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

The Sleeper block was one of the landmarks of Brainerd and was the oldest brick building in the city. It was built in the fall of 1881 by the late Col. C. B. Sleeper. The next year the First National bank block was built and a couple of years later the building occupied by Holden’s Buffet was erected, using the solid brick walls of the two buildings already erected.

The building was the home of THE BRAINERD DISPATCH during the entire life of the building, having moved in there within a month of the completion of the building. Conklin, Clark & Co. were tenants of one store room in the building and D. M. Clark & Co. remained there for a long time after Mr. Conklin sold his interest in the firm. Henry I. Cohen was also a tenant of the building for a long time.

At the time of the fire the store rooms were occupied, one by John Carlson with a stock of clothing worth at least $28,000 and the other by Frank Drosky, with a $13,000 stock of clothing. The upstairs was occupied by THE DISPATCH, which had the west half, and Smith Brothers, who occupied offices in the front end of the east half. The rear of the east half was used for storage by THE DISPATCH and Smith Bros., and Mrs. Boies, formerly, Mrs. C. B. Sleeper, had considerable household furniture in this room.

Sleeper Estate, loss $18,000, insurance $12,000

John Carlson, loss $28,000, insurance $15,000

Frank Drosky, loss $13,000, insurance $8,000

Brainerd Dispatch, loss $5,000, insurance $3,000

Smith Bros., loss $100

There was water damage to occupants of other buildings as follows:

Mrs. C. Grandelmeyer, building, loss $750

Mrs. L. M. Koop, smoke and water, loss $250

H. F. Michael, water in basement, loss $200

H. W. Linnemann, water in basement, loss $500

Mrs. S. Koop, building basement flooded, loss $750

R. D. Holden, water and smoke, loss $1,000

All of these as well as the loss of Smith Bros. are fully covered by insurance. The Bohemian club lost its entire equipment and had no insurance.


Fire Notes

Fire Chief Johnson, who gave out and had to taken home from the fire is able to be around today, but has to wear blue glasses yet.

The cellars of the Walverman and Grandelmeyer blocks were pumped out yesterday and in the Bohemian club rooms in the basement of the former block the hard maple floor is humped up at least a foot.

Henry Linnemann was busy when seen this morning making a list of the stuff he had in the basement which was damaged by fire. He says it is a nasty mess at best.

John Carlson removed the salvage from his store to the Mahlum block, where he is drying it out.

Frank Drosky has placed the remnants of his stock of goods in the room in the Walker block, formerly occupied by Mann Bros.

Smith Brothers are pleasantly located in offices in the Walverman block. (Brainerd Dispatch, 28 June 1907, p. 1, c.’s 1-3)



Gutted by Destructive Fire

Wednesday [sic] Night.


Heavy Loss Also Sustained by

Tenants of Building.


Brainerd seems to be particularly unfortunate in suffering heavily from disastrous fires, which of late years have been of frequent occurrence, and a great deal of valuable property has been destroyed. On Tuesday [sic] evening the greater part of the Sleeper block on Front street, one of the finest and most substantial business blocks in the city, was gutted by the devouring element, and a heavy loss was sustained by the owners of the building and the tenants, which is only partially covered by insurance.

The fire started early in the evening in the basement of the building, under Frank Drosky’s clothing and gents’ furnishings store. How it originated will perhaps never be known but it is thought by many that rats gnawed the insulation of some of the basement electric wires and thus caused the fire. There was some shelving belonging to J. F. McGinnis stored in the rear end of the basement, and also some boxes and rubbish generally there, but Mr. Drosky states that there had been no fire in his basement for many weeks.

The stores were closed for the day, but John Carlson was in his office; writing a letter, and thinking he smelled something burning; he proceeded to investigate with the result that he discovered smoke issuing from the rear end of the basement of the Drosky store. He at once gave the alarm and the fire department responded promptly, but the basement did not extend under the one-story addition to the building which was erected three years ago, and the smoke was by this time so thick and heavy that it was exceedingly dangerous for anyone to attempt to enter the store.

The fire spread through the basement, owing to the inability of the firemen to get at it on account of the dense smoke. If it could have been located at the start its further progress could have been checked, but that awful pall of heavy black smoke prevented this. The firemen worked hard and did everything possible, but all they could do was to confine the destruction to the Sleeper building, which under the circumstances was doing very well.

The Sleeper block was occupied on the ground floor by John Carlson’s and Frank Drosky’s clothing stores and R. J. Holden’s Buffet saloon, and on the second floor, over the two clothing stores, were the printing plant of the Daily and Weekly Dispatch and Smith Bros. real estate and insurance offices. All of the building was gutted, and only the walls left standing, except that part occupied by the saloon, which sustained considerable damage. Mr. Holden moved a part of his stock out of the saloon, but moved it back again and is occupying his place of business as usual.

John Carlson will probably be the heaviest loser. His stock of clothing was valued at $27,000, and was insured for $15,000.

Frank Drosky’s loss is estimated at $13,000, with but $8,000 insurance.

Nothing was saved from Mr. Carlson’s store, and but little from Drosky’s.

Messrs. Ingersoll & Wieland of the Daily Dispatch saved their office furniture, the forms of the daily paper, two or three cases of type, the files of the daily and weekly, the books and accounts and the mailing list; also a new staple binder which had been recently purchased. All else is a total loss, and will amount to perhaps $5,000 upon which they carried $3,000 insurance.

The Daily Dispatch appeared as usual the next evening, however, the enterprising proprietors having found temporary quarters in the Dressen building on Sixth street, adjoining THE TRIBUNE office, and the paper is for the present printed in THE TRIBUNE office. They expect however, to soon have a complete new outfit and be in better shape than ever to handle their business.

The Sleeper block was owned by the Sleeper heirs. Their loss is placed at $18,000 with $12,000 insurance. The building was erected by the late C. B. Sleeper in 1881 and was one of the first brick blocks put up in the city.

Smith Bros.’ loss was about $100, which was covered by insurance. They have secured rooms in the Walverman block.

There was also considerable damage from water and smoke to occupants of adjoining buildings, which are estimated as follows:

Mrs. C. Grandelmeyer, building, $600.

Mrs. L. M. Koop, smoke and water, $200.

H. F. Michael, water in basement, $200.

H. W. Linnemann, water in basement, $400.

Mrs. S. Koop, building basement flooded, $600.

R. J. Holden, water and smoke, $600.

These losses are fully covered by insurance.

The handsome furniture and furnishings of the Bohemian club; in the basement of the Walverman block, were ruined.

It is said that the burned building will be immediately replaced by a handsome modern structure. (Brainerd Tribune, 28 June 1907, p. 1, c.’s 5-6)

SEE: 25 January 1924

SEE: Sleeper Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


13 February



Store of A. L. Hoffman & Co.,

Central Hotel and Molstad’s

Tailor Shop Burned




Loss Will Aggregate About $25,-

000 with Insurance of Less

Than $16,000

Another landmark passed away Saturday night when the Hoffman building at the corner of Laurel and Sixth streets was totally destroyed by fire. The building, which was about 50 by 100 feet and two stories in height had long been occupied by Mr. Hoffman as a hardware and furniture store and contained a large stock of goods at the time of its destruction. The cause of the fire is not positively known, but the fire undoubtedly came from one of the three stoves used in heating the building and probably from one on the second floor, where the fire originated. The flames not only destroyed this building, together with its contents, but also that of Iver Holden, with a part of its contents, and that of Jens Molstad. The last named building is still standing but is so badly damaged that it is a question whether or not the city authorities will permit it to be rebuilt.

The night was a cold one and the fire boys made a very strong, though disagreeable fight against the flames. At one time it was feared that the fire could not be kept from other adjoining buildings but this was finally done.

At first it was thought that the Hoffman building could be saved, otherwise some of the stock could have been gotten out, but after it became evident that the building must go it was impossible to get out but a part of the contents of that building. Much of the contents of the Holden building was saved, and practically all that was in the Molstad building, which was indeed fortunate as both of these gentlemen had very light insurance, the rate on that group of buildings being $80 per $1,000.

Mr. Hoffman’s building was valued by him at $8,000, with an insurance of $4,500. His stock of goods was valued at $11,000 and he had $7,000 insurance thereon and $500 on fixtures.

Mr. Holden expresses himself as unable to accurately estimate his loss as yet. His bar fixtures and much of the household furniture were destroyed. He had a total insurance of $3,000 which will not nearly cover the loss. Mr. Molstad had $700 insurance on his building and none on his stock. The stock was all removed but was of course damaged somewhat in the removal.

Chas. W. Hoffman, in speaking to a DISPATCH representative regarding the origin of the fire, said that he and his father left the building about 10 o’clock and went to the opera house, listened to the last act of “Dick’s Honeymoon” and went from there to R. D. King’s store. While there they heard the alarm and followed the fire team to the fire not knowing where it was located until they reached there. R. L. Weeks, who is employed by Mr. Hoffman as a bicycle repairer, had left the store about 9 o'clock and gone to the Central hose house, where he remained until somewhat after ten when he left for his home on the south side. As he passed the store he went in and got an ax he had been fixing and started to his home, but before he reached there he heard the fire bell, dropped the ax in the snow, ran back to the fire. Mr. Weeks states that it could not have been over five minutes from the time that he left the store until the alarm was turned in. There was no sign of fire when he left and this adds to the strength of the theory that the fire started from the stove on the second floor. Charles Hoffman states that when he reached the store, and opened it to let the firemen in, the flames were just working their way down through the ceiling in one or two spots.

The fire boys were strengthened for their fight by sandwiches and hot coffee furnished them by W. H. Koop, and for which the boys are very grateful.

Mr. Hoffman states that he will not rebuild at once unless someone desires store room on that corner. In that event he would rebuild as soon as possible.

He has established temporary headquarters at the office of the Brainerd Ice Company, just south of the site of his burned structure. Mr. Holden and Mr. Molstad have their goods stored in the Gardner block, but whether or not they will open in business at once, and if so where is not known. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 15 February 1909, p. 3, c. 1)

NOTE: Hoffman’s building was located on the southwest corner of Laurel and Sixth Streets. The Central Hotel was located next to Hoffman on the south side of Laurel Street.



A. L. Hoffman Expects to Erect

a Reinforced Concrete

Business Block




Is Not Yet Certain as to Tenants

and Wishes to Finish to

Suit Occupants

A. L. Hoffman announces that he will erect a block on the site of his recently burned building on the corner of Laurel and Sixth streets some time this season. The building will be the first of its kind to be erected in Brainerd. It will be of concrete reinforced with steel. He is yet undecided as to whether he will make it two or three stories in height. The walls, however, will be built strong enough to carry a four story building, should it become desirable or necessary in the future.

He states that the building will be very plain but it will be practically indestructible. He does not know as yet when he will commence construction, but probably will not do so until rather late in the season. He states that he is not yet certain as to who will occupy the building, though he has had applications for more space than he will have, and he is delaying on his plans so as to plan the building to suit permanent tenants. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 24 March 1909, p. 3, c. 1)



C. B. Rowley Secures Contract

for Erection of Saloon and

Hotel Building




Building Will be Two Stories

with Full Basement and 103

Feet in Depth

Iver Holden, whose hotel and restaurant building which was destroyed by fire a few months ago has let the contract for a new structure. It will be 25 by 105 feet in size, two stories and basement, of solid brick, with pressed brick front. The building when completed, which will be about July 15, will be occupied by Mr. Holden for a hotel and saloon. The contract has been given to C. B. Rowley. The work of removing the debris of the burned structure and of the sheds in the rear is progressing rapidly and work on the structure itself will commence at once. A. L. Hoffman, whose building adjoining the Holden property was destroyed at the same time, has not yet determined when he will commence work rebuilding. When he does, however, the building will be 50 by 125 either two or three stories in height and containing five stores facing on Laurel street, according to Mr. Hoffman’s present intentions. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 24 April 1909, p. 3, c. 2)

C. B. Rowley has a crew of men at work excavating for Iver Holden’s new business block. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 07 May 1909, p. 2, c. 3)

A. L. Hoffman has a crew of men at work cleaning up the sight of his former building at the corner of Sixth and Laurel streets. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 07 May 1909, p. 2, c. 4)

Contractor C. B. Rowley is pushing the work on the walls to the Iver Holden block and they are now nearly up to the second story. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 11 June 1909, p. 2, c. 3)

28 October



Columbian Block, Two Frame Buildings

and One Brick Veneer

Are Destroyed




Total Loss by Fire and Water and

Removal Will Not be Far

From $200,000

Columbian Block built by W. D. McKay in 1893.
Source: Brainerd Tribune

One of the most disastrous fires that has visited Brainerd in years occurred Thursday. Smoke was discovered about 5:30 o’clock in the Columbian block, one of the largest and best buildings in Brainerd. It apparently came from the hardware and furniture store of D. M. Clark & Co., but a search there revealed nothing but smoke. After some search the fire was discovered to be in the drug store of M. K. Swartz, adjoining. The room was then so full of smoke that it was impossible to locate the fire or to enter the building. Meantime the flames spread through the partitions of the building, which was of brick, with wooden partitions and floors. The fire broke through about 7 o'clock, and by 8 o’clock the building had fallen in. The Odd Fellows building adjoining caught from the roof and was completely gutted. From there the fire spread rapidly to the wooden buildings just south of the Columbian block and they were soon a seething mass of flames.

From the Columbian block the flames spread to the warehouse of D. M. Clark & Co., in the rear and from there caught the building owned by J. C. Jamieson, facing on Fifth street. This was totally destroyed.

The Ransford hotel was afire both on the roof and in the basement, and was only saved by a most stubborn fight by the firemen.

A view of the fire from behind the Swartz Drugstore, 1909.
Source: Brainerd Public Library and the Crow Wing County Historical Society Legacy Program

Had the boys not been successful in stopping the blaze in the Ransford hotel there is no telling where it would have stopped, it is safe to say that the total damage would have reached the half million mark as the entire half block would have gone and probably the Park opera house, the Y. M. C. A. and the fire house.

The contents of every building on the block except the Salvation Army hall were damaged and all were in serious danger for some time. The saving of the lower floors of the Odd Fellows’ hall was only accomplished by almost super-human effort.

Silas Hall’s residence on the north side, was afire from the sparks and the opera house was ablaze in several places.

The losses and insurance so far as can be ascertained at this time are approximately as follows:

Columbian block, owned by W. D. McKay, valued at $50,000, insurance $25,000.

D. M. Clark & Co., hardware, furniture and undertaking, loss $20,000 to $22,000; insurance $10,000 to $12,000.

M. K. Swartz, drug store, loss $14,000; insurance $8,000.

R. R. Wise, two frame buildings, loss $5,000; insurance $3,500.

Ransford hotel, owned by R. R. Wise, loss from $15,000 to $20,000, largely from water. Loss covered by insurance.

Thomas H. Beare, proprietor of the hotel business, has lost heavily. All the furniture in the main part of the hotel is thoroughly drenched with water and the hotel was entirely put out of business.

Mrs. Billings, who had just started in the restaurant business in the building just south of the Columbian block, lost everything, her loss being probably $1000.

City Hotel owned by J. T. Sanborn, ca. 1892.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

The City hotel was afire at one time and the building was filled with smoke and flooded with water. It is owned by Thomas [sic] J. Sanborn and occupied by James Smith. The loss to Mr. Smith will be heavy, not only because of damage to furniture, but because of loss of business. J [sic]. T [sic]. Sanborn says that it is the only fire proof building in the city.

The Odd Fellows’ building was owned by the lodge of that order, and cost them $16,000. The roof was burned off and the interior was gutted. The loss will be close to $5,000, and is said to have been covered by insurance. The Odd Fellows, the Grand Army of the Republic and the machinists, who occupied the second story for lodge purposes, lost all their paraphernalia. Their losses are hard to estimate at present but will run well into the thousands of dollars.

The various Masonic bodies had their quarters in the third floor in the Columbian building and all their paraphernalia was destroyed. The Knights of Pythias were also in the Masonic hall and lost everything. They are having the lodge rooms in the Citizen’s State Bank building prepared for their occupancy, but had not yet moved into them.

Richard Ahrens and family lost nearly all their household furniture. Carl Brockway and family also lost their household goods.

The Northwestern Telephone Exchange Company’s cable running up the alley beside the Odd Fellows’ block was ruined, and together with a loss of about 15 telephones will give them a loss of nearly or quite $3,000. It is of course covered by blanket insurance.

The city was also a heavy loser by the destruction of electric light wire, transformers, etc.

During the fire in the Columbian block several cans of powder exploded with loud reports and there was a perfect fusillade of shotgun cartridges lasting nearly half an hour.




The fire had undoubtedly been smoldering in the partitions of the building for nearly 24 hours. When M. K. Swartz came down and opened his store on Wednesday morning he thought he detected the odor of burning pine. He and Judd Wright made a thorough search of the building and could find no sign of fire, nor was the odor noticeable after the building had been aired out.

A valuable bull terrier belonging to Ralph Mooney, the undertaker for D. M. Clark & Co., was suffocated in the store. The dog could have been gotten out had it been known that he was there, as several men, including Mr. Clark, were close to the dog, but he was asleep and did not make his presence known until too late. He was chained in the rear of the store.

W. D. McKay, the owner of the Columbian block, in which the fire started is in bed as the result of a runaway accident a week or more ago.

There was about 100 pounds of dynamite stored in the rear of D. M. Clark & Co.’s but was taken out before the fire reached the building.

The Lord takes care of his own—the Salvation Army building did not catch fire, though not far from the path of the flames.

The front of the building occupied by Andy Hefferin [sic], where it extends above the building, caught fire at one time, but it was extinguished.

The Hibernians, at their meeting last night, appropriated $20 for the Johnson Memorial fund and it would have been turned over to the Dispatch today but for the fire, which destroyed their lodge hall, and ensuing confusion. It will probably be turned over tomorrow and will be formally acknowledged in connection with the fund.

Fire consumes the M. K. Swartz Drugstore.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Every glass front on South Sixth street, between the alley and Laurel street on the east side of the street was broken by the heat and the windows in Houghton’s jewelry store suffered the same fate.

Judd Wright lost all the valuable data and engineer’s reports he had regarding the Crow Wing dam proposition. He saved the company’s books, and could have saved his papers but went to see to closing the gates on the water system and when he returned it was too smokey to get into the building.

Luckily no one was seriously hurt during the fire. Verne White kicked in the window of Clark’s store and a big piece of plate glass fell on his leg bruising it badly but he kept in the fight all day just the same. A. P. Riggs was overcome with smoke in the Columbian block and had to be carried out, but soon revived. One of the Ransford clerks was also overcome, but soon got all right after getting into the open air.

The clerks in the postoffice stayed until the flames began to lick in around the windows and then they moved out, taking the letter mail and valuable records with them.




Report that the Remains of Harry

Robinson were Cremated in

Fire is Untrue

There was a report current this forenoon that the remains of the late Harry Robinson, who died Sunday night, were cremated in the basement of the Columbian block. Such however was not the case. They were taken from the building at almost the very first and were removed to Clark’s warehouse, where they now are.


W. D. McKay, loss $50,000, insurance $25,000

D. M. Clark & Co., loss $20,000, insurance $10,005

M. K. Swartz, loss $14,000, insurance $8,000

R. R. Wise, Horseshoe and Erb buildings, loss $5,000, insurance $3,500

Ransford Hotel, loss $20,000, insurance covered

Odd Fellows’ Block, loss $5,000, insurance $8,000

Thos. H. Beare, furniture Ransford, by water, loss $15,000

Keene Building, loss $1,000, insurance covered

First National Bank, loss $500, insurance covered

Brainerd Dispatch, loss $300, insurance covered

United States, damage to P. O. fixtures, loss $500

Knights of Pythias, loss $800, insurance $300

Black Hawks, loss $800, insurance $450

Pythian Sisters, loss $300, insurance $200

J. C. Jamieson, loss $5,000, insurance $2,000

R. D. King, loss $300, insurance covered

F. A. Farrar, Marks building, loss $500, insurance covered

Bijou Theatre, loss $1,000

City Hotel, loss $1,500

James Smith, loss $3,000

Axel Johnson, Billiard hall, loss $200

Iver Holden, plate glass, loss $150, insurance covered

Jens Molstad, plate glass and front, loss $200, insurance covered

Grand Army Post, loss $200, insurance none

Mrs. Billings, Restaurant, loss $1,000, insurance $500

H. McGinn, building, loss $100, insurance covered

Nick Lauer, restaurant and Saloon, loss $4,000, insurance $2,700

R. R. Wise, Towne-McFadden block, loss $3,000, insurance covered

C. F. Beugnot, household goods, loss $500, insurance none

Richard Ahrens, household goods, loss $100

Carl Brockway, household goods, loss $800

City Engineer’s Records, loss $5,000

Dr. Hoorn, et al, loss $200

J. F. Murphy & Co., removal and smoke, loss $1,800, insurance covered

C. L. Burnett, loss $500

Geo. West, loss $200

Aurora Lodge A. F. & A. M., loss $3,500, insurance $2,000

Brainerd Chapter R. A. M., loss $1,000, insurance $600

Ascalon Commandry, loss $2,000, insurance $600

Alpha Chapter O. E. S., loss $500, insurance $200

Zabud Council R. & S. M., loss $500, insurance none

Unity Lodge, costumes and furniture, loss $1,700, insurance $1,000

Pocahontas lodge, loss $250, insurance $150

Ideal Cafe, loss $500

Red Men, loss $425, insurance $250

Hibernians, loss $500, insurance none

Northwestern Telephone Co., loss $3,000, insurance covered

Beside the above there were a number of lodges meeting in the three halls whose officers cannot be located at this time. The loss of these organizations will probably reach into the thousands of dollars. (Brainerd Dispatch, 29 October 1909, p. 1, c.’s 2-5)

Great Fire in Business District


Columbian Block, Odd Fellows’ Block,

And Other Buildings Destroyed.


Other Buildings Damaged


Total Loss by Fire and Water

Will Exceed $150,000.


Another view of the fire in the M. K. Swartz Drugstore.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Again has Brainerd been visited with a disastrous conflagration. It is of course impossible at the time this article is written to give an accurate estimate of the approximate value of the property destroyed in yesterday morning’s fire, but that it will reach $150,000 to $160,000 at least is a conservative opinion. Many place the aggregate loss at a much higher figure. The amount of insurance carried by each individual loser has not yet been positively ascertained in detail, but it seems safe to venture the assertion that the total insurance will amount to but little, if any, more than the actual loss. It is indeed a severe blow to our city.

The buildings destroyed include the handsome Columbian block on Sixth street, built in 1892 by W. D. McKay at a cost of $45,000 to $50,000; the Odd Fellows’ building, a two-story brick adjoining on the north in which was the postoffice; two two-story frame buildings on the south, owned by R. R. Wise; and a two story brick building just west of the Odd Fellows’ building, on Fifth street, owned by J. C. Jamieson and occupied as a saloon and dwelling by Ray Warren. The roof of the Ransford hotel was on fire several times and was badly damaged. Indeed every building in the hotel block on Front street from Sixth street to Fifth street, was more or less damaged by fire and water, the damage being quite serious in the City hotel, both from fire and water. The damage to the Ransford hotel building will be considerable, and the loss of Mr. Thos. Beare, the lessee, will undoubtedly go into the thousands. It is believed, however, that all are protected by ample insurance.

The fire originated in the basement of the Columbian block, but its origin [cause] is unknown. At 12:30 a. m. the department was called to the restaurant of Mrs. Martha Billings, in a frame structure adjoining the Columbian block on the south, where a small fire was promptly extinguished with but little damage. A second alarm was sent in at 5:45 a. m., fire having been discovered in the basement of M. K. Swartz’s drug store in the Columbian block.

Another view of the fire behind the Columbian Block, 1909.
Source: Brainerd Public Library and the Crow Wing County Historical Society Legacy Program

It was difficult to locate the fire, which in the meantime was spreading rapidly, and though the fire department worked hard and did the best they could it was soon seen that the building was doomed. In a short time the entire structure was burning, and it was one of the ugliest and hottest fires ever experienced in our city—a seething furnace of fiery flames, the heat from which set on fire buildings on the opposite side of Sixth street. McGinn & Smith’s meat market took fire from this cause, but the fire was checked by the vigilance of the firemen. Every building on this side of Sixth street, opposite the Columbian block, from the First National bank block to Laurel street, was damaged by the blistering heat, which scorched the fronts and shattered the glass in windows and doors.

Practically nothing was saved from the big Columbian block. On the first floor D. M. Clark & Co.’s large hardware and furniture store and undertaking rooms occupied two big connected store rooms and full basement, which were crowded with goods to the value of perhaps $20,000 or $25,000. Another large store room in this building was occupied by M. K. Swartz’s drug store, with probably $12,000 to $14,000 of stock. On the second floor were the offices of the Minnesota Water Co., A. P. Riggs’ insurance office, the rooms of the Black Hawk club, and the remainder of the rooms were in flats. The books of the Water company were saved, but Mr. Wright, the manager lost his water power reports and engineers’ surveys, which cost him $1,400. Mr. Riggs saved nothing from his office, and the Black Hawk boys saved very little. There were three of the flats occupied, viz: By Richard Ahrens and family, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Brockway, and the third by a trio of bachelors, F. E. Stout, Dr. K. H. Hoorn and A. W. Northrop. The Black Hawk club lost a fine piano, a billiard table, and all their richly upholstered furniture. Mr. and Mrs. Brockway, were absent from home and lost everything in their rooms.

On the third floor of the Columbian block were the lodge rooms of the various Masonic and Knights of Pythias bodies, the Red Men, Forester, Maccabees and Hibernians and auxiliary organizations. All the lodges lost regalia, lodge paraphernalia, etc. In the Masonic hall were the beautiful Chapter robes, the uniforms of the Knights Templar, and lodge furniture and paraphernalia which cost probably $2,000 but they saved nothing but their lodge charters. Each lodge, it is presumed, carried some insurance, so that the loss will not in every case be total.

Charles Beugnot, printer, with his family occupied rooms on the fourth [sic] floor of the Columbian block. All his household goods were lost, without any insurance.

A view of the fire behind the Columbian Block, 1909.
Source: Brainerd Public Library and the Crow Wing County Historical Society Legacy Program

It was expected of course that the two wooden buildings adjoining on the south would soon go; and yet the Odd Fellows’ building was in equal danger and was the first to suffer. This fine building was erected by the Odd Fellows of the city some 26 years ago. The postoffice was on the first floor, G. A. Raymond’s barber shop in the basement, and the second story was used as a lodge room. Besides the Odd Fellows, there were lodges of the Yeomen, Samaritans, the G. A. R., W. R. C., and others; having their home here. The building was valued at about $9,000 to $10,000. The mail and a part of the office furniture was safely removed from the postoffice; the handsome fixtures and much other valuable property were destroyed. Mr. Raymond saved a part of his furniture, but lost his fixtures; he carried no insurance. Very little of the lodge furniture and paraphernalia upstairs was saved. Only the walls of the building are left standing.

Interior of the Horseshoe Bar & Restaurant operated by Nicholas Lauer, his wife Lena, is behind the bar, September 1909. The building was located at 224 South Sixth Street and burned to the ground on 28 October 1909 in the Columbian Block fire. A 1288x800 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

The first of the two wooden buildings was occupied by Mrs. Martha Billings’ restaurant, the next, on the corner of Sixth and Laurel streets, by Nick Lauer’s saloon and his Horse-Shoe restaurant. Both these buildings, owned by R. R. Wise, were burned to the ground. Both places had recently been painted and decorated and nicely fitted up. The buildings together were worth something like $5,000 or $6,000, and were well insured. But little was saved by either Mr. Lauer or Mrs. Billings.

The building burned on Fifth street was owned by J. C. Jamieson and valued at $5,000. On the first floor was Ray Warren’s saloon, and Mr. Warren and family lived up stairs. This building was also burned to the ground and but little personal property was saved.

Aftermath of the fire.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

It was only by the very hardest work on the part of the firemen that the magnificent Ransford hotel block was saved. And but for the double brick wall between the Columbian and Odd Fellows’ blocks, which to some extent checked the rapid progress of the devouring flames in that direction, it is certain that all the heroic efforts of the gallant fire laddies would have been unavailing, and the entire block from Sixth street to Fifth street would have been swept away. Many were of the opinion that the hotel could not be saved, and nearly all the occupants of the block, anticipating the worst, moved all their portable property to places of safety. But fortunately this magnificent structure, the pride of our city, was saved from destruction, though left in a badly damaged condition. The rear of all the buildings fronting on Front street between Fifth and Sixth were damaged to some extent by fire and water, the Towne-McFadden block, the City hotel and the Bijou theatre being the heaviest sufferers.

The excitement on the streets during the progress of the devouring flames was most intense, and hundreds of excited people crowded the business centre of the city. To add to the general excitement and confusion, at a time when the firemen had more work than they could do in endeavoring to prevent the flames spreading to adjoining property, the residences of W. H. Mantor and Silas Hall, on North Fifth street, caught fire from flying sparks. Mr. Mantor’s house suffered but little damage, but on Mr. Hall’s house the damage is estimated by him at from $500 to $600, which is covered by insurance.

It was a bad fire—but it might easily have been a great deal worse, and the wonder is all things considered that it wasn’t.

Following is a careful estimate of the heaviest losses in the fire, based upon reliable information, together with the insurance on same so far as could be ascertained yesterday:

W. D. McKay, loss $50,000, insurance $25,000

D. M. Clark & Co., loss $20,000, insurance $10,000

M. K. Swartz, loss $14,000, insurance $8,000

R. R. Wise, loss $5,000, insurance $3,500

Ransford Hotel, loss $10,000, insurance covered

Odd Fellows’ Block, loss $8,000, insurance $8,000

Thos. H. Beare, loss $6,000

United States P. O., loss $500

Knights of Pythias, loss $800

Black Hawk Club, loss $1,000, insurance $450

Pythian Sisters, loss $300, insurance $200

J. C. Jamieson, loss $5,000, insurance $2,000

City Hotel, loss $1,500

Jens Molstad, loss $150

Jas. Smith, loss $1,500

Axel Johnson, loss $200

Iver Holden, loss $100, insurance covered

G. A. R., loss $200, insurance none

Mrs. Billings, loss $700, insurance $500

H. McGinn, loss $100, insurance covered

Nick Lauer, loss $2,800, insurance $2,700

C. F. Beugnot, loss $500, insurance none

Richard Ahrens, loss $100

Carl Brockway, loss $800

City Engineer’s records

Dr. K. H. Hoorn, loss $250, insurance $400

F. E. Stout, loss $250, insurance $400

Lowrie Smith, loss $250, insurance $150

A. W. Northrup, loss $250, insurance $250

J. F. Murphy & Co., loss $1,000, insurance covered

C. L. Burnett, loss $150

Geo. West, loss $150

Aurora Lodge, loss $3,500, insurance $2,000

Brainerd Chap., loss $1,000, insurance $600

Ascalon Commandery, loss $2,000, insurance $600

O. E. S., loss $500, insurance $200

Zabud Council, loss $1,700, insurance $1,000

Pocahontas lodge, loss $250, insurance $150

Red Men, loss $425, insurance $250

Hibernians, loss $500, insurance none

Northwestern Tel. Co., loss $1,000, insurance covered

Towne-McFadden Block, loss $800, insurance covered

The above figures, it is perhaps needless to say, do not include the great amount of damage done to the buildings on both Sixth and Front streets. It would of course be difficult to estimate this, but fortunately this loss is in the main safely covered by insurance. (Brainerd Tribune, 29 October 1909, p. 1, c.’s 1-5)

SEE: Merchants Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.



Resume of the Various Insurance

Companies Involved in

the Fire




Many Large Policies Listed Cover

Small Partial Losses by Re-

moval, etc.

The following are the various insurance companies involved in the fire of Thursday, so far as can be learned, with the total amounts of the policies of each on involved properties. These amounts, of course, are in many instances much in excess of the losses, many large policies covering small partial losses. The local agencies are represented as follows:

Smith Brothers

Caledonia, $1,500

Royal Insurance Co., $7,500

Western Reserve, $4,500

Citizens, $10,000

Royal Exchange, $7,500

Newark, $3,000

Home of New York, $14,000

Philadelphia Underwriters, $6,600

Hartley & Allbright

New Brunswick, $1,250

Hawkeye, $1,900

Consolidated, $4,500

Williamsburgh City, $3,500

North River, $7,000

Co. Five, $6,500

Henry I. Cohen

New York Underwriters, $1,000

Capitol of Concord, $2,000

North America, $1,000

Prov. of Washington, $450

L. L. G., $500

Sun, $500

Fireman's Fund, $10,950

Pennsylvania Fire, $6,950

Liverpool & London Globe, $3,950

New York Underwriters, $5,582.50

Insurance Co. of North America, $6,062.50

Scottish Union & National, $4,837.50

Western, $500

Niagara, $2,950

Queen, $1,225

Hamburg Bremen, $600

Hanover, $2,000

Capitol of Concord, $5,000

Providence Washington, $450

Sun Fire Office, $1,500

Franklin, $1,000

T. C. Blewitt

Northern, $6,900

Milwaukee Mechanics, $9,100

Farmers of New York, $400

State of Penn, $10,000

Jefferson, $7,500

Union, $5,000

Cosmopolitan, $1,00

Colonial, $5,000

Ohio German, $1,500

New Jersey, $2,500

Dixie, $2,500

G. W. Chadbourne

Commercial Union, $6,250

Palatine, $4,900

Fire Association, $6,500

Hartford, $11,950

Springfield, $9,150

Phoenix, of Hartford, $2,600

St. Paul Fire and Marine, $3,900

N. B. Mercantile, $6,000

Aetna, $5,500

National, $8,575

In addition to the above A. P. Riggs, and W. D. McKay, whose offices were in the destroyed Columbian block, had several companies aggregating probably $10,000. M. E. Ryan had several policies, and perhaps others who are doing insurance as a side line. (Brainerd Dispatch, 05 November 1909, p. 7, c. 1)

Brainerd Buildings Burn; Loss Estimated $175,000


Town’s Worst Fire Damages Hotel and Razes Business Blocks.


Several Lodges and Clubs Lose All Paraphernalia—U. S. Mail Is Saved.


BRAINERD, Minn., Oct. 29.—The worst fire in the history of Brainerd inflicted damage yesterday to the extent of about $175,000.

The fire started in the basement of the Columbia [sic] block [216-218 South Sixth Street] on Sixth street about 5:30 yesterday morning. At 8 o’clock that building worth, with its contents, close to $100,000, was in ruins and the Odd Fellows’ building [214 South Sixth Street] adjoining it was gutted. The postoffice block [214 South Sixth Street] caught fire, but the letter mails were all saved and a large portion of the fixtures were carried out.

At 9:30 o’clock the Ransford hotel, with stock worth probably $150,000, and the J. C. Jamison [sic] [Jamieson] saloon building on Fifth street caught on fire. The hotel was damaged to the extent of $20,000. The Jamison [sic] [Jamieson] saloon [213 South Fifth Street] building burned. The loss is about $5,000 with $2,000 insurance.

The Columbia [sic] block, on the first and second floors, was occupied by the Black Hawk club, residence flats and offices, the third story by the Masonic and Red Men lodges, who lost all their paraphernalia as did the Grand Army and Modern Brotherhood, Hibernians and Machinist lodges.

Two frame buildings adjoining the Columbia [sic] building were also burned. Both were occupied by restaurants. [Nicholas Lauer, aka George West’s Golden Horseshoe Restaurant and Saloon and M. K. Swartz Drugstore]

Several dwellings housed on the north side all caught fire from the sparks but were extinguished without much damage being done. (Minneapolis Tribune, 29 October 1909, p. 5)

SEE: Columbian Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Ransford Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

04 November

04 November 1909. D. M. Clark and Co., which was burned out in last week's fire, is opening their hardware business in the store room next to Murphy's plumbing establishment. Their undertaking department has reopened. (This Was Brainerd, Brainerd Dispatch, Wednesday, 04 November 2009)

07 November

07 November 1909. For the first time after the fire the Ransford Hotel bar was reopened this morning with George Ridley again in charge. The sign was also replaced. They hope to get the kitchen and dining room in shape to serve Thanksgiving dinner. (This Was Brainerd, Brainerd Dispatch, Saturday, 07 November 2009)


15 January



Blaze in Frame Building on South

Sixth Street Endangered Other

Buildings Today




Wind Was in Right Direction to Have

Caused Bad Fire Had Not

Flames Been Checked

The fire department was called to the vacant building at 307 South Sixth street owned by F. A. Farrar about 5:40 this morning. The fire, apparently originated in the partition between the two rooms on the first floor and before it was discovered the flames had eaten their way into the second story and garret and the smoke was rolling out in volumes when the fire lands arrived on the scene. Two lines of hose were laid and after a sharp fight the fire was gotten under control. The danger lay not so much in fear of loss on the building itself as in the fact that quite a heavy wind was blowing directly toward the business section of the city, and had the building burned there would certainly have been several others destroyed also.

The damage to the building will be from $400 to $500 with an insurance of $500. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 15 January 1910, p. 3, c. 3)



Fire Department Called Out to Ex-

tinguish Blaze in Business





Straw Had Been Used to Cover Ice in

Yard Back of West’s


What might have proven a very disastrous conflagration, was nipped in the bud Monday night. The fire department was called to the rear of George West’s restaurant to extinguish a fire in a pile of straw which had been used to cover a pile of ice. The ice was piled near the fence and straw stuffed between the board fence and the ice, and the pile was covered with straw. It is probable that someone walking down the alley lit a cigar and flipped the match over the fence, not knowing that the straw was there. At any rate the straw was blazing merrily and the fence had caught fire when the department was called and reached the scene. Little damage was done. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 01 March 1910, p. 3, c. 3)

23 April



Electric Light Station Burns to Ground




Two Piers and Five Gates of Weyer-

hauser Dam Burned Down—Repair Work

Commenced at Dam—City Will Make

Temporary Connection With Shop

Electric Light Plant.

The city electric light plant at the dam burned to the ground at nine o’clock Saturday night. Nothing was saved, arc machine and alternators, pulleys and shafting being reduced to a tangled pile of scrap.

John B. Lanouette, electric light engineer, was on duty at the time and states that the fire started on the north end of the building near the roof at about nine o’clock in the evening. As everyone who was on our streets that day or evening is aware, there was a fierce wind, and when the fire started it did not take the gale long to envelope the whole plant in a blast furnace blaze. The fire burned from the north end to the south end of the building.

Lanouette states there was no wiring near the fire when it first started. The nearest wiring was over twelve feet away. He telephoned for help and rushed back to save something. Of all his belongings he was able to save only his wheel.

He is not sure how the fire really started and believes it may have commenced from outside sparks, claiming sparks may have come from the saw mill immediately north of the light plant. He said he saw steam coming from the McKinley mill, as it is usually called. Lanouette is an old city employee, having worked for the city over eight years and during that time, as he states, never having had any trouble.


The building rests on a stone and cement foundation on the east side of the dam and near the two large wooden piers on that side. The fire quickly ate its way through the light frame building of the power house and leaped to the piers. These were soon a blazing mass. When the writer stood on the high bank east of the fire at about ten o’clock in the evening the foundation stringers of the building were reduced to blazing lines of light and the two piers were silhouetted in flame against the dark rushing waters of the dam.


The city department could not do much as this territory is out of the fire district. No adequate fire protection seems to have been provided for an emergency of this kind. For a time it looked as though the fire would spread to the Northwest Paper Co.’s pulp mill, which occupies the west bank of the dam. It was reported first that a pile of coal near the electric light plant and at the east foundation of the dam was on fire, but later reports discredit this and it is said no coal was stored near the dam.


A member of the city water and light board stated that the electric plant and building is covered by sufficient insurance to cover financial loss on machinery and building.

Insurance carried was $4,600 which was as much as the water and light board could place on the building and contents. The new dynamo was insured for $1100, its full value. While this amount is not large it is probably all the old plant was worth.


The two main piers on the east side of the dam are burned to the water’s edge. Three gates are burned on the outside of the flume. The pier foundations appear to be sound. The wheel pit of the dam is safe, the cogs being burned out.

Mr. Lanouette says he believes the state of water now to be about normal. The loss of the gates released the water and it is said to have fallen 14 inches at a point above the dam.


As stated by a member, the water and light board will meet the emergency by installing a steam or gasoline plant and providing service just as soon as a new plant can be built, which will be from 60 to 90 days.


The water and light board is making arrangements with the N. P. railway company to connect with the electric plant at the shops, and it is thought the necessary arrangements can be made by Tuesday or Wednesday. To do this it will be necessary for the board to provide two transformers at a cost of over $3,000, as the current at the shops is a higher voltage and two phase while the city plant was a single phase, but the board has rightfully decided that it was its duty to serve the public no matter if it does cost considerable. However, it is thought that the electrical company will take them back charging only for their use.

The destruction of the plant is a great inconvenience to concerns using motors for power and they have resorted to all sorts of schemes to keep going. The Northwestern Telephone company has a storage battery system that will keep them going for a week, but they got busy and connected with the N. P. wires on Sunday.


Koop’s Unique theatre hustled around and installed a gas plant and never missed a performance. They played to crowded houses yesterday.

Mahlum Lumber Co.’s planing mill shut down on account of no power. They always handle a lot of custom work.

The Daily Dispatch is badly put out by the fire as the machinery of the office is run by motors. A gasoline engine has been installed temporarily to run the presses, but we are unable to use the linotype and hand composition must be resorted to which will reduce the local reading matter considerably.

The lecture by Dr. Laura Lane at the Methodist church was in progress when the lights went out, plunging audience and lecturer into darkness. The lecturer calmly continued her address and resolutions were adopted in the dark urging Congressman Lindbergh to assist in establishing a national department of health.

Charles Weyerhauser, accompanied by Messrs. Musser and Richie, came up from Little Falls Sunday afternoon in his Packard automobile and the party inspected the damages sustained to the Weyerhauser dam. The gentlemen returned to Little Falls in the evening.

Fred W. Low, of the new Grand theatre, stated his theatre would open tonight with the usual vaudeville features.

T. L. Truss, of the Bijou theatre said his house would run with the usual vaudeville features.

Thomas G. Johnson, superintendent of the Northwest Paper Co. and a crew of men are engaged in throwing up a wing dam from the east shore of the river to the burned piers. Water has fallen so rapidly that it is necessary to sheer the water to the west bank to keep the pulp mill going. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 25 April 1910, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)

13 June



Mrs. C. S. Reimestad is Burned by the

Explosion of a Can of Wood





Leaves Surviving Her Husband, Dr.

C. S. Reimestad and Two Small


Mary Amanda Reimestad with her two children, Sara and Clarence, ca. Unknown.
Source: 15 June 1910, Brainerd Daily Dispatch

The explosion of a can of wood alcohol so severely burned Mrs. C. S. Reimestad, the wife of Dr. C. S. Reimestad, on Saturday afternoon that she died at midnight.

During the summer months the family had been using a kerosene oil stove which required wood alcohol to generate the flame. The stove has a wickless burner and after the wood alcohol is poured on, a blue flame is generated which starts the stove. Mrs. Reimestad had started the stove and then went down town to meet her husband. She and the doctor returned and at about half past four in the afternoon were standing near the stove in the kitchen, with the children close by. In order to hurry the preparation of the evening luncheon she picked up a can of wood alcohol and poured some in a cup of the stove.

An immediate explosion resulted. The kitchen was a sheet of flame which fairly enveloped the helpless woman. The shock of the explosion was felt by neighbors and the flames were seen shooting out of the kitchen windows and door. Half crazed by the awful shock and the burns she rushed out of the door onto the porch where she fell unconscious. Her husband tore off her burning clothes and did all in his power to shield and save her. She was immediately removed to St. Joseph's hospital where Dr. O. T. Batcheller and Dr. R. A. Beise were in constant attendance. Her whole body was burned in a pitiful manner, leaving only her face unscarred. She sank into a stupor and never regained consciousness dying at 11:50 Saturday night.

Mrs. C. S. Reimestad, formerly Miss Mary A. Doran, was born October 10, 1876 in Kalkaska, Mich. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Doran, removed to Brainerd when she was four years old, so that she has virtually grown up and lived in Brainerd all her life. She was graduated from the Brainerd high school with the class of 1898 and also attended the St. Cloud normal school. She taught one year in the primary grade of the Harrison school. In 1900 she was married to Dr. C. S. Reimestad and to them two children were born, Clarence, aged seven and Sara aged eight. The fact that the children stood back of their parents and were shielded by them is all that saved them from being injured. She leaves surviving her also her parents Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Doran of 420 South Ninth street and two brothers, John Doran, of Minneapolis, and R. E. Doran, of South Tacoma, Wash. No funeral arrangements will be announced until R. E. Doran is heard from.

She was a member of St. Francis Catholic church, and the funeral services will be held there. Mrs. Reimestad was a woman who was loved by all who knew her. She was always kind, gentle, tactful and considerate and made friends readily. Her whole life was devoted to her children and her husband. The sympathy of the community is extended the grief stricken husband and the family. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 13 June 1910, p. 5, c.’s 1 & 2)

27 December

Brainerd Block Fire-Swept.

BRAINERD, Minn., Dec. 27.—Fire yesterday morning gutted the east end of the Walker block, resulting in about $6,000 damage to the building and tenants. Tenants on the main floor who suffered losses from fire, water and smoke were Chris Schwabe, Turner & Sons, George Abbott, and A. K. Lukens [618 Laurel Street], White Brothers’ hardware store [616 Laurel Street] in their own building were damaged by smoke, also A. Ellingboe [614 Laurel Street] of the former Nuggett saloon. All losses as a rule were covered by insurance. (Minneapolis Tribune, 28 December 1910, p. 1)

SEE: Walker Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: White Brother’s Hardware & Contractors in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


24 January



Fire Discovered at 10 O’clock in Store

Room of Koop Grocery, 221

South 7th St.




Brainerd Business College Suffers

Loss—Neighboring Buildings

Damaged by Smoke

From Tuesday’s Daily:—

Koop Block fire, January 24, 1911.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Fire broke out at ten o’clock this morning in the store room or warehouse at the east end of the J. W. Koop grocery store, 221 South Seventh street. It is not known how it originated, but it is supposed to have started in the baled hay stored near the alley and on the main floor.

An alarm was turned in and the fire department responded promptly. Two lines and later three lines of hose were run on to the building. It was thought first that the furnace had caused the fire and the firemen fought through the dense clouds of smoke to reach the basement which extends under the main part of the store. There is no basement or cellar under the warehouse part.

Water was then thrown on the main floor of the warehouse and the blaze partly extinguished. It spread upward and soon burned the floor of the second story and then quickly communicated with the roof. Firemen clustered on the roof and fought the blaze from the roof of the Slipp-Gruenhagen building adjoining.

Smoke filled the rooms of the Brainerd Business college, the tenant on the second floor of the Koop block. Miss Kempton, one of the teachers, was the first to smell the smoke and called the attention of the pupils to the same by remarking, “Well, look at the dust coming through the floor.” A sudden burst of heavy smoke frightened the whole school and the 25 pupils and Miss Kempton and Prof. P. M. Malm, who is the proprietor of the college, quickly passed down the stairs. Most of the girls lost their books and one some clothes. Prof. Malm has his school fixtures insured and carries $1,200 insurance.

The Brainerd State bank, a tenant on the main floor of the Koop building, quickly closed its vault after the officers had gathered up all valuable papers and placed them there in safety. Furniture and other movable fixtures were shifted to the sidewalk. The damage sustained here is by water and smoke.

The Slipp-Gruenhagen building houses on its second floor many fraternal orders. Messrs. Charles Rattinger and F. S. Parker were the first in Elks hall and they removed their charter, all valuable records, regalia and the magnificent Elk’s head presented to the order last Thursday by Mr. Wolf. Members of other secret societies took their records and valuables to a place of safety.

Smoke poured into the rear of the Slipp-Gruenhagen store and some even penetrated in places in the rear of the Michael’s store.

Tenants of the Phillips block spent anxious moments wondering if the fire would sweep in their direction.

The oil in the warehouse was stored in a large tank buried in the ground under the main floor, so there was no danger of an explosion from this source. In the warehouse was stored flour, feed, baled hay and other supplies. There is no chimney in this room so Mr. Koop is at a loss to account for the blaze. The second floor was also heavily stored with supplies. The hay immediately near the alley was in a pile and consisted of over two tons.

A synopsis of the fire may be given as follows:

Fire discovered about ten o’clock. Water turned on the building within two minutes. At 10:15 heavy smoke poured out of the east and south rear windows of the main floor of the warehouse. Smoke swept through the whole building. At 10:18 the two lines of hose were supplemented by a third line. Chief McGinn directed the fire fighters and fought the blaze at every point. At 1:30 smoke came out of the second story windows near the cloak room of the Brainerd Business college. At 10:45 flames shot out of the second story windows of the warehouse in the southeast end and flared up through the roof.

Many supposed the building was doomed but at 11 A. M. Chief McGinn had the fire controlled.

All losses are covered by insurance and may be estimated as follows:

J. W. Koop grocery store building damaged—$4,500

J. W. Koop grocery store stock damaged by fire and water—$10,000

Brainerd Business college—$600

Brainerd State bank—$250

Lodges regalia and fixtures damaged—$200

Slipp-Gruenhagen hardware store loss—$400

Michael’s store—$200

Tenants in the Phillips block—$200

While the fire was in progress J. W. Koop rented the Farrar block on South Sixth street and will open promptly tomorrow morning with a fresh, clean stock of groceries. It takes more than a fire to dishearten him or stop his business. The store building on South Seventh street will be promptly repaired.

The Brainerd Business college will re-open as soon as the necessary repairs can be made. The Brainerd State Bank was not badly affected by the fire and will continue to do business as usual. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 January 1911, p. 1, c.‘s 1 & 2)



List of Insurance Policies Carried by

J. W. Koop on His Building

and on the Stock




Probable Losses as Estimated to Have

Been Sustained by Various

Fire Sufferers

From Wednesday’s Daily:—

An examination of the various insurance policies shows the amount of insurance carried by all the sufferers in the Koop grocery store fire as follows:

J. W. Koop carried on his building; in the G. W. Chadbourne agency, $2,000 in the Springfield, $750 in the St. Paul Fire and Marine, $750 in the National, Henry I. Cohen agency, $1,000 in the Niagara and $1,500 in the Hanover; in the Smith Bros. agency, $1,500 in the Home and $1,500 in the Citizens; in the T. C. Blewitt agency, $1,000 in the Union of Philadelphia, being a total of $10,000.

J. W. Koop carried on his stock, in the Chadbourne agency, $1,000 in the Hartford, and $1,000 in the St. Paul Fire and Marine; in the Cohen agency $2,000 in the North America, $1,500 in the L. L. & O.; in the Smith Bros. agency, $1,000 in the Home, $1,000 in the Citizens and $1,500 in the Philadelphia Underwriters; in the Hartley & Allbright agency, $2,000 in the Cons. F. and M., of Albert Lea, being a total of $11,000.

Fritz Koop carried on his piano and Unique theatre fixtures in the Chadbourne agency, $500 in the Phoenix.

Ed. F. Koop carried on his household goods stored in his father’s warehouse, in the Cohen agency $600 in the Sun of London.

The Brainerd State bank carried in the Chadbourne agency, $1,000 in the Hartford; in the Cohen agency $1,000 in the L. L. & G.; in Smith Bros. agency, $1,000 in the Home; in the Hartley & Allbright agency, $1,000 in the American Fire, of Newark, being a total of $4,000.

Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. carried on their building in the Chadbourne agency, $1,000 in the North British and $1,000 in the Phoenix; in the Cohen agency $2,000 in the Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co.; in the Smith Bros. agency, $1,000 in the Royal being a total of $5,000.

Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. carried on their stock in the Chadbourne agency, $2,000 in the Hartford, $1,000 in the National and $3,000 in the Hardware Mutual; in the Cohen agency, $1,000 in the Hanover, $1,000 in the Scottish Union, $1,000 in the N. Y. Underwriters and $800 in the Sun; in the A. P. Riggs agency, $1,000 in the Security, being a total of $10,800.

Prof. P. V. Malm carried $1,200 insurance on his fixtures, etc., in the Brainerd business college placed in the Northern Assurance Co. of London, Henry I. Cohen, agent.

Brainerd Lodge of Elks carried in the Chadbourne agency, $500 in the Hartford on the piano; in the Cohen agency $1,000 in the Insurance Co. of North America on furniture; in Smith Bros. Agency, $1,000 on furniture in Philadelphia Underwriters being a total of $2,500.

Brainerd Aerie of Eagles, No. 287, had in the Chadbourne agency, $300 on regalia in the Palatine.

Aurora Lodge, A. F. & A. M., carried in the Chadbourne agency $150 in the Springfield.

Brainerd Chapter, No. 42, R. A. M., carried in the Chadbourne agency $400 in the St. Paul Fire and Marine.

Red Cloud Tribe, No. 13 carried in the Chadbourne agency $300 in the Phoenix.

The Brotherhood of American Yeomen carried in the Chadbourne agency, $150 in the Aetna.

The losses sustained are now estimated to be about as follows:

J. W. Koop, loss on building about $5,000.

J. W. Koop, loss on stock, about $7,000.

Ed. F. Koop, household goods stored in warehouse about $400.

Fritz Koop, Unique theatre fixtures, piano, etc., about $400.

Brainerd State Bank, about $2,500.

Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. on stock, estimated about $300.

Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. on building estimated about $1,000.

All fraternal orders in Elks hall about $300.

Brainerd Business college, about $800.

The figures given are gathered from insurance men and others and are merely given as an estimate of the losses incurred, making a total of about $17,700.

At the time of the fire it was supposed that the H. F. Michael store and the tenants above in the Phillips block would be losers from water and smoke, but none of these have sustained a loss.

Prof. P. V. Malm, proprietor of the Brainerd Business college claims a loss of $1,000 and said that his 6 Smith Premier and one Underwood typewriters were almost ruined and that his fixtures and furniture, 30 chairs, 22 roll top desks, 3 tables, books, etc., were badly damaged.

The Brainerd State bank has moved across the street to the rooms of the Overland Auto Co., in the Bane block. Their damage is much greater than at first supposed. Water has ruined their expensive fixtures, which are warping, splitting and out of shape. Furniture taken out of the building has been scratched, broken and split. They consider that $2,500 is a low estimate of loss sustained.

J. W. Koop’s grocery store has re-opened in the Farrar building at 321 South Sixth street and new groceries and supplies are being installed today. They are doing business as usual and citizens admire his pluck as well as the spirit shown by the Brainerd State bank. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 January 1911, p. 1, c.’s 3 & 4)

SEE: Koop Blocks in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


07 March



Saturday Night Department Store of

the Levants in O’Brien Build-

ing is Gutted by Fire




Building and Stock Damaged, Fire

Spreads to Second Floor—Well

Handled by Firemen

From Monday’s Daily:—

Smelling smoke in his apartments on the second floor of the Mahlum block on the corner of South Broadway and Laurel streets, J. P. Early turned in an alarm at about 11:15 Saturday night. Within a few minutes the fire department came on a run and within ten minutes had the fire under control. The pressure was excellent.

Within the Levant store on the main floor the flames seethed like a furnace and gutted the interior of the store. The flames in the rear shot through the floor of Mrs. Weltha I. Rounds’ apartments, burning holes in the floor.

Smoke filled the second floor and the twenty or more people living there fled for their lives, some in very scanty attire.

The firemen worked well and were complimented on all sides by the tenants. Mrs. Rounds said that they were very careful, using water only where needed in her flat and trying to save intact her furniture.

Smoke and water did considerable damage on the second floor. In the excitement little Jack Early’s collection of gold fish were upset and three died a bitter death, perishing miserably on a rug and choking to death in the clouds of smoke.

Covering the stock in the Levant Department store was $13,500 insurance. On the fixtures was $2,000. On the building owned by the O’Brien Mercantile Co. was $8,000 insurance. The tenants on the second floor carried insurance on their household goods.

The loss of the Levant’s is estimated to be at least 50 per cent of the value of the stock, the goods being valued at $19,000. The O’Brien building has a loss of about $4,000. There was some loss on the second floor, the rooms of Mrs. Weltha I. Rounds being badly damaged and considerable furniture damaged by fire and water. She carried $700 insurance. The rooms of J. P. Early were damaged by smoke and water. Mrs. Early carried $1,200 insurance.

It is claimed that the fire originated from some man being in the store shortly before the department store closed and having carelessly tossed a lighted match near the counter while lighting his cigarette. One of the sales girls remembered the incident. This may have been the cause of the disastrous blaze. (Brainerd Dispatch, 13 March 1914, p. 7, c. 7)

SEE: Mahlum Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

07 September



Asserted that Three Barns were

Afire on Monday Evening,

One Destroyed




Hay and Structure Burned, Two Cows Saved—Small Fires at Apgar

and Beckley Barns

From Tuesday’s Daily:—

Incendiarism is said to have been rife in Northeast Brainerd Monday night when three barns within a radius of a few blocks were on fire at about the same time in the evening.

The barn of George Smith, 219 Fourth Avenue, Northeast, was discovered on fire some time after the two cows had been milked. Boarders at the Smith home saw the blaze in the backyard after nine o’clock and gave the alarm. The fire departments of central hose house and Northeast Brainerd responded. The two cows in the burning structure were saved. The barn was burned to a mere shell and considerable hay was destroyed. There is $250 insurance on the building. The Smith girls claim to have heard voices in the rear of the lot shortly before the fire started.

At about the time of the Smith blaze small fires were discovered in the A. Apgar barn at 119 Third Avenue and another was reported at the barn of Louis Beckley, 116 2nd Avenue. Both were seen in time and quickly extinguished with nominal loss.

Three barns blazing at the same time is more than a coincidence. It gives ground to the assertions that incendiaries were at work, and it may have been some crazy person who delights to see the Brainerd fire department turn out for a fire. An investigation should be made by the authorities. (Brainerd Dispatch, 11 September 1914, p. 1, c. 1)

19 October



Bottling Plant Gutted by Fire at 6

O’Clock This Morning, Dis-

covered by Teamster




Bottling Machinery, Case Goods, Etc.

Destroyed—Take Month to

Replace Machinery

Causing a loss of $6,000, fire this morning gutted the bottling plant of the Brainerd Brewing company, destroying the whole interior of the two story brick building, the bottling machinery, case goods on hand, etc.

The building was partially insured.

Werner Hemstead, secretary and treasurer of the brewing company, said it would take a month to rebuild and to install new machinery. The origin of the fire is unknown.

The fire was first discovered by Wm. Jordan, a teamster of the company. At 6 o’clock in the morning he went to the plant to load up, opened the door and was almost suffocated by a rush of smoke from the interior. He promptly gave the alarm and the fire department responded quickly.

The bottling plant is two stories high and measures 25 by 40 feet, it has a heavy cement floor and the building was practically fireproof with the exception of the wood finishings in the interior and the composition roof.

The building was not used Sunday. There was no fire there as the machinery is run by electricity. Today the wreck in the interior is smoking and piles of glass bottles lie melted in heaps. The whole is being allowed to cool slowly so as not to crack the cement floor. The walls are practically intact. (Brainerd Dispatch, 19 October 1914, p. 5, c. 1)

SEE: Brainerd Brewery Company in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

27 November



Fire Starts Under Main Stairway in

Theatre, Damaging Interior

and Second Floor




James M. Hayes, Owner of Building,

Had $7,000 Insurance—Inci-

dents of the Fire

Fire starting at 4 o’clock this morning under the main stairway in the Columbia theatre building owned by James M. Hayes damaged the theatre leased by Edwin Harris Bergh and the tenants’ rooms on the second floor $2,000, this estimate being made by Mr. Hayes. There is $7,000 insurance on the building.

Dr. David E. Nelson, of the firm of physicians of Sykora & Nelson, was sleeping in their suite on the second floor and was nearly suffocated by the smoke. He turned in the alarm and there was a prompt response by the fire department.

Firemen raised a ladder and Dr. Nelson clambered down. There was no other chance of escape at the time as the stairs were ablaze. Smoke and water had done considerable damage to the interior of the building and Mr. Hayes says it will have to be entirely redecorated.

In the closet was stored music, some clothes and other articles, all of which were a total loss.

Manager Edwin Harris Bergh, of the Columbia theatre, announces that the fire has not interfered with his performances. The usual shows will be given tonight. (Brainerd Dispatch, 27 November 1914, p. 1, c. 5)

16 December

Fire in Early Morning Destroys Brainerd Block


Dry Goods Company and Newspaper Sustain Largest Share of $15,000 Loss.


BRAINERD, Dec. 16.—Fire, believed to have started from a defective furnace, completely destroyed the E. C. Bane block in the heart of the business district early this morning and damaged the C. M. Patek building and the Citizens State Bank building, adjoining. The first floor of the Bane block, which was of brick, two stories high and valued at $15,000, was occupied by the Paris Drygoods Company. Ray A. Campbell conducted a billiard hall and bowling alley in the basement. The second floor was occupied by The Journal Press. The newspaper saved nothing but its books and files. The presses crashed through the floor to the ground. Other second floor tenants who suffered complete losses were: E. C. Bane, W. W. Bane law office, John Russell and Andrew G. Lagerquist, tailor.

The loss cannot be estimated and is partly covered by insurance. (Minneapolis Tribune, 17 December 1914, p. 5)



Fire Believed to have Started from

Furnace at 1 O’clock in Morn-

ing Destroys Building


WAS VALUED AT $15,000.00


Tenants Lose All Their Belongings—

C. M. Patek Block Adjoining

is Damaged

Believed to have started from a furnace, fire at about 1:15 Wednesday morning completely destroyed the E. C. Bane block in the heart of the business district and damaged the C. M. Patek building adjoining to the north and also did some damage to the Citizens State Bank block to the south on Seventh street.

The Bane block was of brick, two stories and basement and was valued at approximately $15,000.

Tenants lost all their holdings and these included the Paris Store, incorporated, handling ladies’ suits, cloaks, etc., located on the main floor. Also on the main floor was the Ray A. Campbell billiard hall and in the basement their bowling alley. Chas. O. Sundberg had a barber shop in the pool room, which is a total loss.

On the second floor was the plant and equipment of the Brainerd Journal Press, which saved nothing but its ledger and files, the subscription lists and accounts being lost. The presses and job equipment crashed through the floors to the ground. The loss of the proprietor, R. M. Sheets, is estimated to be approximately $4,000, with insurance of $1,500. Of this amount $500 is carried in the Henry I. Cohen agency.

Other second floor tenants were W. W. Bane, who lost his law books and office equipment and other articles valued at $1,000 with $400 insurance.

Andrew G. Lagerquist, the tailor, lost $175 in new clothes about to be delivered to customers, $80 cash in the safe, other clothes, etc., on the whole of which was about $250 insurance.

E. C. Bane, who resided in a suite of rooms lost all furniture, clothes and other belongings. Mrs. Bane, who was ill, was carried from the burning building.

John Russell, residing in a flat, lost all household goods etc. It was but a few years ago when he suffered a similar loss in a fire which burned the Walker block.

Gas accumulated between the floors of the Patek block adjoining and an explosion blew up part of their second floor and cracked their south wall. Losses are covered by insurance. In the basement, lately packed with a stock of new furniture, water stood eight inches deep and will also cause considerable damage.

At the Citizens State bank building water entered the basement and other damage is believe to have been done to the walls of the building.

The firemen worked courageously in the 15 below zero weather, their coats and boots freezing to their bodies. A wind was blowing too, making it a miserable night. By their efforts the flames were confined to the Bane block and the Patek and bank buildings were saved.

Tom Mansuras won the thanks of the firemen by giving them hot coffee at intervals, thus enabling the men to stand the exposure.

The total losses suffered by tenants is now estimated to be about $20,000.

Another loser in the Bane block fire is A. W. Tracy, national organizer of the Camels lodge who lost a lot of cuts and other material to be used on a printing job.

Chester A. Darling lost a good suit in the Bane block fire. It had been left at a tailor shop. (Brainerd Dispatch, 18 December 1914, p. 1, c. 1)

SEE: Bane Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Citizens State Bank in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


26 February




Mrs. John Verkennes Dying and Baby

Girl Dead From Explosion of

Kerosene Oil




Kitchen Blackened by Flames, Baby

Instantly Killed, Mother

Screams for Help

Pouring coal oil on a fire in a heater caused an explosion which instantly killed the fifteen months baby girl of John Verkennes and so badly burned his wife that she is not expected to survive.

The explosion tore the bottom and nozzle from the kerosene can which the woman had held, burned curtains and table cloth in the room, broke the glass of the little cupboard in the dining room.

A torch of flame, the woman ran to the door where she collapsed on the sill and neighbors came to the rescue. Mrs. Margaret Fourre heard the cries and rushed to the house and assisted to extinguish the flames and put her to bed. Smoke was rolling out of the house and some turned in a fire alarm.

The husband was summoned and nearly broke down when he saw the disaster. His wife had been given first aid and her face was covered with a mask, nothing but the eyes and mouth showing. In a chair in the dining room lay the dead baby, face shriveled by the blast of flame and hair burned from its head. On the floor lay the coal oil can. The floor was blackened by the flames, the table in the room had wisps of table cloth, all that remained after the fire had swept over it.

Outside stood a deputy coroner and undertaker. Inside were five neighbors and two doctors. The priest had been summoned.

"How did it happen, Lottie?" asked her husband.

The woman, swathed in bandages from head to foot moaned and struggled to talk to him. They have been married a little over a year.

"I poured some oil on the fire," she whispered and then her breathing became difficult.

In the kitchen was her mother clasping a crucifix in her hands and breathing a prayer that the priest would come before she passed away.

Life had been happy for the young couple. Lottie was only 23 years old, said her mother. They lived in a cottage at the west end of South Pine street. Then came the baby and the home circle included more happiness for John Verkennes and the future looked bright to him.

In the twinkling of an eye the tragedy came this morning. Neighbors pressed his hands silently. He did not cry out loud. His grief was too deep. Silent and as in a dream he waited about the little home, not fully able to realize what had transpired. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1915, p. 5, c.'s 1 & 2)




Mrs. John Verkennes, severely burned by an explosion of coal oil which she had poured on a stove fire, died after hours of terrible suffering at about 5:20 Friday evening. She was burned from head to foot. Her baby was instantly killed by the flames. On Monday morning a double funeral of mother and child will be held from St. Francis Catholic church at 9 o'clock. The father is all that is left of the family circle. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 February 1915, p. 3, c. 2)

15 November





Believed to Have Started in Base-

ment, Minnesota Telephone

Co. Suffers Loss

At noon today D. A. Peterson said his loss in fixtures and goods had been estimated at $4,200 to $4,400. His stock was invoiced at $6,137, and his fixtures at $860.

Fire starting in the basement of the Opsahl block on South Seventh street at about 11:30 o’clock last night damaged the store of D. A. Peterson on the main floor. Smoke and water further damaged the stock of groceries and notions.

Smoke and water did considerable damage to A. M. Opsahl’s photograph gallery on the second floor, where window glass is broken, and the interior water soaked, with considerable damage done to framed pictures, etc.

Other tenants suffered from smoke and water in a lesser degree.

The basement was drenched with water. In D. A. Peterson's half of the basement water did some damage to a large stock of potatoes and to some of the groceries. Part of the balance of the basement was occupied by A. M. Opsahl.

In the small room at the northeast end of the basement were 700 telephone instruments of the Minnesota Telephone Co. Of these 200 will have to be repaired. Mr. Opsahl is local manager of the company and employees were unable to estimate the loss or the amount of insurance carried.

D. A. Peterson carried $3,500 insurance on fixtures and stock. A superficial examination would indicate that half of the goods and considerable of the fixtures have been damaged. He was unable this morning to estimate his total losses.

Hans Anderson is the janitor who attends to the furnace. He was last in the basement at 7:30 in the evening and fired up for the night. He claims that so far as he knows the furnace was working properly.

A. M. Opsahl is not in Brainerd being in the northern woods with a hunting party, so no statement of his losses could be obtained. It is believed to be about $400.

The firemen worked well in checking down the blaze and Mr. Peterson wishes to publicly thank them for their good work. Mr. Peterson, in talking over with his friends, was advised to continue business by all means, that every one of D. A.’s customers would stay with him. He felt very downhearted, as any man would under the circumstances, over the outlook. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 16 November 1915, p. 5, c. 1)


20 January

Seventeen Thousand Dollar Fire Burns Two Brainerd Structures


BRAINERD, Jan 20.—Fire, believed to have been started by defective wiring, burned the City hotel, [510 Front Street] owned by Judge J. T. Sanborn, and occupied by C. J. Evensta, yesterday. The building was valued at $6,500 and was insured for $4,500. The fixtures, owned by Evensta, were valued at $6,000 with an insurance of $2,000.

The two-story building of James Cullen, valued at $4,000 was also burned.

The O. B. Hamelin building and the Ransford hotel were damaged to the extent of $500. (Minneapolis Tribune, 20 January 1916, p. 8)



City Hotel Owned by Judge J. T. San-

born and the James Cullen Building, Front Street, Burned




Firemen Do Valiant Work Last Night

in Confining Blaze—One Man

Fell Through Roof



City Hotel building, $6,500

Insurance, $4,500

Furniture, pool tables, etc. of C. J. Evensta, $6,000

Insurance, $2,000

Ransford hotel, smoke and water, $500

Covered by insurance.

O. B. Hamelin building, smoke and water estimated, $250

Covered by insurance.

Front Street looking east: Midway Saloon, City Hotel, McFadden- Westfall Block, Hartley Block, Bly’s Block, ca. 1890.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Starting either from defective wiring or from the furnace at the City hotel, a fire shortly after supper Wednesday evening swept away the hotel building, the next building to the west owned by James Cullen, while smoke and water damaged the Ransford hotel to the east and the O. B. Hamelin building to the west.

A stiff wind was blowing. The firemen worked valiantly in confining the blaze. One accident is reported. Henry Blackwood, the plumber, assisting the firemen, fell through a roof in the rear near the hotel kitchen and injured his back when his 210 pounds weight struck the edge of an ice box.

The alarm was turned in by John Wahl of Duluth who with the reporter happened to walk down the street and saw the smoke rolling into the main floor of the hotel. C. J. Evensta, proprietor of the hotel, was seen at the same time and thought the smoke was coming from the furnace. Smoke and steam were just beginning to curl up from the roof.

The Evensta's saved nothing but the clothing on their backs. Mrs. Evensta was working in the kitchen and had barely time to gather her brood of seven little ones and get them out of the hotel before their former home was a roaring furnace. They took refuge at the Carlson hotel.

Mr. Evensta lost every bit of furniture and belongings he had. Stored in the Cullen building adjoining he had additional furniture, fixtures, pool tables, etc. All this was a total loss.

In the Hamelin building the only tenant was Ray Warren and his barber shop escaped with nominal damage.

The fire brought hundreds to the scene as the flames shot up high and the sky was red from the illumination. In Front street there was a perfect cloud of smoke and steam so thick one could not see through it.

The structures burned were among the best known in the city. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 January 1916, p. 1, c. 6)



City Hotel and the Cullen Building

Burned to the Ground.


Nothing Saved from Hotel—Insurance Hotel $4,500,

Cullen’s Insurance $2,000.


A disastrous fire at a comparatively early hour on Wednesday evening destroyed the City hotel and an adjoining building owned by James Cullen, both fronting on Front Street between Fifth and Sixth. The buildings were frame and were landmarks in the city having been erected in the early pioneer days. Some years ago, however, Probate Judge J. T. Sanborn had built a brick-veneered addition to the hotel, of which he was for many years the owner. This addition was three stories high, and was just back of the old building.

The fire, which is thought to have originated from the furnace in the basement of the hotel, was discovered shortly after 8 o’clock in the evening. The flames spread rapidly in the wooden structure, so rapidly indeed that there was no time to save any of the furniture in the hotel, which for a number of years past had been conducted by C. J. Evensta. The building was totally destroyed, together with the contents.

The progress of the fire on the east side was checked by the solid brick wall of the Towne-McFadden block, now owned by R. R. Wise. On the west side, however, an unoccupied frame building of two stories, owned by James Cullen, was also destroyed and a frame building adjoining owned by O. B. Hamelin was damaged considerably. On the ground floor of the Hamelin building is Ray Warren’s barber shop, which was damaged some by smoke and water, but Warren considers himself very lucky under the circumstances. It is claimed that the water pressure was poor, and with a stiff breeze fanning the flames it is a wonder the fire did not spread further and consume a great deal of very valuable property. The splendid work of the fire department, however, prevented this.

The City hotel building, owned by J. T. Sanborn, was valued at $7,000 to $8,000 and was insured for $4,500. Mr. Evensta carried $2,000 insurance on the furniture in the hotel.

Mr. Cullen had $2,000 insurance on his building. The damage to the Hamelin building is covered by insurance. (Brainerd Tribune, 21 January 1916, p. 1, c. 5)



Fire Chief McGinn Says Firemen Did

the Best They Could Under

the Circumstances




Pressure Enabled Firemen to Throw

Water Barely Fifteen Feet, Dis-

couraging Situation

“When the fire call came Wednesday evening from the City hotel, the firemen had little or no pressure,” said Fire Chief McGinn. “Water could be thrown barely 15 feet, due largely to the fact that the condensers were disconnected for repairs.”

Due to the splendid work of the firemen the blaze was confined to the hotel and Cullen block in spite of the wind blowing at the time.

Twenty minutes after the alarm, it is said, the pressure was increased.

Many consider this the wrong time of the year to do repairing to pumps. The pumps have been used for years and within another year it is expected a new water supply and system will supersede the present one.

At the pump house two machinists, the Messrs. Weidemann, are engaged in repair work. It is reported that when the alarm was sounded Wednesday evening, the boiler feed was disconnected at first. The condenser could not be used because that was down. The pump had to be run non-condensing and it is not built to run that way.

It is reported the engineer started with no water and no steam and for a time used the little pump to help out. Under the conditions he did the best he could and rendered the best service with the equipment on hand.

The whole experience again emphasizes the need of a new water supply for Brainerd, of new mains and equipment. It also shows that repair work can be carried on to such extent as to leave the city practically unprepared for an emergency, as happened Wednesday night. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 21 January 1916, p. 5, c. 3)

NOTE: I think the Cullen Building was the old Midway Saloon.

SEE: City Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Midway Saloon in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

20 September



Brainerd Ice Co. Building in North-

east Brainerd in Flames at 11

O’clock Tuesday Night




No Insurance, 700 Tons of Ice, Some

Tools and Building Make a

Loss of About $1,000

Fire of unknown origin Tuesday night at 11 o’clock destroyed the Northeast Brainerd ice house of the Brainerd Ice Co. In the ice house were some 700 tons of ice, a lot of tools and this with the loss of the building which measured about 40 by 120 feet, made a total loss of about $1,000.

No insurance was carried. The ice house will not be rebuilt, said C. H. Paine, of the ice company. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 10 September 1916, p. 5, c. 1)

26 September



Purdy Livery Stable in Flames at

2:30 This Afternoon and

Wind Fans the Fire




Firemen Work Valiantly and Succeed

in Confining it to a Small


Archie Purdy’s Livery Stable located at 514 Laurel Street, ca. 1890’s. A 1612x982 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Believed to have been started by children playing in the hayloft, fire at 2:30 this afternoon destroyed the Archie Purdy livery barn on Laurel street and the flames, fanned by the wind, leaped to the east and for a time threatened to destroy the frame building occupied by Jens Molstad as a tailor shop.

The alarm was turned in by Will Turcotte and others who observed the smoke issuing from a ventilator of the barn. The second floor of the brick livery stable was filled with hay, cutters, harness and other winter material and the structure could not be saved. The smoke rolled out in dense, suffocating swirls and volunteers saved the 25 odd horses on the ground floor. A funeral in town had employed many of the Purdy trams and carriages and they were out of the barn at the time. In the barn were stored hundreds of John M. Smythe catalogs and but few were saved.

Mr. Purdy’s loss will come close, it is estimated, to $10,000 partly covered by insurance.

The Jens Molstad shop carried stock and equipment valued at approximately $3,000, and this was nearly all removed but there will be considerable damage from water and smoke.

Smoke and water damaged the Central Hotel of Iver Holden. Flames scorched the rear of the Sherlund garage and set fire to the wooden building across the alley belonging to the Sherlund Co.

The firemen worked valiantly. The wind died down about 3 o’clock. The Central Hotel was then safe and flames in the alleys had been extinguished.

South Sixth street was cluttered up with supplies and equipment moved out of various buildings. The brick walls of the stable fell with a crash and sparks shot up high in the air. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 September 1916, p. 5, c. 1)

15 December






Flames Start from Basement Fur-

nace, Sweep Up Within Brick

Veneered Walls, This A. M.


Three Story Building, Furniture and Little Gro-

cery Store Adjoining are Leveled—

Partly Insured

Fire at 2 o’clock this morning, starting from a basement furnace, totally destroyed the Carlson [Earl] hotel, its contents and the little one-story grocery adjoining, all owned by Mrs. Hilda E. Carlson, wife of Andrew Carlson. The building, said Mrs. Carlson, was valued by her at about $10,000, the furniture at $2,500, the grocery at $1,100, partly insured.

Earl Hotel located on South Fifth Street between Laurel and Front, ca. 1910.
Source: Special Publication, 02 September 1910, p. 14, Brainerd Tribune, A. J. Halsted, Editor and Publisher

Water pressure was weak, miserably weak and the top of the three story building could not be reached. Water striking a second story window was unable to break the glass, the stream simply dribbling down. Firemen themselves say they were powerless to do much in the early stages of the fire. When it was gone up, the pressure increased.

Albert Blomberg, a boarder at the hotel, saw the smoke early in the morning and awakened the boarders and Mrs. Carlson. Mr. Carlson was not at home, having been in Winnipeg, Canada on business and not expected home until this evening or tomorrow.

Mrs. Carlson and her little ones, Andy age 5 this Christmas, Emma age 2 1/2 years and baby Ellen age 9 months, found refuge at the Ideal hotel adjoining.

The wind blew in a northwesterly direction and providentially spared the rest of the block. At the Ideal hotel the guests were awakened and were ready to leave should the flames strike the hotel. Everyone in the block was ready to move.

The hotel was a landmark in Brainerd, having been built about 22 years ago by Geo. Stratton, when it was known as the Stratton house. Later Jule Jamieson acquired it and named it the Earl hotel. It was then sold to Andrew Carlson who remodeled it and bought new furniture, and added a steam heating plant.

This morning firemen at the scene are drenching the embers. Many of the men are caked in ice, showing that fire fighting in winter has its dangers.

Louis Broman, tailor, has a shop at 212 South Fifth street, across the alley and escaped the fire.

Across the street, some 50 feet away, is the fire department hall and all the fire fighting machinery. Firemen say the place was roaring like a furnace, the flames shooting up between the brick veneer and woodwork.

Mrs. Carlson did not know if she would rebuild. The hotel business had been very good this fall and they had many steady boarders. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 15 December 1916, p. 1, c. 1)



Ideal Hotel Gave Warm Coffee and

Sandwiches to Fire Fighters at

Carlson Blaze

At Friday morning’s fire when the Carlson [Earl] hotel was consumed, the work of fire fighting was a most difficult one and the men were soon caked in ice.

Mr. and Mrs. Wm. T. Larrabee, of the Ideal hotel, gave the men hot coffee and sandwiches, which was certainly appreciated by the firemen. The blaze was a most spectacular one. Guests watched the large stack at the Carlson [Earl] hotel which seemed to withstand the ravages of the flames until the very finish, when it toppled over in sections and fell without damage to the neighboring property. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 18 December 1916, p. 5, c. 2)



Recording Chart Data Water & Light

Board Office States Pressure Was

Good the Night




Jumped From 75 to 110 at the Time

of the Alarm at 2:20 Friday

Morning, Said Wm. Nelson

Backed by the figures of the pump house recording chart, Wm. Nelson, secretary of the water and light board, maintains that the water pressure at the time of the Carlson [Earl] hotel fire Friday morning was strong and that there was a quick response to the extra demands of the pump, and that at 2:20 in the morning, the time of the fire alarm, the pressure rose from 75 pounds to 110 pounds.

The chart shows that pressure was held to about 7:30 in the morning. After the fire leaks were found in the pipes on the north side and in Northeast Brainerd.

Firemen neglected to shut off a hydrant at the southeast corner of Fifth and Laurel streets and it froze up. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 19 December 1916, p. 5, c. 5)

SEE: Earl Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


23 January

Two Dead in Brainerd Fire are Still Unfound


BRAINERD, Jan. 23.—William Deering, a boilermaker, and Thomas F. Lamb, 76 years old, a flagman, employed by the Northern Pacific railroad, roomer at the Antlers hotel [418 Front Street], apparently were burned to death in a fire which destroyed the hotel and several other buildings here today, causing a loss estimated at $50,000.

Search of the ruins, which includes a quarter of a block in the business district was made last night in an effort to find some traces of the men who have been missing since the fire was discovered.

Deering is survived by a widow and two children; and also a sister, Mrs. Charles Miller, who lives in Minneapolis. Lamb leaves a son, Abner, at Brainerd, and a daughter, Miss Viola, a resident of Minneapolis. (Minneapolis Tribune, 23 January 1917, p. 13)



BRAINERD, Jan. 23.—The search for the bodies of Wm. F. Deering, a boilermaker, and Thomas F. Lamb, a flagman, who are believed to have lost their lives in a fire which completely destroyed two hotels and two adjoining buildings Monday morning, continues here today.

Both men are known to have been in the Antlers hotel when the fire started, but no one has been found who saw either leave the building.

Deering is survived by a widow and two children and also a sister, Mrs. Charles Miller who lives in Minneapolis.

Lamb was one of the first settlers of Minneapolis. He is survived by three sons, A. R. and Edward Lamb of Brainerd, and Howard Lamb of Bemidji, and three daughters, Mrs. L. J. Whitens and Mrs. L. Kinney of Minneapolis and Mrs. P. E. Roberts of Cedar Creek, Neb. (Minneapolis Tribune, 24 January 1917, p. 2)





Machinist Rule, Spectacle Case and

Spectacles Believed to be

Those of Wm. Deering


Taken from the Steaming, Smoking Ruins at

the Antlers Hotel, Watch and

Chain Also Found

What is believed to be the remains of one or more bodies have been located in the smoking, steaming ruins of the Antlers hotel, where two men, William Deering, steam fitter, and Thomas F. Lamb, aged flagman of the Northern Pacific railway, lost their lives in the disastrous fire which swept away a quarter block of the business district in Brainerd Monday morning.

Led by I. U. White and sons, Harry Carlson, Louis Hohman and others, bricks were carefully removed from the area where the lobby was formerly located in the hotel. Near the wash room was found a piece of thigh bone with smoking flesh and cloth attached. A piece of liver lay near by and then the searches came upon a key ring with 11 keys attached and one of them opened the trunk of Deering, when the keys were tried by his son, Julius Deering.

Pieces of brass of a rule such as machinists and shop mechanics carry was located, also a spectacle case and the spectacles, crushed and broken.

It would appear that Deering, who had made his escape from the doomed hotel, the night clerk aiding him to carry out his trunk and to set the same on the other side of the street, had thought of his overcoat hanging on the wall of his room and again made his way up the stairway to the second floor.

A girl of the hotel saw him mount the stairs and shortly after the outer wall collapsed.

Lamb was not seen on the street. He had a room on the third floor and there is some evidence to the effect that he had made his may to the ground floor and there met his doom. A silver watch, seven jeweled Swiss, was found, but not identified. Lamb’s sons did not believe it was their father’s watch. The case of nickel bore the name of Blanches Fontaines and the works the Tavannes Watch Co. Deering’s watch was a Waltham.

The search continues and ashes and debris are carefully sifted. All remains are stored in large cans to be placed in charge of the coroner, Dr. C. A. Nelson. (Brainerd Dispatch, 26 January 1917, p. 1, c. 1)



Flames First Discovered in the Base-

ment at the Antlers Hotel Short-

ly After Midnight

Shortly after midnight the fire was first discovered at the Antlers hotel down in the basement near the furnace. Fred Sargent said the fire was burning there and the hose was put down shortly, but the water was slow in being supplied. Some say it was five minutes before the water came.

As in many fires, the first five minutes is the crucial point. After that the firemen labored like heroes, but the initial advantage had been and lost and was never regained. (Brainerd Dispatch, 26 January 1917, p. 1, c. 2)




Antlers and Ideal Hostelries Reduced

to Ashes Monday Morning When

Thermometer Registers 30




Wm. Deering and T. F. Lamb are

Burned to Death in the Antlers

Hotel Where They Lived

Two men are believed to have lost their lives in a $50,000 fire which early this morning started in the basement of the Antlers hotel at 418 Front street. The firemen succeeded in apparently checking the first blaze which originated in the basement of the hotel, when later it gained increased headway and in two hours had leveled the three-story brick veneered hotel and fanned by the wind swept away a quarter block in the business district.

Missing are William Deering, a boilermaker of the Northern Pacific railway shops and T. F. Lamb age, 76, a flagman of the Northern Pacific employed at the Eighth street crossing. Deering was seen carrying his trunk down the Antlers hotel steps and returned to recover other belongings.

The following losses are total ones and the figures are approximate ones as follows:

Antlers hotel building, loss $10,000.

Antlers hotel fixtures, etc., both owned by Maurice LeMoine, loss $5,000.

Duluth Brewing & Malting Co., building occupied by the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], loss $7,000.

Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], W. T. Larrabee, proprietor, fixtures and furniture, loss $7,000.

Wm. Schlange, cigar factory, loss $600.

Tenant on second floor Joseph Hebert, loss $500.

Building owned by Charles Coleman, loss, $2,400.

Louis Broman, tailor, loss $400.

A. Schaefer, furrier, loss $300.

Building owned by G. D. Clevenger of Backus, carried insurance $2,500, loss $5,000.

Augusta Kannenberg, tenant on second floor, loss $300.

Added to this are the losses of many roomers and families in the hotels.

Mrs. Maurice LeMoine was not at home at the time of the fire having gone to Little Falls. When telephoned by Peter Wolvert she exclaimed with a sob in her voice of the distress. “Well, what next. How much more trouble must we have?” She traveled to Brainerd on the delayed morning train arriving at 5 o’clock.

The report about the streets is that the clerk of the Antlers hotel kept his head in a measure by waking up all the roomers and boarders and other tenants in the hotel, but he did not turn in the fire alarm. George Wiley ran from the hotel to the hose house and reported the fire.

Antlers Hotel at 418 Front Street, ca. 1888.
Source: Carl Faust

Flames shot up high, sparks were showered about the city and the Salvation Army hall caught fire and was extinguished by members of the Army. The building is located west of Schlange’s cigar factory. Russell’s pool room building, corner Fifth and Front, was on fire several times, a hole being burned in the roof.

Starting shortly after midnight the blazed centered at the Antlers and tenants in nearby buildings figured the department had it under control. It was a bitter cold night, the thermometer registering 28 below and the wind blowing to the eastward, the firemen fighting the blaze with difficulty.

Schlange & Coleman Cigar Factory located at 414 Front Street, next to the Antlers Hotel, ca. 1910.
Source: Special Publication, 02 September 1910, p. 16, Brainerd Tribune, A. J. Halsted, Editor and Publisher

About two in the morning the flames suddenly gathered in intensity and the Charles Coleman two-story frame building which housed the Wm. Schlange cigar factory, and most of Joseph Hebert’s belongings, a tenant on the second floor, went up in smoke. Barns and sheds in the rear were swallowed up in the fiery furnace.

Sweeping toward the G. D. Clevenger brick veneered building, one of the oldest in town, this two-story structure quickly succumbed. Mrs. Kannenberg formerly conducted a stationery store on the ground floor. That section was vacant. She had living rooms on the second floor and but little of her furniture was saved.

Ideal Hotel, formerly the Globe Hotel, at the southwest corner of 5th and Front, ca. 1900.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

On went the flames to the Duluth Brewing & Malting Co. building, the two-story frame, in which was located the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel] and at this corner of the same near the alley were located Louis Broman, the tailor and A. Schaefer, the furrier.

Roomers and boarders and the families residing at the Ideal had been warned in ample time and had saved most of their personal effects with the exception of families who lost considerable furniture.

Heavy losers at the Ideal were these tenants, Edwin Harris Bergh and F. B. Winslow.

The first thought of Wm. T. Larrabe was to save his mother, and she bore the excitement with fortitude. She is close to 90. Comfortable quarters were found for her and this afternoon she will be sent home to her daughter in Superior, Wis.

W. LeNeau roomed at Room No. 21 at the Ideal. He said Mrs. and Mrs. Larrabe woke up all the people in the hotel. On the third floor were all young men and they made a hurried exit.

W. T. Larrabe estimated his holdings at about $7,000, with one-quarter insurance. The hardest loss to bear is the sweeping away of his kitchen utensils, carpets, rugs, draperies, beds in the basement, etc.

C. D. Gaston, who lives at 419 1/2 Front street, across the street from the Antlers claims the fire started about 12:15 A. M. At 2 A. M. the hotel was in flames.

Joseph Hebert claimed a loss of $1,200 and said he carried about $750 insurance.

The Brainerd Gas & Electric Co. lost about $75 worth of fixtures which included three gas meters, two governors, and a water heater at the Ideal. Gas users were the Antlers, Ideal [formerly the Globe Hotel] and Broman, the tailor.

The city of Brainerd lost water meters in the Antlers hotel, Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], Joseph Hebert, Wm. Schlange and Mrs. Kannenberg.

The Northwestern Telephone Exchange Co. lost a telephone booth at the Antlers and numerous phones. The booth at the Ideal and the telephone were saved.

The Tri-State lost a telephone at Schlange’s. It is reported the cigar factory carried no insurance. Rates for the block were said to be $7 on $100 and accordingly what insurance was carried represented but a small measure of actual value.

At the Ransford and Iron Exchange hotels, and at Russell’s pool room can be located most of the homeless ones.

Anna Swanson, waitress at the Antlers, had a room on the second floor. She lost every bit of her belongings and had difficulty to make her way through the smoke to the stairway. William Deering had room No. 16. She saw a man help Deering down the stairs with his trunk and Deering then turned back to save his clothes which were hanging on the wall. He was never seen after that.

Fred Kuhn, boilermaker, reported lost, was saved, said Irving Haymaker. T. F. Lamb, the flagman, had a room on the third floor, No. 31. Walter Walker woke up many of the people and said there was no one in the room. Windows leading to the room were broken from the outside.

Zack LeMoine, night clerk, woke up many and saved one girl who was half suffocated in her room, the clerk dragging her down the flight of stairs through the smoke.

Offers Aid

If there are girls or women temporarily out of a place to stay on account of the fire that consumed the Antlers and Ideal, they can find accommodations at 424 South 7th street until they can make other arrangements.


William Deering, steam fitter, and Thomas F. Lamb, flagman, of the Northern Pacific are set down as lost in the flames.

Ralph James, miner employed at the Wilcox mine at Woodrow, was first coupled with the lost, but was located by the DISPATCH at the East hotel where he was sick. Employees of the mine had been searching for him and believed him dead in the flames as he had always stopped at the Antlers.

William Deering was a steam fitter employed at the Northern Pacific railway shop and had made his home in Brainerd for many years. He leaves a wife, daughter, Miss Carrie Deering, and son Julius H. Deering. Two brothers, Ben and Charles, residing in Minnesota City. His sisters are Mrs. Louis F. Hohman of Brainerd and Mrs. Charles Miller of Minneapolis. Mr. Deering was a member of the Loyal Order of the Moose and Steam Fitters Union.

Thomas F. Lamb, aged 76, came to Brainerd from Minneapolis and had been here several months. He leaves a son, Abner R. Lamb of 213 Laurel street, who is employed by Purdy’s livery, and a daughter, Miss Violet Lamb of Minneapolis.

Search in the ruins is difficult, as the fire leveled the Antlers and walls fell to the basement below, piling up tons of loose brick. Smoke, steam, hot brick and embers, retard the work of recovery.


The Schlange cigar company has secured quarters in the Renslow block, northeast corner of Fourth and Front streets, across the street from the Brainerd Grocery house.

Considerable of the stock was saved on which, however, no insurance was carried. Household furniture located on the second floor of their former location, No. 414 Front street carried $300 insurance. Very little of the furniture was saved.

The company will be all ready for business again Wednesday morning and Brainerd is asked to patronize the plucky firm which has not allowed a fire to dampen its enthusiasm. If you ever smoked Brainerd cigars, citizens of Brainerd, you ought to start that campaign Wednesday morning and do your share to help a citizen who was nearly burned out Monday morning.

Mrs. Schlange wishes to thank in behalf of the firm, firemen, citizens and women, too, who helped them in their distress and assisted them to save something out of the fiery furnace.

G. D. Clevenger was at Backus when H. E. Kundert telephoned him that his building was burned up. The tenant in Mr. Clevenger’s building was Mrs. Kannenberg. Mr. Clevenger valued the structure at $5,000 and said he carried $2,500 insurance He expected to rebuild.

Wm. T. Larrabe could not be seen this morning, but friends assert he has been offered three different locations in which to resume business. Many friends of his hope he can resume the hotel business in Brainerd.

Mrs. Maurice LeMoine went to Little Falls Monday afternoon and was too upset by the calamity to decide what she would do in the future. Returning to St. Paul with her was Anna Swanson, one of the girls at the Antlers, who lost everything she possessed in the fire.

Louis Broman, the tailor will start up again soon. A. Schaefer, the furrier, will also resume business soon. He lost a set of teeth in the fire and feels their loss keenly.

Quite a number of hotel help is out of work and if citizens can aid those mentioned by giving employment they will do much to alleviate distress. At the Antlers there was a chef, two porters, three waitresses (they have secured work) and two clerks. At he Ideal were employed a chef, a second cook, 3 kitchen girls, 2 porters, 1 waiter, 2 waitresses, and 2 clerks.

Registers were burned up at the Antlers hotel in the disastrous fire Monday morning. From testimony of the day clerk, Walter Walker, these people were at the hotel at the time of the fire:

Regular boarders on the third floor were Charles Peterson, mason; Thomas F. Lamb, flagman; Fred Kuhn, boilermaker; Frank Prideaux of the Woodhead garage; G. W. Wiley, laborer; Walter Walker, day clerk; and Irving Haymaker, the plant worker.

On the second floor were William Deering, steam fitter; Judge T. C. Blewitt.

Of the help these were Annie Swanson of Little Falls; Lena Half of South Brainerd and Annie Johanson of Staples.

The transients were three railway men from Bemidji, Brockway and Hanson, engineers, and Miller, fireman.

Of these named all have been accounted for except Deering and Lamb and they have not been found and are believed to lie under the tons of smoking brick. Smoke and steam still arise from the ruins and the work of recovery is necessarily slow.




Water Mains Burst in Various Spots

Section Repairs Being


[Unreadable] North Fifth, [unreadable], North Third, Holly, North Seventh [unreadable] to repair the breaks. (Brainerd Dispatch, 26 January 1917, p. 7, c.’s 1-3)



Quarter of a Block Wiped Out in

Business Section of City.


Antlers Hotel and Ideal Hotel Destroyed—

Wm. Deering and T. F. Lamb Perish.


Brainerd was visited by a serious fire on Sunday night, in which the lives of two men were sacrificed and considerable valuable property was destroyed. The fire started about midnight in the basement of the Antlers hotel, 418 West Front street, conducted by Morris LeMoine. The fire department was called out and apparently checked the spread of the flames, but later the fire gained increased headway and in the course of two hours had leveled the three-story brick veneered hotel building and swept away a quarter of a block in the business district of the city. The buildings destroyed include the Antlers hotel building and all barns and sheds in the rear; on the west a two-story building owned by G. D. Clevenger of Backus, and a two-story building owned by Charles E. Coleman and occupied by Wm. Schlange’s cigar factory on the first floor and Joseph Hebert on the second floor; on the east, the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], Wm. T. Larrabe proprietor, and owned by the Duluth Brewing and Malting company; and on the west side of south Fifth street Louis Broman, tailor, and F. A. Schaefer, furrier, in the south end of the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel] building, were also burned out.

The fire’s victims are William Deering, a well known steam fitter employed at the Northern Pacific railway shops, and T. F. Lamb, aged 76, a flagman employed by the Northern Pacific at the Broadway crossing. Both men boarded at the Antlers hotel. Deering was seen carrying his trunk down stairs, assisted by another man, and it is said that he returned to his room after the rest of his clothing. Soon afterwards the outer walls of the hotel crashed in.

The flames spread rapidly when once under full headway at the Antlers and it was impossible to check their rapid advance or to save the furniture, but every effort was made to alarm the guests and employees of the hotel and insure their safety. At the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], however, there was more time to work, and considerable property was saved.

How the fire originated is not known. It started in the basement near the furnace. There was some delay in getting water after the fire department arrived, for what reason is unknown, and though the firemen worked hard they were unable to overcome the advantage thus gained.

Flames shot high in the air, sparks were showered about the city and the Salvation Army hall caught on fire and was extinguished by members of the Army. The building is located west of Schlange’s cigar factory. Russell’s pool room building, corner Fifth and Front, was on fire several times, a hole being burned in the roof. It was a bitter cold night, the thermometer registering 28 below and the wind blowing to the eastward.

It was a bad fire, causing not only a great loss of valuable property, but also the loss of two lives. Wm. Deering was well known in the city, having made his home here for many years, and was liked by all who knew him. He leaves a widow, one daughter, Miss Carrie Deering, and one son, Julius Deering. Mrs. Louis F. Hohman of Brainerd is a sister. Mr. Deering had been employed at the Northern Pacific railroad shops for many years as a steam fitter. Thomas F. Lamb, the other victim of the fire, was 76 years old. He came to Brainerd from Minneapolis several months ago. A son, Abner Lamb lives in Brainerd, and a daughter, Miss Violet Lamb, in Minneapolis. The friends of the unfortunate victims of the fire have the heartfelt sympathy of everyone.


The following is a list of the heaviest losses by the fire, which are necessarily estimated:

Antlers hotel building, $18,000; furniture, fixtures, etc., $5,000; total $23,000. Insurance on building and contents $13,000.

Duluth Brewing and Malting Co., owners of the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], $10,000; insurance $6,500.

Wm. T. Larrabe, proprietor of the Ideal hotel [formerly the Globe Hotel], furniture and fixtures, $7,000; insurance $2,500.

G. D. Clevenger, building, $5,000; insurance $2,500. Mrs. Augusta Kannenberg, tenant on second floor of the Clevenger building, $300; no insurance. The store room on the ground floor was vacant.

Charles Coleman, owner of building occupied by Schlange’s cigar factory, $2,500; uninsured. Mr. Schlange’s loss is estimated at $600; uninsured. Considerable of the stock was saved. Mr. Schlange’s household furniture on the ground floor of their former location, No. 414 Front street, carried $300 insurance. Very little of the furniture was saved.

Louis Broman’s loss is estimated at $400, F. A. Schaefer’s at $300.

Added to these are the losses of the personal belongings of many roomers and tenants in the burned buildings. Joseph Hebert estimates his loss at $1,200; he carried $750 insurance. Other heavy losers were Prof. Edwin Harris Bergh and F. B. Winslow, who occupied apartments at the Ideal.


The ruins were still smoking on Thursday, the fourth day after the fire, though water has been thrown upon them daily. For this reason it has been difficult to make a thorough search for the remains of the unfortunate victims of the fire. On Wednesday, however, what is believed to be fragments of the remains of a body were found, which included a piece of thigh bone with smoking flesh, and cloth attached. A key ring with eleven keys attached was also found, and one of them fitted the lock of Deering’s trunk. Pieces of a brass rule such as machinists and shop mechanics carry were picked up, also a spectacle case and the spectacles, crushed and broken. The find was made near where the wash room of the hotel had been located. A silver watch, seven-jeweled Swiss, was found, but not identified. Lamb’s sons did not believe it was their father’s watch. The case of nickel bore the name of Blanches Fontaines and the works the Tavannes Watch Co. Deering’s watch was a Waltham. (Brainerd Tribune, 26 January 1917, p. 1, c.’s 1-3)

SEE: Antlers Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Globe Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

05 February




Early Morning Fire Monday Destroys

Every Vestige of the Landmark,

Building Valued $27,000


Fire Started in Ladies Room, Was Apparently

Subdued, Then Flared up with

Greater Fierceness

First Northern Pacific Railroad Depot, ca. 1913.
Source: Postcard, NPRHA

Brainerd’s Northern Pacific railway station, built in 1872, valued at about $27,000, was burned to the ground at 3 o’clock this morning, the fire starting in the ladies waiting room.

According to a report of the Minnesota Railroad and Warehouse Commission of June 30, 1915, station buildings and fixtures were valued at $26,422.57.

The structure was two and a half stories high. On its main floor were the waiting rooms, ticket office, yardmaster’s office and express and baggage department. On this floor everything was saved, including mail, express and baggage.

On the second floor were the general offices of the Minnesota & International railway. Considerable office furniture was saved, the engineering books, etc. It is believed the claim records and accounting records of the road are lost.

On the third floor were stored old papers, etc. There were three vaults in the building, of which one had a wooden door. If the vaults withstood the fiery siege, many valuable records will be saved.

The safe in the express office was saved. That of the ticket office and auditor are in the ruins.

Many of the department men on the second floor lost personal articles including many typewriters. H. A. Rahler, traveling auditor of the Minnesota & International railway, lost a typewriter. Lowry Smith, superintendent of the Northern Pacific tie plant, lost heavily. I. C. Strout and W. E. Paul lost typewriters.

The switching crew, Pete Wolvert foreman, and Wm. Hogan and D. V. Nies moved out forty cars from the fire district. With the temperature at 15 below and a fierce wind raging, the main business section of Brainerd 200 feet away was endangered for a time.

Sparks and cinders shot up high in the air and made a fiery halo blocks in extent. Many people sat on the roofs of their homes and extinguished the brands.

The Western Union and railway wires came down in the crash as burning walls fell. Linemen from Staples are repairing breaks. The Y. M. C. A. building, near the station, will be used as a temporary ticket office and telegraph station.

The fire was first discovered at 1:15 Monday morning, said D. Van Campen, night ticket clerk. Some one in the waiting room gave him the alarm. Van Campen, Chief Train Dispatcher Edward L. Orth, of the Minnesota & International railway and Pete Wolvert used fire extinguishers and believed it to be put out.

Twenty minutes later it broke out again back of the studdings with great violence, the flames shooting up to the roof.

All express and baggage was saved. Switchmen moved up three box cars and loaded in fixtures, books, etc.

The station had solid beams of white pine, said to have been hauled from St. Cloud. One of its builders was the late candidate for governor, Wm. E. Lee, of Long Prairie. Jule Hannaford, president of the Northern Pacific, worked as clerk in the station in the early days.




Express office of the Northern Express Co. at 512 Front street.

Telegraph offices of train dispatcher at the Y. M. C. A. building.

Freight depot not damaged.

Yardmaster’s office in the switch shanty at east end of station brick platform.

Ticket office will be established Tuesday.

M. & I. general offices will be housed by Tuesday, probably at city hall.




W. H. Gemmell, Returning From St.

Paul Last Night, Was at Sta-

tion at Start of Fire

The St. Paul train Sunday night, delayed over an hour, ran into Brainerd and past the burning station.

One of the passengers was W. H. Gemmell, general manager of the Minnesota & International railway. Mr. Gemmell, R. E. Quinn and other willing helpers put up a ladder and gained access to the second floor of the burning structure, anxious to recover valuable papers. They were were barely on the second floor when all the lights went out. In the dense smoke it was impossible to see a foot ahead.

A search light was requisitioned and with its rays Mr. Gemmell was able to see his desk and save a few papers.

Then the walls began to crash down, the firemen yelled to them and they barely made safety as the building became a fiery furnace. (Brainerd Dispatch, 05 February 1917, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)



Northern Pacific Station Is Destroyed and Business Portion Threatened.


BRAINERD, Feb. 5.—Fire starting from an overheated stove shortly before 2 o’clock this morning completely destroyed the Northern Pacific railroad station here, and, with a heavy wind blowing, part of the business section is threatened.

The total loss is estimated at nearly $27,000.

The structure was two stories high. The second floor was occupied by the general offices of the Minnesota and International railroad and many important books and records were lost.

No one was injured. When it was seen that the building could not be saved, firemen devoted their efforts towards protecting other property from the heavy shower of sparks, which were carried far by the wind. (Minneapolis Tribune, 05 February 1917, p. 5)




General Offices Established on Sec-

ond Floor of the Building, De-

partments Moving in Today


The Minnesota & International railway company, through its general manager, W. H. Gemmell, has accepted the proffer of the city of Brainerd, of the second floor of the city hall for quarters to carry on its business, the company having lost office room when the Northern Pacific depot burned up.

Today the company is moving fixtures and office supplies to the city hall.

The Bemidji Commercial club wired an offer of offices at Bemidji, and Mr. Gemmell thanked them for the courtesy, but assured them they were already well established at Brainerd.

At the council meeting Monday night the council voted unanimously on the proposition of leasing the second floor of the hall to the railway company. Ninety dollars a month was the concluded price, either party having the option of giving two months notice if the lease was to be terminated.

The council received the deputation from the Chamber of Commerce, which voiced the desire of the Chamber to do everything possible for the railway company.

Routine bills occupied the attention of the council for the remainder of their evening session.

The general manager’s offices will be in the room vacated by City Clerk Anton Mahlum. Auditor Downey’s force will be in the room vacated by council and municipal judge. His private office will adjoin the main room. The engineering department will be across the hall, north of the general manager’s room. The tie treating plant will have its offices just to the east of the engineering department.

City Clerk Mahlum takes the first room north of the water and light board committee room on the first floor. His next door neighbor to the east is the county agricultural agent.

The council chambers and the municipal court will be held in the room occupied by the chief of police. Vacant rooms are being filled with maps and papers hitherto stored on the second floor.

The Minnesota & International people are working energetically and business is going along as usual. The second floor offers them fine vault room, plenty of light, lots of room and is an ideal place for them.

What was considered by many Brainerd people as a disadvantage in the city hall, so much unused floor space, has now turned out to be a real blessing in housing on such short notice the railway company’s departments. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 February 1917, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)




General Offices at St. Paul Will Con-

sider the Same—Old Site Prob-

ably Used Again

The new depot is something that will be considered by the general offices at St. Paul and they are supreme in deciding what should be built, how, where and when. Many believe the old site will be used again.

At present a coach on a side track is used as a waiting room, also the Y. M. C. A. rooms. Ten carpenters are expected from Duluth, six were hired in Brainerd by J. E. Hood, of Duluth, inspector of bridges and buildings of the Northern Pacific. In all there will be from 25 to 30 men employed. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 February 1917, p. 1, c. 1)

SEE: Northern Pacific Depot (First) in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

28 October



Started Sunday Evening and Burned

Viciously Before Checked by

Fire Department




Losses Sustained by Stallman Broth-

ers Barber Shop, Brainerd Jour-

nal Press, Ransford Hotel

Fire at Stallman Brothers’ barbershop and pool room, starting in their basement in the Ransford block between 8:30 and 9 o’clock Sunday evening produced a blaze which it took the fire department hours to cope with before it was finally subdued.

Losses are set at these approximate figures: Stallman Brothers, $1,000; Brainerd Journal Press, $1,000; Ransford hotel $2,500.

A pool table was in use in the basement of the barbershop and people there were surprised when all electric lights blinked out. This caused many to think the fire started from electric wiring. But one light was burning on the main floor when the people of the basement made for the street.

The flames shot up within the partition between barbershop and hotel lobby adjoining and burned through on the floor above where are located some of the heat routes of the hotel. Water and smoke also did much damage there.

Flames ran up the partition wall to the west and entered into the main floor room occupied by the Brainerd Journal Press. All type and most of the stock was removed to the sidewalk but much was damaged by smoke and water.

It was not until after 11 o’clock that all danger was over. During that time smoke filled the Ransford hotel and caused some excitement among the guests.

All losses are partially covered by insurance. Water pressure was good.

On the shop of Stallman Brothers was carried $1,200 on fixtures and $300 on stock. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 29 October 1917, p. 5, c. 2)

SEE: 30 January 1905

SEE: 11 March 1907

SEE: Ransford Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Journal Press in the Newspapers of Early Brainerd page.


24 January




$50,000 FIRE IN



Quarter of a Block Destroyed in

Fire Starting from Pool Room

Basement, 622 Front Street


Firemen Do Good Work in Confining Flames,

Story in Detail of the Losses and

Incidents of Fire





These figures are just estimates and subject to revision:

L. J. Cale block—$30,000

Ideal Hotel Bldg.—$5,000

Pool Hall Bldg., 622 Front St.—$9,000


Cale block tenants:

Brainerd Fur Factory—$2,000

J. P. McGill barber shop—$500

Axel Johnson cigar store—$2,000


Second floor tenants:

Asa French—$500

Will Slipp—$500

Fred Eastham—$500

Pat Rardin—$500


Empress theatre—$3,500

W. T. Larrabee furniture—$3,000

Guests estimated—$2,000

James Tempelas pool room—$1,000

Plate glass S. 7th St.—$1,000

Gas company—$250

N. W. Tel. Co.—$1,500

Tri-State Tel. Co.—$100


A $50,000 fire starting at 2:30 o’clock this morning in the basement of the James Tampelis pool room, 622 Front street, burned down the frame Ideal Hotel, and left but the walls of the brick L. J. Cale block, the pool hall building and Empress theatre. There was no loss of life.

Tenants in all cases were heavy losers and these included the Brainerd Fur Factory, J. P. McGill barber shop, Axel Johnson cigar shop and Empress theatre on the ground floor of the Cale block and five flat tenants on the second floor, Asa French, Will Slipp, Fred Eastham and Pat Rardin.

The Ideal hotel building owned by R. R. Wise and Henry I. Cohen, was built in 1880 and valued at about $5,000. It carried $2,000 insurance. The loss of the tenant, W. T. Larrabee, was heavy and forty guests in the hotel lost considerable belongings.

The pool hall building at 622 Front street, was owned by R. R. Wise and Henry I. Cohen and was valued at about $9,000. It carried $6,500 insurance. On the ground floor was the pool hall conducted by James Tempelas. The second floor connected with the Ideal hotel and was used as additional rooms by the hotel. The brick building was built by Henry Miller in 1884.

The L. J. Cale block was valued at about $20,000 and was built of brick. Insurance on building was $13,000 and the furniture for $900. The structure was of an “L” shape, fronting on South Seventh and Front streets, with business houses on the main floor, flats on the second, and the third floor rooms connecting with the Ideal hotel. On the second floor Asa French, mail carrier, had six rooms and his parents. Mr. and Mrs. James French, lived with him. Will Slipp had a five-room flat. Fred Eastham occupied four rooms and carried no insurance whatever. Pat Rardin had a three-room flat.

The Brainerd Fur Factory stock was valued at about $2,000 with $1,000 insurance.

Plate glass along South Seventh street for a distance of a block was cracked by the heat. The Brainerd Gas & Electric Co. was a loser in pipes and meters.

The Northwestern Telephone Co. suffered losses in two cables and this morning about 450 telephones were disconnected. Wire crews were rushed in automobiles from St. Cloud to repair the damage. Total loss of this company $1,500.

The fire was a most difficult one to fight. It seemed to break out almost simultaneously in Front street and South Seventh street basements.

There was good water pressure and at the start the air was calm and the temperature about seven below zero. Smoked poured out densely.

About four o’clock the flames had eaten their way to the rear of the Ideal hotel and the roof, smoldering for some time, burst into flames. At 4:30 all buildings were seething.

Thrilling rescues were effected in the Ideal hotel. Mrs. W. T. Larrabee, wife of the proprietor, ran to the third floor at the outbreak of the fire and crawling on hands and knees through dense smoke awakened the guests. Fred Sargent of the hotel assisted. George Jacobs saved Miss Jessie LaMonte. A. Brockman was overcome by smoke, lost his teeth and glasses and was led through fire and smoke by Al Tice.

B. P. Flanagan, a boilermaker on the third floor, saved some of his belongings. Al Tice, clerk of the H. W. Linnemann company, saved most of his personal effects. George Jacobs, a steam fitter, on the second floor lost his purse with $27, gold watch and clothes. S. O. Olson, boilermaker, on third floor, saved considerable. “Rusty” Hartman on second floor, a steam fitter, lost most of his effects. Mrs. George Hough and daughter, in rooms on the second floor, lost heavily. A Greek on the third floor, employed at the railway shops, is said to have lost $300 effects. Laurie Underhill, steam fitter on the second floor, saved considerable. A Staples steam fitter, with the gang putting in a new air compressor at the foundry, lost considerable. Carscaden and S. O. Olson made their way to the roof and then over adjacent roofs to safety. Billy Vernon on third floor lost his grip containing personal belongings.

“Grandma” as Mrs. E. M. Larrabee, mother of W. T. Larrabee is known, age 88, walked calmly downstairs and was given a room at the Ransford hotel. This was her second experience as the Ideal hotel was burned to the ground in the big fire of the Antlers hotel January 20, 1917.

Smoke filled basements of buildings to the west of the burned area. The smoke was thick in the Woolworth store room and basement. Plate glass windows on South Seventh street were cracked at the Cullen store, M. J. Reis, Brockway & Parker, H. F. Michael Co., A. M. Opsahl building and other places.

At one time the flames leaped across the alley to the south and the Opsahl block was on fire. A two-foot fire wall between the Cale and Walverman blocks on Front street saved the latter building.

The fire is believed to have started from the furnace under the pool room. Smoke was smelled by tenants in the hotel and an alarm sent in. The department responded quickly and soon had four streams at work.

W. J. Garvey distributed hot coffee to the firemen. The Northwestern Telephone Exchange Co. hung wet blankets on its windows of the second floor quarters in the Cullen block and saved the building. Men watched the roofs of houses for blocks within the spark-swept area.

Mrs. L. J. Cale, owner of the Cale block, is in Minneapolis at present spending the winter there with her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Bane.

With the high cost of building material at present, it may be some time before the buildings are rebuilt. The quarter of a block destroyed in the heart of the business section and Brainerd can ill afford to have the burned district stand vacant very long.

The Opsahl building was damaged by the fire, the large skylight of the Swelland gallery being smashed, many side windows being broken by the heat. Much of the photographic equipment of Lars Swelland was removed across the street or taken to his South Sixth street place.

The loss of Axel Johnson is reported as close to $3,500. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 24 January 1918, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2; p. 5, c. 4)

SEE: CALE BLOCK / EMPRESS THEATRE in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.



Brick Moving Picture Theatre Build-

ing to be Built on South

Seventh Street




R. R. Wise Today Started Cleaning

Former Hotel and Billiard Par-

lor Sites at Corner

E. C. Bane has announced that the lots within the burned area of Front and Seventh streets popularly known as the L. J. Cale property, will be improved by the erection of two brick buildings.

On the South Seventh street frontage a building 50 by 75 feet will be erected and occupied by a moving picture theatre company from Minneapolis. The interior will be of steel beam construction, obviating any posts. The seating capacity will be 400 and if a balcony is added more can be accommodated.

On the Front street section a building, one or more stores high, will be built of brick measuring 25 by 80 feet. The ground space will be occupied by a store.

Workmen and teams this morning commenced cleaning up the lots owned by R. R. Wise in the area, comprising the former Ideal hotel site and the billiard parlor location. A basement will be dug at the hotel site. Mr. Wise was reticent about building plans, but the lots are too valuable to stand idle long. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 13 March 1918, p. 5, c. 2)


02 May



Fire Started in Roof of City Pumping

Station Building, Steam Pumps

Not Damaged


Electric Pumps Shipped from Milwau-

kee April 25 Expected Soon

at the Station

Fire starting in the roof of the city pumping station about 4 o'clock on Thursday afternoon entirely destroyed the brick building with shingle roof, and today only scarred walls are standing.

Chief Engineer E. E. McQuillin and Engineer Roy Cunningham were at the plant at the time. One used the hose at the station and the other working to put out the blaze. The department was called and the fire truck was run down the hill to the blaze.

The steam pumps are practically undamaged and continued pumping during the fire and have lost but a few minutes since that. The chlorine room which is of frame with composition roof was untouched by fire. All loss is covered by insurance.

A temporary sheet iron roof is bering erected to cover the machinery. The electric pumps ordered some months ago on a priority order from the government were shipped April 25 and are expected soon. They will replace the steam pumps and thus effect a great saving in coal which is needed for war purposes. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 03 May 1918, p. 5, c. 2)

SEE: Pump House / Water Works in the Brainerd Utilities page.


16 March

Two Firemen Injured in Fire at Brainerd


BRAINERD, March 16.—Two firemen were injured and $8,000 damage done by a fire here today.

Starting, it is believed, from an overheated stove, the blaze damaged the cement wall warehouse of Con O’Brien; destroyed six automobiles and a tractor and damaged six lighting plants, three plows and other property of the Woodhead Motor company, and burned a touring car, truck and roadster of the O’Brien Mercantile company.

Baled hay stored on the second floor made so dense a smoke that getting out of machinery was hampered.

Dean White and Vern White, firemen, were injured by cement blocks falling when the roof caved in. (Minneapolis Tribune, 17 March 1919, p. 1)

24 April



Starts Thursday Morning at 11

O’clock in the Slipp-Gruenhagen

Implement Section




Loss of Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. Esti-

mated at $10,000—Will

Repair Promptly

Fire starting about 11 o’clock Thursday morning gutted the Model Laundry building on South Broadway [South Eighth Street]. It is believed to have started in the implement warehouse section on the main floor where there was also a vulcanizing and tire outfit.

From there it quickly spread upward and burned out completely the flats on the third floor. Tenants there losing all or almost all their belongings were Ed Gruenhagen, Michael Stauner. L. W. Taylor, Miss Mary Scott, and Robert E. Stephenson.

The building was a three-story brick structure built by the Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. about five years ago. The loss to the company is about $10,000.

A fire wall separated their implement section from the part occupied by the Model Laundry. The latter sustained considerable damage from smoke and water, but it is believed that their quarters can be repaired within a week.

The fire burned fiercely and for a time it appeared the flames had been checked.

Water pressure was fairly good, but the use of several lines of hose quickly diminished the force. The firemen were in every section and Chief McGinn was in command.

At the early start of the fire, tenants on the third floor were able to remove a few household articles, which however, in many cases were damaged in the hurried removal down winding stairs.

The flames shot up through the floors alongside the fire wall, and the roof was soon ablaze. From there it leaped the firewall barrier and soon burned down and into the flats section.

The Model Laundry employees stuck to their posts and quickly removed laundry, etc., to places of safety. Machines were covered with tarpaulins, thus minimizing losses. Not a single customer’s goods were lost.

Insurance was carried by all tenants except some of the flat dwellers, the latter carrying but small amounts.

O. J. Bouma, superintendent of the laundry company, said arrangements have been quickly perfected for temporary quarters to run a steam laundry and thus keep the business going on without interruption. In the meantime repairs will be rushed on the burned part. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 24 April 1919, p. 5, c.’s 1 & 2)


The Brainerd Model Laundry Co. wishes to thank the many people who during the fire so kindly assisted voluntarily in removing our property to places of safety, or who rendered and offered other help. The wholehearted manner in which everybody assisted was most gratifying. The fire department especially did splendid work in saving that part of the building occupied by us. We take this means of expressing our gratification to all.

Brainerd Model Laundry Co.

(Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 24 April 1919, p. 5, c. 2)

SEE: Brainerd Model Laundry in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


06 February



Blaze at St. Joseph’s Hospital Nurses’

Home Quickly Extinguished by

the Department




Ludicrous Incidents of the Girls

Rushing Into Home to Save

Their Belongings

What promised to be a heavy fire was quickly checked Friday evening by the fire department when the motor fire truck made a fast run to the nurses’ home at St. Joseph’s hospital and extinguished a fire on the roof.

The chemical was taken off the truck, given a turn for quick action and then ladders had to be placed in two or more positions to make the roof of the two-story structure located southwest of the hospital. By that time the tank was generating terrific pressure. J. C. Claussen had the chemical and luckily had himself well balanced on the ridge pole when he pressed the valve of the chemical, otherwise it would have kicked him off the roof.

During the excitement nurses rushed for the home to take out their belongings. The first girl emerged triumphantly with a finger nail file, powder puff and a button hook, said one of the firemen. The second girl brought out a red apple, pin cushion and black kewpie carnival doll. Hugging these, the girls frantically asked if the firemen would save the rest. Trunks then came tumbling out.

Two gallons of chemical solution effectively squelched the fire, and the smoke settled and everybody moved in again. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 07 February 1920, p. 5, c. 2)

05 October



19 Freight Cars Consumed—Loss of

Building Set at $20,000 and

Equipment at $15,000

Fire of unknown origin starting at 10:10 Tuesday night destroyed the old car shop brick building 200x300 feet in size, a story and a half high, of the Northern Pacific railway shops. This section of the railway shops repairs freight cars, etc. Nineteen freight cars, some timbers, lumber, steam heat pipes, etc., were burned.

The city fire department assisted the shop fire department to fight the flames. Immediately north of the burning building is located the planing mill and power plant of the shops. Efforts were centered on saving these. The power plant houses dynamos, etc.

Heavy power lines running from the power plant to the rest of the shops burned. The watchman making the rounds at 9 P. M. saw no fire. Men working overtime in the store department heard the shop whistle alarm and saw flames coming through the roof of the old car shop. The loss is estimated at approximately $35,000.

Origin of Blaze

As to the origin of the fire, Supt. J. P. Anderson, Wednesday morning, was unable to give any idea. The watchman, John Walters, a faithful employee of the company, had made his rounds and saw no trouble of any kind at 9 p. m.

When discovered after 10 o’clock flames were bursting through the roof. The shop whistle alarmed the shops fire department and the whole town.

Some Brainerd citizens, Fred I. Sanborn, Louis Hohman and others, ascended the water tower and said the sight which met their eyes was wonderful. Flames shot up and showers of sparks were thrown.

Fire Departments

The men of the shops fire department acquitted themselves admirably and it is due to their intelligent, well-directed work that the rest of the plant was saved. At times the sparks set fire to various places in the roof of the planing mill and scorched the sides of the power plant.

Power Lines Burned

Power lines leading to the locomotive department burned. Lines supplying the railway depot, the N. P. hospital, the Y. M. C. A. and various crossing lights ceased to function after the fire and were dark.

At the dispatchers’ office in the depot lamps and candles were used.

There was no work except fire repair and line work at the shops Wednesday.

Tool Chests Lost

Men employed in the old car shops number 150 and half of them are reported to have lost their tool chests and in some instances working clothes. The loss of each burned out will run from $60 to $75 or over.

Loses Estimated

J. P. Anderson, superintendent of the Northern Pacific railway shops, estimated the loss conservatively. As to building it amounted to $20,000 and the lost equipment including 19 freight cars he set at $15,000. He said there was no oil stored in the buildings.

He praised the work of the shops fire department, and was grateful also for aid and service extended by the city department. The pumping crew was a valiant one and kept the shop pumps at high pressure in spite of oily smoke, flames and showers of sparks.

Switch engines were early on the scene with two fire cars and sprayed the south side of the burning building and saved scores of cars sidetracked in the vicinity.

All Brainerd at Fire

All Brainerd turned out for the fire. Automobiles were parked thick on the fill while occupants viewed the scene. Hundreds of people perched on box cars. Others stood on the ground and hugged the fire as closely as possible. As the roof gave way, heavy rafters swayed and amid a shower of sparks launched into the furnace blow.

Going Hunting

Some of the men, out of work, said they would occupy their forced layoff by going hunting and hunting licenses were being issued at the county auditor’s office.

Largest Fire Since New Shops Built

The fire of Tuesday night is the largest in the history of the new shops. Some thirty years ago most of the original wooden shops were destroyed in a fire.

Since the advent of the brick shops fire losses had been kept down to a minimum.

New Tank Used

The new concrete tank of the city was impressed into use at the fire. The valve was opened and a third of its contents poured to the shops, aiding in fighting the fire and furnishing high pressure.

Officials Arrive

Howard Curry, superintendent of motive power, and F. W. Reed, chief electrician of the Northern Pacific arrived on the afternoon train from Staples and inspected the burned area and damage to electric wires, etc. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 06 October 1920, p. 1, c. 3; p. 2, c. 3)



Old Machine Shop of the Northern

Pacific Shops Connected Up and

Men Working There Thursday




Depot, Hospital, Y. M. C. A., Crossing

Lights Again on Circuit on

Wednesday Night

The electric light and power wires burned out at the Northern Pacific railway shop fire of Tuesday night are being quickly repaired.

On Thursday morning the old machine shop was connected up and the work of the machinists was going on full blast. By Friday morning it is expected the whole shops will again be at work.

Wednesday night the light circuit was again established and the depot, hospital, Y. M. C. A., and railway crossing lights were again illuminated.

Regarding Insurance

The railway company carried its own insurance which covered its buildings and equipment. The provisions of this blanket insurance, however, did not extend to any personal belongings which workers may have kept stored in the old car shop, according to a statement from the shop office.

The insurance of the railway company is carried in a special fund. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 07 October 1920, p. 5, c. 3)



Linemen and Pole Men of the Water

and Light Department Labor-

ing With Shopmen




Fire of Tuesday Night Burned Out

Many Cables, Power Lines,

Light Wires, Etc.

Linemen and pole men of the water and light board are aiding the Northern Pacific railway shop crews to restore electric power and light service at the Northern Pacific railway shops.

The fire of Tuesday night was a disastrous one insofar as power and light lines are concerned and every effort has been centered on restoring this service, so that all shopmen can speedily resume work. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 09 October 1920, p. 5, c. 1)

10 October



Mill Owned by Parker-Kellogg Lum-

ber Co. of Minneapolis Located

on Rice Lake




All Machinery, Two Wagons and a

Dump Cart, Considerable Sawed

Timber Burned

Fire of unknown origin early Sunday morning destroyed the sawmill in Northeast Brainerd owned by the Parker-Kellogg Co. of Minneapolis and operated by Joseph A. Joncas. The loss, as far as can be ascertained, is estimated at about $10,000.

The mill was located on the southwest shore of Rice lake and was entirely burned up, all that is left being a tangled mass of wreckage. Flames set fire to sawdust banks and Brainerd was soon bathed in smoke like the days of the forest fires.

The fire spread up the bank, following the runway on which sawed lumber was hauled to the top of the hill and there burned considerable timber. The main piles of lumber are well over the brow of the hill and thus escaped.

Two large heavy lumber wagons and a dump cart standing near the mill were also burned.

The mill sawed from 17,000 to 20,000 feet daily and employed on an average 35 men. Two crews were employed on the river extracting deadheads. There was no night shift at the mill.

The mill is reported to have shut down Saturday morning at 11 o’clock and in the afternoon several of the crew were engaged in cleaning up the grounds.

By 1 p. m. steam had died down in the boilers. When the fire alarm sounded and the Northwest Paper Co. whistle blew for help, firemen and neighbors had difficulty trying to extinguish the blaze. The mill is outside the hydrant limit, and it was not possible to start the mill pump to gain pressure.

It is expected that the Parker-Kellogg Co. will rebuild as a mill is needed to cut deadheads raised and lumber being cut under contract. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 11 October 1920, p. 5, c. 1)



The state fire marshal department may be asked to investigate the fire at the Joncas mill owned by the Parker-Kellogg Co. of Minneapolis.

The mill had shut down for Sunday, the fires in the boiler room died out Saturday morning and there was no steam by 1 o’clock Saturday afternoon. Nevertheless the mill was burned to the ground about 5 o’clock Sunday morning.

No insurance was carried and the loss of about $10,000 is a severe one, because of the difficulty in replacing machinery.

P. M. Parker of the Parker-Kellogg Co. said he was at a loss to understand how a mill with no fire in the boiler room could catch on fire. It is located on the bank of Rice lake blocks from any other industry.

The company may rebuild the mill, and if it does so, it will be made a band mill of larger capacity. The company figure on loss as far north as 150 miles above Brainerd.

If Brainerd is abandoned, the mill will be put in at Aitkin. Brainerd may retain the industry by using its influence to gain a water pipe line from the Northwest Paper Co. to the mill site. The mill is out of the hydrant area and it will be only through the cooperation of the paper mill that some sort of fire protection can be gained. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 12 October 1920, p. 2, c. 2)


21 December



Fire Believed to Have Started from

Furnace in Basement Guts the

Lodge Building




Tenants on Second Floor, A. J. Cul-

len and John Hurley, Have Heavy

Furniture Loss



Knights of Columbus home valued at $15,000 badly gutted by fire, about $6,000 loss.

K. C. Equipment, valued at $5,000, about $2,000 loss.

John Hurley, heavy loss furniture in 4-room flat.

A. J. Cullen heavy loss furniture in 4-room flat.

Fire, believed to have started from the furnace in the basement, at about 6 o’clock Tuesday morning, badly gutted the Knights of Columbus club house at 718 Front street.

The building is a brick veneer and the fire from the basement leaped up the inside of the walls and soon had the whole roof ablaze. There was good water pressure, and five lines of hose were soon playing on the building.

Fireman Overcome

The smoke rolled out in heavy clouds, making it difficult to fight the fire. Frank Fuller, a boilermaker, employed as a lineman in the fire department, was overcome by smoke and had to be taken to a hospital.


On the ground floor is the Knights of Columbus lodge room. A player piano and furniture near the walls was burned and other pieces ruined. The books and records were believed saved.

According to insurance men’s estimates, the building, valued at $15,000 and insured at $4,000, was believed to have sustained a loss of about $6,000. The furniture, valued at $5,000, was believed to have sustained a loss of about $2,000. All loss figures are estimates subject to correction by contractors’ statements, etc. Both policies of insurance were carried in the John H. Krekelberg agency.

On the second floor A. J. Cullen had the front four-room flat. Mr. Cullen said he smelled smoke about 6 a. m., shortly before the alarm was turned in. Most of his furniture was ruined by fire and water. He carried $500 insurance in the John H. Krelkelberg agency.

John Hurley had the rear four-room flat. Most of his furniture is ruined and the loss is a heavy one as he permitted his insurance to run out only a few days ago.

Parish Meeting

The last meeting held in the Knights of Columbus home building was the parish meeting Monday evening which was largely attended. This was in session until 11 o'clock or later. At that time someone, it is reported, stoked up the furnace. The regular janitor is Eugene Aubin.

Second Fire Call

While firemen were at the K. C. home, a call came from St. Paul’s Episcopal church parsonage, where sparks from a chimney damaged the roof. The blaze was quickly extinguished.

To Rebuild

The fire loss fails particularly heavy on the Knights of Columbus today which had strained all its energies and resources in completing and furnishing its home. The money from insurance will not restore all losses. The rate is a high one in that section of the city, which was the reason why not more insurance was carried. It is believed the Knights of Columbus will get together and quickly arrange for the necessary rebuilding, etc.

Fire Department

The fire department gained credit for its satisfactory handling of the fire. Coupled with good water pressure, five lines were soon playing on the building. The fire was confined to the building, and nearby business blocks, although only separated by partition walls, had little if any damage. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 21 December 1920, p. 5, c. 1)


16 December



Believed to Have Caught from a

Chimney and Rapidly Spread from

Partitions to Roof




Very Little of His Furniture or Kit-

chen Saved from Fast Spread-

ing Flames

Fire at 1:20 p. m. Thursday, starting it is believed from a chimney, spread rapidly to partitions and then the roof of the Ideal hotel and gutted the structure.

Firemen, using three streams and supplied with a pressure from 100-115 pounds, said Carl Zapffe, president of the Water and Light board, kept the flames in the wooden section of the hotel and largely saved the adjoining building to the east owned by Mrs. Isabel Spalding.

The fire spread so quickly that but a small amount of the Ideal Hotel furniture was saved and little or none of the valuable kitchen equipment.

Three girls working at the hotel, Esther Mattson, Jessie Bergner and Clara Plumb, lost every stitch of their belongings. Mrs. W. T. Larrabee did not save a bit of her clothing. Many of the roomers were losers of belonging.

No one was injured in the fire. The building was owned by William Spencer and he said he carried $1500 insurance.

Immediately adjoining the Spalding building is the Haydon Co. office. W. E. Haydon, president of the company, stated that up to 1:40 p. m. their business location had not been damaged by the fire.

At 3 p. m. the blaze was subsiding and firemen had confined it to the southwest corner of the frame structure. The firemen received many commendations on the good fight they had made in a zero temperature.

Mr. and Mrs. Larrabee have had more than their share of misfortune. They were burned out at the southwest corner of Fifth and Front streets when the Antlers hotel fire started to the west of them several years ago. They removed to the southwest corner of Seventh and Front streets and were in a disastrous fire there. Then came today’s fire and in each of them the hotel man’s losses have been most heavy ones. But small insurance has ever been carried. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 February 1922, p. 2, c. 3)



Hotel Established at 504 Front Street

Brick Building Owned by Mrs.

Isabel Spalding

After the fire which burned 502 Front street, a section of the Ideal hotel, William T. Larrabee established himself in the east section of the hotel, 504 Front street, owned by Mrs. Isabel Spalding, which was untouched by fire.

It has been cozily furnished and arranged and is now open for business. On the ground floor is the office, six booths seating six to eight people each and in the rear the lunch counter. In the south end of the building is the kitchen. The hotel has twenty rooms which were not touched by the fire.

Mr. and Mrs. Larrabee have shown admirable pluck in facing their difficulties and again opening the hotel. All the roomers are back and much transient trade is also stopping there. (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 March 1922, p. 2, c. 6)

SEE: Antlers Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Globe Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Cale Block / Empress Theatre in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Ideal Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


11 February




A destructive fire occurred in the business district of Brainerd last Sunday afternoon and evening, entailing a loss estimated at about $140,000, which was largely covered by insurance. The flames started in the Koop block, at Laurel and Seventh Streets, in the furnace room in the basement and had presumably smoldered for several hours before being discovered. In this way the fire had gained great headway before the fire department reached the scene, and spread with great rapidity. The Koop block was entirely destroyed, which included the Koop Mercantile Co.’s grocery store, Midanek Specialty Shop and the Golden Rule store. The fire then spread to the corner building, lately vacated by the Brainerd State Bank and destroyed that building together with some old bank fixtures and the furnishings of the Business and Professional Women’s Club on the second floor. The Gruenhagen building, to the north of the Koop block, caught fire on the roof, a heavy fire wall between the buildings holding the flames in check to a large extent. The upper floor, however, was burned out with the furniture stock displayed there and the lower part of the Gruenhagen store was badly damaged by smoke and water. The H. F. Michael store, next door to the Gruenhagen building, was saved by a fire wall, but some smoke damage was incurred. Several other stores in the immediate vicinity were damaged to some extent by the smoke. There were several offices and living quarters on the upper floors of the buildings and these were of course a total loss.

The alarm was turned in at 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon and the firemen were quickly on the scene but the extremely cold weather hampered them in their work, and it was several hours later when the fire was brought under control. While the fire was raging downtown an alarm came in from northeast Brainerd where a small residence was burning, and part of the fire department answered this call, though necessarily the larger fire required most of the apparatus. (Brainerd Tribune, 16 February 1923, p. 1, c. 3)














Brainerd, comparatively free from large fires for the past four years, suffered from a disastrous blaze late Sunday [11 February] afternoon, when the Koop block on Laurel and South Seventh streets was reduced to ashes, and the Gruenhagen block adjoining was partially destroyed.

The exact origin of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to have been in the basement of the Koop block in the furniture room beneath the Midanek [sic] Specialty Shop and must have been smoldering for several hours before it was discovered.

H. H. Hafstrom, proprietor of the Golden Rule had just gone down to work on his books, and had been in his store but a few minutes when the large plate glass windows in his section were blown out presumably by the pressure of gasses forming, and the room immediately filled with smoke. Mr. Hafstrom was barely given time to get his desk and safe out of the store. Nothing else could be saved.

The fire was first discovered after four o’clock in the afternoon and the alarm turned in by Ed Olson. The department was in addition called to Northeast Brainerd at about 5 p. m. by a small house burning near the Arnold’s store. It was necessary to leave the smaller for the larger blaze.

The fire department worked heroically, their clothing covered with ice, and frozen on in thick layers. Hot coffee was furnished by the Brockway store and several other parties.

The residents of the flats above the Golden Rule and Specialty Shop were barely given time to run to safety, and no personal property was salvaged. Those living in these flats included E. S. Koop, F. W. Coppersmith and M. Midanek [sic]. Household furniture stored in the building by F. M. Koop was also lost.

The large hall above the corner store room formerly occupied by the Brainerd State Bank, was used by the Business & Professional Women as club rooms. A number of the members had been enjoying a social hour in the rooms on Sunday afternoon, and were ignorant of the fire until they opened their door to leave and were greeted by dense smoke which poured in upon them. Nothing was saved from their rooms, the fire having gained such proportions before it was discovered.

J. W. Koop, who owned the corner block in which were housed the Koop Mercantile Co.’s grocery, the Specialty Shop and the Golden Rule, was on his way to his store to look after the furnace and when he was passing the M. J. Reis store noticed the smoke near the old bank corner. He stated that it looked as if there was a fire in the vicinity but did not realize that his own building was burning until he reached the scene.

The Gruenhagen building, which adjoins the Koop block on the north was the last to catch fire. A heavy fire wall between these buildings offered protection from the side but the Gruenhagen roof took fire and burned down into the second floor where the furniture stock is displayed, destroying that department entirely.

The hardwood flooring of the second story offered good resistance to the flames which were kept confined in that section. Water came through into the first floor, but did little damage to the hardware stock. Some furniture on the first floor and in the windows was water-soaked. Several show cases were carried out and across the street to safety. Water did not run into the basement to the extent of putting out the furnace fires, which were kept burning all night. The staff of the company were busy this morning, wiping up the water and drying the hardware.

The heavy fire wall between the Gruenhagen and H. F. Michael Co.’s store saved the latter from the fate of its neighbors. Considerable damage was done by smoke but the fire was checked before it reached the store. Residents of the flats above the H. F. Michael Co., carried out most of their possessions. Those living in these quarters are County Attorney W. F. Wieland, A. A. Gierlet, W. R. Hiller, Mrs. Anna Levant and a flat occupied by the Misses Margaret Stone and Gertrude Nuss.

One of the busiest places in the city during the fire was the local telephone exchange. People from all over the city and from the rural sections as far out as Gull Lake, were calling up to ask about the blaze.

The practice of asking the central operators about a fire is not sanctioned, and is against the company’s rules, but patrons, forgetting the added burden caused by their curiosity, called in regardlessly with the result that the operators were soon swamped.

An example of what such thoughtlessness on the parts of those using the telephones can do, it may be stated that during the fire Sunday eight girls were required to answer the calls that came in, and with this big force, could not do justice to the situation.

In addition to the eight operators, there were two girls and two men needed to pull down connections when patrons were through talking, as the operators could not take care of this part of the service.

During the heavy duty hours in normal times, only six or seven operators are needed at the most, and the “load” carried electrically is about ten amperes. During the fire that load went up to fifty amperes.

Every bit of equipment was in use and overworked. In the future, the company requests that citizens will refrain from putting through all but absolutely urgent calls at such times, since a number of emergency calls were unavoidably sidetracked during the fire by unimportant requests for information on the blaze.

The Northwestern Bell Telephone Co., fearing that perhaps the entire block would be burned, including their exchange, had an order in to the Minneapolis office for an entire new equipment within an hour from the time the alarm was turned in and this equipment was already loaded on freight cars ready to ship to Brainerd when the fire was brought under control. Included in this shipment was a new switchboard, new cable, etc. A man with additional cable was started before dark for Brainerd to repair the lines damaged.

Smoke did considerable damage to other business houses on South Seventh street. Entering the H. F. Michael Co.’s store it settled into the basement, doing only small damage to the first floor. Water also entered the basement from the Gruenhagen side, but was mopped up nearly as fast as it came in.

Eddying around the W. E. Brockway Grocery Co., smoke came into the M. J. Reis and the A. J. Cullen Clothing Co., doing considerable damage in both stores. Flats over the Brockway and Reis stores were also badly smoked up and draperies damaged.

The police department was augmented by several special officers, who, under the direction of Chief Erick Graff, did very good work in patrolling the scene, keeping people out of the danger zone and petty thieves from stealing from the vicinity.

The fire losses, as near as can be estimated at this time are as follows:

Koop building, approximate estimated loss, valued at $45,000, estimated insurance carried $28,000.

Koop Grocery stock, approximate estimated loss, $10,000, estimated insurance carried $10,000.

Golden Rule stock, approximate estimated loss, $31,000, estimated insurance carried $27,000.

Specialty Shop stock, approximate estimated loss, $7,000 estimated insurance $2,000.

Brainerd State Bank, fixtures, approximate estimated loss, $4,000, estimated insurance $4,000.

Gruenhagen building, approximate estimated loss, $25,000, estimated insurance $25,000.

Gruenhagen stock, approximate estimated loss, $12,000, estimated insurance $27,000.

Dr. Burill, dentist, approximate estimated loss, $1,500, estimated insurance, $1,200.

Business & Professional, approximate estimated loss, $1,000, estimated insurance $900.

E. S. Koop, furniture, approximate estimated loss, $3,000, estimated insurance $1,500.

F. W. Coppersmith, approximate estimated loss, $2,000, estimated insurance $1,000.

L. Madanek [sic], furniture, approximate estimated loss $3,000, estimated insurance $300.

TOTAL, approximate estimated loss, $141,500, estimated insurance $122,900.

Mr. Midanek [sic], of the Specialty Shop suffered the greatest loss proportionately, in that he carried very little insurance. He came here from Minneapolis a little over a year ago. He has made no plans as yet for the future.

H. H. Hafstrom of the Golden Rule came to Brainerd two years ago, from Morristown, S. D., and had established a very good trade. A branch store was opened this winter in Crosby, called the “Range Emporium” which has proven quite successful. As to re-opening in Brainerd, Mr. Hafstrom could not state what his plans would be. (Brainerd Dispatch, 18 February 1923, p. 6, c.’s 1 & 2)

NOTE: The above mentioned Koop Block is rebuilt beginning in May 1923; the new building eventually houses the J. C. Penney Company until it moves to the east Brainerd Mall in the 1960’s.

SEE: Koop Blocks in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Michael’s Store in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

07 March



Valuable Residence Formerly Occu-

pied by Chief Surgeon of N. P.

Hospital, Now Only a Shell




Fire Department Hampered in Its

Work, 2,000 Feet Hose Needed

to Get Water to Fire

Fire at 10:12 this morning destroyed the former chief surgeon’s home on the old Northern Pacific hospital site, of late the V. L. Hitch property and in which Mr. Hitch resided.

Northern Pacific Hospital, railroad bridge and doctors’ residence, ca. Unknown. A 794x548 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

The fire was of unknown origin, starting in the roof of the building, either from sparks from the chimney or a passing train, or perhaps by defective wiring in the attic. It burned down through the second and first floors, leaving only a shell of the first story standing.

Mrs. Hitch was alone at the time the fire was discovered, her husband being out in the country. Most of the furniture was saved, however one bedroom suite, an old family heirloom and much prized, was burned.

The fire department was much hampered in its work, due to the fact that there is no water service in West Brainerd. Two thousand feet of hose was required to reach from the nearest hydrant at the corner of Second street and Laurel across the wagon bridge to the scene of the fire. Since only fifteen hundred feet is carried on the fire truck, an extra trip back to the station for more hose was necessary.

The hydrant used is at the end of the mains, where water pressure is always very poor, and by the time the water had been carried through two thousand feet of hose, no force remained with which to fight the flames. The chemicals were also pushed into service, but little could be done with them in a fire that had gained the headway that this one had attained.

Mr. Hitch carried $4,000 worth of insurance on the dwelling and $1,000 on his personal property.

This fire brings very forcibly home the fact that water mains such as the residents of West Brainerd are requesting, and which will be voted upon at the coming election, are very badly needed in that section of the city, and also the fact that additional apparatus, such as has been recommended by the recent insurance investigation committee, would be of much value.

This apparatus suggested would be kept at the central fire station, and in the instance of the Hitch fire, could have saved an extra trip back to headquarters for more hose. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 07 March 1923, p. 5, c. 3)



It is not fair to citizens in one section of a city that they should be compelled to rely upon a bucket brigade to fight fires when their fellow-citizens in other parts of the city have the advantage of modern fire-fighting equipment. Trucks and hose are valueless unless there are hydrants to which the hose may be attached. When a fire has made considerable headway there is not time to stretch hose for half a mile to reach the burning building. If the building is to be saved the mains must be laid before the fire starts and not after it has gathered strength. Fire departments do not carry hose to take the place of mains, the hose is carried to connect with mains.

The fire that burned so fiercely in West Brainerd recently, destroying one of the best residences within the city limits, would have been controlled if the fire department could have attached hose to a hydrant near at hand. V. L. Hitch is a loser because the City of Brainerd does not provide water for the use of the residents of West Brainerd. What that fire did cannot be undone, but the voters of Brainerd can decide that, if another fire breaks out at the other side of the river, it will be attacked by the fire department with success because the department has water at hand with which to fight the fire.

Fires, however, are not an everyday affair, while the domestic need for water is continuous. The people of West Brainerd, who live within the city limits, need water just as much as their more fortunate neighbors in other parts of the city. For this water they are willing to pay. They are not asking for a gift but for a loan. The interest on the bonds, and the bonds themselves, will be attended to by the consumers of West Brainerd whose water bills provide for the interest on the bonds and will retire them.

The amount of the bond issue is unimportant to the voters. The bonds will not cost them anything and, therefore, their votes in favor of the bond issue will yield justice to their fellow-citizens without taking anything out of their pockets. It is easy to give others equal rights and privileges when they cost the donors nothing. The tax-payers of West Brainerd are entitled to an adequate water supply. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 March 1923, p. 4, c. 1)

01 November










The Kindred hotel, better known as the old East Hotel, and one of the early landmarks of Northeast Brainerd, burned early Thursday morning. The interior of the building, including the grocery store owned by Swanson and Thon, was practically destroyed, about all that remains of the structure is the walls, and they are badly charred.

The fire was discovered by Mrs. Louis Olson, who lives several doors north of the hotel. She awoke, and smelled smoke, so roused her husband, who went outside to locate the blaze. The wind coming from the south carried the smoke directly by his place in thick clouds, and guessing where it was coming from, he turned in the alarm.

The building must have been burning for some time, as the fire had quite a start before the department arrived. The interior was burning furiously, so that nothing could be saved from any of the rooms.

Hotel Part Unoccupied

The hotel was unoccupied at the time of the fire, D. E. Barry, who had leased it furnished for several years, had moved out about two weeks ago, and a new tenant had not as yet been secured. The furniture and equipment stood just as the former proprietor had left them.

The building was owned by Mrs. Emma Forsythe, but it is said that S. S. Peters was buying it on the contract plan. Insurance was carried in agencies represented by the Insurance Service Agency and A. M. Opsahl. Swanson and Thon carried insurance with George Tracy. $15,000 was carried on the building, and $5,000 on the fixtures.

Formerly Known as Kindred Hotel

The Kindred hotel is among the oldest buildings in Northeast Brainerd. It was erected in the early eighties, either in 1882 or 1883, by William S. Brockway, father of W. E. Brockway, who operated the hotel and the grocery store adjoining until his death, in April 1896. It has changed hands a number of times, and has been increased in size until at the time of the fire, it was a three-story structure, about 50 by 100 ft. with a one-story addition at the rear. The building was heated by steam and had other modern improvements.

Grocery Firm Gets New Location

Swanson and Thon have rented the store room formerly occupied by Mrs. Bessie Closterman, in the same block with the hotel, and will enlarge the quarters to suit their needs and begin business again at once.

No plans have yet been made as to what will be done with the old hotel site. (Brainerd Dispatch, 02 November 1923, p. 1, c. 7)

NOTE: This was one of two locations for the Lumbermen’s Hospital in Northeast Brainerd.

SEE: Lumbermen’s Hospital in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


05 January



Anna Block and Contents Damage

Estimated at About





Ten Families, Second Floor, Living

in Apartments, Lost Practically

All Possessions

Fire which is said to have stared in the basement of the pool hall operated by F. W. Kuehl, 620 Front street, is said to have damaged the Anna block and contents to the extent of about fifty thousand dollars early this morning.

The flames were discovered by Martin Johnson, 307 1/2 South Sixth street. Mr. Johnson is the janitor of the Anna block, and on account of the cold night, had decided to sleep in the furnace room, which is under the Birkeland studio, that joins the pool hall on the east.

At about one o’clock this morning Mr. Johnson smelled smoke, and upon investigation found the fire well underway, and turned in the alarm. The flames burned up through the pool hall and the rooms above, then east along the roof, taking the flats on the second floor, and dipping down into the quarters occupied by the Brainerd Office Supply Co.

The tenants on the first floor of the Anna Block were the pool hall, the Birkeland Studio, the Peterson Clothing Co., the Brainerd Office Supply, and the A. D. Peterson shoe repair shop in the basement beneath the clothing store.

A part of the stock and fixtures of the Birkeland studio, the clothing store and the office supply store were taken out of the burning building. It is said that the clothing stock’s only damage was from the water that came through. Much of the interior of the studio and the office supply store was burned.

There were ten families living above in the flats of the Anna block. They were Hazel Rardin, flat 1; E. W. Benson, flat 2; J. J. McNamara, flat 3; William Demmers, flat 4; Mrs. Hugh Breason, flat 5; George Irwin, flat 6; Sadie Garrett, flat 7; Mrs. Lucille Gray, flat 8; James Gorham, flat 10; M. Greenlow, flat 11. All of these tenants lost practically everything they owned, some barely escaping with their lives.

Occupants of the annex, to the south of the Anna block, were threatened when the fire was at its height but the only damage done to them was from smoke. This included the Red Owl store, the Folsom Music Co. and the tenants in the flats above.

It is hard to estimate the damage done to the building at this time, before a survey is made of the situation. Insurance in about the amount of $35,000 was carried on the building. The Birkeland studio carried $2,000 on stock and fixtures, it is said, and the Peterson Clothing Co., about $23,000. The Brainerd Office Supply Co., $1,750. A number of the tenants in the flats on the second floor carried no insurance. E. W. Benson carried $800 on his furniture, Mrs. Breason $400. James Gorham and William Demmers both recent arrivals in the flats, had no insurance and saved none of their belongings.

The Brainerd Office Supply Co. has secured temporary quarters in the H. F. Michael Co. basement store.

Much credit is due the firemen, for their excellent work at this fire. The dense smoke and intense heat of the flames coupled with the extreme cold weather, with the thermometer hovering at 40 degrees below zero, made it a very hard fire to fight. It seemed at one time that the whole building would be consumed, but the firemen succeeded in limiting the blaze and bringing it under control before the walls were damaged.

The Woolworth Company, was on the job shortly after the firemen arrived, and prepared five gallons of coffee for the men and furnished dry mittens and wool socks for them.

R. R. Wise, the owner of the Anna block is at Mudbaden, and certain particulars concerning valuations, damages and insurance could not be learned at this time. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 05 January 1924, p. 5, c. 1)

SEE: Anna Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

07 January



Threatened by Fire and Building

Faced Destruction





Ever Present Overheated Stovepipe

Caused All the


The old Indian trading post, said to be the oldest landmark in the city, was threatened by fire at ten o’clock Monday morning. Prompt action on the part of the fire department saved the building.

An overheated stove pipe passing through the ceiling of the first floor is said to have caused the fire, which was extinguished before it had spread, the only damage done was a large hold burned in the ceiling.

The building was occupied by a family by the name of Burroughs. It is located at the intersection of West Bluff avenue and Main street, on the A. A. White property. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 07 January 1924, p. 3, c. 5)

SEE: Trading Post 1870 in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

25 January



E. O. Webb Building Damaged and

Tenants Suffer High





Water Damages Basements and

Stocks of Many Nearby


Fire at 2:30 o’clock Friday morning is said to have caused about $40,000 damage to the Cosmo billiard parlor, John Carlson & Son’s clothing store, and adjacent buildings, which suffered from smoke and water.

The flames are thought to have started around the furnace in the basement of the Cosmo billiard parlor, and had gained considerable headway before they were discovered. They quickly spread to the walls and partitions eating their way into the clothing store and to the second floor although they were brought under control before they did any damage in these quarters.

The billiard parlor was damaged most by fire. The basement extended from the front about about halfway back, and this portion of the first floor burned through and fell into the basement.

James Koukis, the proprietor of the billiard parlor, carried a large stock of candies, cigars, cigarettes and tobaccos, also operating a lunch room in the front portion of his store room, all of which went into the basement when the floor fell.

The John Carlson & Son’s clothing store suffered a very heavy loss from water and smoke. The fire in the walls and ceiling made it necessary for the firemen to carry their hose lines into the store and their attention was centered there for sometime.

James Koukis and a family by the name of Dillon lived above the clothing store and the billiard parlor. Their loss was from smoke and water only, the flames being confined in the walls and in the partitions.

It was necessary to use so much water that many basements were flooded, including those of the Olympia Candy Kitchen, E. H. Jones and John Bye, doing much damage to merchandise stored therein. Also to the west into the basement of the Dunn Drug Co.

The building is owned by E. O. Webb and was remodeled only last summer, a new modern front being put on. It is familiarly known as the Sleeper Block and was damaged by fire some fifteen years ago, when the Dispatch was located on the second floor. John Carlson suffered a heavy loss at that time, also, his clothing store occupying quarters in the building.

Friday morning’s fire loss was well covered by insurance, it is stated. There is well over $20,000 carried on the clothing stock, $12,800 on the James Koukis property. The loss is estimated at about $8,000 to building, $10,000 to the billiard parlor and nearly double that amount to the clothing store.

The fire department is to be complimented on its quick action and efficient manner in which the flames were combated. The water pressure is said to have been of the very best, but with the thermometer registering 22 below zero, it worked a hardship on the firemen. John Carlson furnished dry clothing to the men as often and as fast as it was needed.

E. O. Webb is spending the winter in California. He is expected to arrive in San Francisco this afternoon, where it is hoped he can be reached and notified of his loss.

Later it was ascertained that the tenants on the second floor included Mr. and Mrs. Benson, Mr. and Mrs. Greenlaw and Floyd Thompson. The Greenlaw’s lost their personal effects in the Anna block fire several weeks ago, and their furniture was badly damaged in the fire this morning. Floyd Thompson is a linotype operator on the Dispatch force. He succeeded in saving most of his property. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 25 January 1924, p. 5, c. 1)

SEE: 25 June 1907

SEE: Webb Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Sleeper Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

19 April

Flames Level Three-Story Imperial Block Today











Losses May Exceed $125,000, Estimated


Plymouth Clothing Co., stock valued at $40,000, insurance carried, $25,000.

B. C. McNamara, stock valued at $10,000, insurance carried, $7,000.

Louis Broman, tailor, stock valued at $1,000, insurance carried, $300.

Building valued conservatively at $65,000, insurance carried, $30,000.

Twelve families, household effects, estimated loss $10,000.

Fire at 9:30 o’clock this morning burned the 3-story brick Imperial block of the O’Brien Mercantile Co. with all its contents, nothing being saved by either the business houses with quarters there or the tenants in the flats in the two stories above.

For a time the new Brainerd State bank building across the street and the O’Brien block which joins the Imperial block on the east, were in grave danger. The flames were of such intense heat that the windows in the Penney store and in the Citizens State bank building were broken. The frame house occupied by Mrs. William Johnson, just south of the doomed building was on fire several times.

How the Fire Started

The flames started in the basement, just how, no one seems to know. They were first discovered by B. C. McNamara, whose undertaking establishment was located in the building. Mr. McNamara had just returned from the barber shop and was standing in the front of his store when he noticed smoke coming up through the floor. A moment later the smoke broke out in such heavy quantities that he was forced to leave without saving any of his stock.

No Time to Close Safe

The Markowitz brothers, who had a clothing store in the corner of the Imperial block, did not have time to close their safe, so quickly was the fire upon them. Tenants in the flats above barely escaped with their lives.

The Imperial block was occupied on the ground floor by the Plymouth Clothing company and B. C. McNamara, undertaker. In the basement Louis Broman conducted a tailor shop. The second and third floors were occupied by Harold Canfield, R. G. Jenkins, Mrs. Bertha Theviot, V. H. Reyff, Gust Malmstrom, Jerome St. Cyr, Andrew Smraker, Miss Marie Lawrence, C. P. Forsberg, B. E. Dunham, Mrs. D. Sheridan, and R. B. Hamilton. Herbert Peterson had just moved out of the building a week ago.

Value of Block

The Imperial block was owned by the O’Brien Mercantile Co., and was one of the older buildings of the modern type. It was erected by W. D. McKay who sold it afterward to its present owners for $33,000. It is said that it could not be replaced today for more than twice that amount, so that a $65,000 valuation is a very conservative estimate. It is reported that $30,000 insurance was carried upon the building.

Plymouth Clothing Co.

The Plymouth Clothing stock was valued at $40,000 said Max Markowitz, one of the proprietors, upon which about $25,000 insurance was carried. Much new spring stock had just arrived, and had only been unpacked two days. The winter stock had just been stored away in the basement.

B. C. McNamara states that his stock of undertaking supplies and chinaware would invoice at least $10,000. He carried $7,000 insurance.

It could not be learned what loss the tenants in the flats sustained. No one had time to save any of their belongings. Most of them carried insurance.

Basement Recently Inspected

Fire Chief H. McGinn states that in company with Con O’Brien he made an inspection of the basement of the Imperial block on Friday evening, and found it in excellent shape. It had just been cleaned up by order of the fire chief, an old furnace taken out and other improvements made from a fire risk standpoint. How the flames could break out in such a basement is a mystery to the fire department. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 19 April 1924, p. 1, c.’s 5 & 6)



Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Hamilton, third floor tenants, were among those having narrow escapes. Mr. Hamilton is a night train dispatcher and had just retired when his wife yelled “Fire.” He jumped into what clothes were handy, and with his wife leaped to the window. Providentially, ladders had just been placed in position and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton scaled them safely. Smoke eddied and swirled about them and nearly choked them.

Firemen said considerable difficulty was experienced in saving one woman from the top floor.

Oscar Hauggorde, chief engineer of the Wise buildings, saw the fire at the start and with a Northwestern telephone company man, assisted to get five women and one small boy down the ladders. Mr. Hauggorde says he is sure that everyone was taken from the third floor. Those rescued were huddled near windows and the fire escape on South Seventh street. Ladders of the Gruenhagen Co., and the fire department were used.

The water and light board carried 125 pounds pressure at the water station. It was noticed that the water was off two or three times for a moment, said Secretary W. D. McKay. This was due, said he, to the circuit breakers at the Minnesota Power & Light station not being able to hold the three city pumps.

Carl Jacobson just two days ago removed his family from the Imperial block to another location. He had occupied a flat on the second floor near the northwest corner of the building.

W. S. Orne reports that he ran to the steps of the building, Laurel street entrance, and in two trips assisted several women to the street. On the last run to safety, he said, a chance stream of water from fire hoses clipped them.

At 10:05 A. M. there was a loud explosion and it is thought the boiler of the steam heating plant blew up.

At 10:20 A. M. floors crashed in and fell to the basement. The fire was raging with a fierce heat and firemen also directed hose on the O’Brien two-story brick block located east of the Imperial block.

About 10:25 A. M two-thirds of the walls fell in, and providentially not a brick damaged the fire hose.

Mrs. R. E. Dunham had only time to put on her fur coat and with a towel over her head ran through the smoke to the main stairway on Laurel. Exit on the rear stairway was cut off. She assisted to spread the fire alarm to other tenants, knocking at the doors of neighbors and shouting a warning.

The N. P. fire car, with 10,000 gallons of water, was brought down from the shops and its contents used to fight the flames. A minor repair had to be made at the pumping station which cut down the water pressure for a few minutes.

Roy Zierke is said to have been the hero of the hour, when he mounted a ladder and carried one of the lady tenants down from the third story of the burning building.

Gust Elling, twelve-year old son of H. W. Elling, of 411 Farrar St., N. E. was injured by a falling brick, when firemen pulled down a part of the wall on Laurel street after the fire. The boy was taken to Dr. Joseph Nicholson and he dressed a wound in his leg about two inches long and half an inch deep.

The little daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. R. G. Jenkins was in the bath tub when the fire broke out, and had only time to don a part of her clothing and escape. Her mother had no time to put on her own slippers or shoes.

James Crust, one of the firemen, working from the roof of the Johnson residence just south of the Imperial block, was nearly thrown to the ground from the force of the explosion which blew out the south end of the burning building. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 19 April 1924, p. 5, c.’s 3 & 4)

SEE: Imperial Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


02 January



Riverside Apartments, West Brain-

erd, Were Ablaze This





Preventing Blaze From Spreading

to the Flats


Fire which started this morning at 10:25 o’clock entirely unroofed the Riverside Apartments located across the river in West Brainerd. The fire is believed to have been caused by spontaneous combustion and rapidly spread through the attic where furniture, trunks and clothing were stored.

The firemen are to be commended for their fast and efficient handling of the fire in preventing it spreading to the flats below. However, much damage was done to the occupants of the four flats due to smoke and water.

The loss is estimated at several thousands of dollars. F. W. Rosel, teacher of manual training in the high school and I. C. Strout being the heaviest losers. County Agent E. G. Roth and G. H. Stone were also occupying flats in the building and sustained losses. The building is owned by the Brainerd State bank of this city and is reported to be well covered with insurance. It is reported some of the occupants of the flats are out of the city at the present time and could not be located, to ascertain if they carry insurance. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 02 January 1926, p. 7, c. 2)

24 January



Fire Starting at 1:45 A. M. Sunday

Does Much Damage to Stock

and Interior




H. R. Hulett Wakes Choking With

Smoke and Sounds

the Alarm

Fire which broke out at 1:45 o’clock Sunday morning did considerable damage to the Olympia Candy Kitchen, and a great deal of smoke damage to the flats above, occupied by Mrs. Rose Parker and Miss Rachel Morrison.

The fire started near the range in the kitchen of the candy parlors, and burned the partition and balcony between the kitchen and the front. Christ Kolias is the proprietor of the Olympia Kitchen.

H. R. Hulett, manager of the Hulett Co., makers of the Anti-Frosters, was the hero of the fire. Mr. Hulett rooms directly above the kitchen of the cafe, and awoke choking with the smoke that filled his room. He sounded the alarm immediately, and roused the others in the building. The fire department handled the blaze efficiently, and had it well in hand within an hour.

The building is owned by Mrs. Parker and Miss Morrison, who lived above the candy store. The loss to building and stock is covered by insurance in the A. M. Opsahl and Geo. Tracy agencies.

Mr. Kolias states that he intends to continue in the business as soon as adjustment is made and the building can be renovated. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 25 January 1926, p. 7, c.’s 1 & 2)

Early Sunday morning the Olympia Candy Kitchen was discovered on fire by H. R. Hulett, who rooms above there and he notified everyone in the neighborhood and turned in the alarm. The department responded promptly and did valiant work. The candy kitchen was completely gutted and the rooms upstairs occupied by Mrs. Rose Parker and Miss Rachel Morrison, the owners of the building, were scorched and considerable damage done by smoke. Smoke also did some damage at the Hoffman Cigar Factory and Phil Watson’s tailoring shop in the Walverman building adjoining. While Miss Canan’s Studio and the Tribune office were well smoked, no damage resulted. Loss is covered by insurance.

Christ Kolias, owner of the candy kitchen, plans on reopening as soon as the building is repaired and insurance adjusted. (Brainerd Tribune, 28 January 1926, p. 1, c. 3)



Fire Starting at 1:45 A. M. Sunday

Does Much Damage to Stock

and Interior




H. R. Hulett Wakes Choking With

Smoke and Sounds

the Alarm

Fire which broke out at 1:45 o’clock Sunday morning did considerable damage to the Olympia Candy Kitchen, and a great deal of smoke damage to the flats above, occupied by Mrs. Rose Parker and Miss Rachel Morrison.

The fire started near the range in the kitchen of the candy parlors, and burned the partition and balcony between the kitchen and the front. Christ Kolias is the proprietor of the Olympia Kitchen.

H. R. Hulett, manager of the Hulett Co., makers of the Anti-Froster, was the hero of the fire. Mr. Hulett rooms directly above the kitchen of the cafe, and awoke choking with the smoke that filled his room. He sounded the alarm immediately, and roused the others in the building. The fire department handled the blaze efficiently, and had it well in hand within an hour.

Mr. Kolias states that he intends to continue in the business as soon as adjustment is made and the building can be renovated. (Brainerd Dispatch, 29 January 1926, p. 2, c. 6)

SEE: 28 July 1930

SEE: Olympia Candy Kitchen / Sugar Bowl / Fountain Inn in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


22 January



Fire Department During the Year

Made 98 Runs; in

1925 88 Runs




Largest Fire of Year Was That of

Olympia Candy Kitchen,

Front Street

Fire in Brainerd during the year 1926 did an estimated damage of over $20,000 it was learned this morning from the Brainerd Fire Department.

During the year there were 98 fires in the city, 10 more fires than during the year 1925. The amount of damage in 1926 was also considerably higher than in 1925 due to one large fire.

The fire doing the most amount of damage in 1926 took place on January 24 in the Olympia Candy Kitchen on Front street. Damage was estimated at $10,000. The second largest fire of 1926 was recorded on January 2 in the Riverside Apartment house, doing damage estimated at close to $3,000.

The month of April is marked down as having the greatest number of fires in the year for any one month. During that month grass, chimney, and roof fires totaled 27 calls.

During 1926 the fire department was allowed their new $6,500 triple 500 gallon pump Master Fire Fighter truck.

The fire department consists of five companies, representing 50 volunteer firemen, Chief McGinn, and three employed drivers.

Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 and Hose Company No. 2 are located at the Central Fire station. Hose Company No. 4 is stationed in southeast Brainerd. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 22 January 1927, p. 7, c. 1)


30 March






Believed Blaze Started In the Dom-

estic Science Rooms

on First Floor


38 Firemen Fight Fire Over 8 Hours,

Nearby Roof Fires Quickly


Washington High School, ca. 1900. A 833x583 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society
First Washington High School, built in 1884, including the 1902 addition.
Source: Postcard
Washington High School showing the addition built in 1902, ca. Unknown. A 1288x894 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Lynn Madison Davis

The Washington High School building, South Broadway, was completely destroyed by fire last night. The yellow gray walls, charred, grotesque yet spectral in shape, are all that remain of the high school building that housed Brainerd students for the past 43 years. Early estimate of the damage placed it at close to $150,000 on building and contents.

Insurance carried amounted to $115,400, $93,000 on the building and $22,400 on the contents.

The Brainerd fire department received the alarm at 12:46 A. M. today by telephone from W. R. Ludlow, 612 South Broadway, who noticed the flames from his home. On arrival of the firemen the entire north section of the building was in flames. Thirty-eight firemen fought the conflagration for eight hours, using 3,500 feet of hose and 125 pounds pressure on five stream lines for five hours and one-half. Several roof fires from sparks blown to houses nearby were extinguished by the firemen. The two fire trucks and hook and ladder truck were brought into use.

The aftermath of the fire, 30 March 1928. A 1188x844 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Lynn Madison Davis

No definite cause has been blamed for the start of the fire. The flames were first noticed near the domestic science room and as they leaped through the entire building two explosions were heard, believed to have taken place in the boiler room.

There was no loss of life or injuries connected with the fire. During the earlier part of the evening two basketball games had filled the gymnasium on the third floor, but by 11 o'clock the crowd had gone home and the building was empty.

All permanent records, referring to high school students, credits, etc., were saved when Superintendent W. C. Cobb and Miss M. Tornstrom, principal of the school, and firemen risked their lives to enter the flaming building at 1:30 A. M. to place the records in the safes.

Typewriters, desks, sewing machines, equipment and school supplies were destroyed. The few desks remaining in the manual training department in the basement were so wrecked by fire and smoke as to render them useless.

Another view of the aftermath of the fire, 30 March 1928. A 1188x858 version version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Lynn Madison Davis

The flames consumed first the north section of the building, then the stairway section of the central part and finally the south end of the building. At 8:30 A. M. today the charred remains of the school as they lay in a conglomerate heap in the basement were still smoldering.

The Washington school building was constructed in 1884, with an addition constructed 26 years ago to take care of the increase in the number of students. It was not a modern building. The structure was of brick, three stories in height and measured approximately 175 feet in length and 100 feet in width with 15 class rooms.

Brainerd feels the loss of the old school like the death of an old cherished friend who has served the community well for years. Hundreds gathered at the fire last night but remained in safe distance from the walls which threatened at any time to crash. The firemen did every thing in their power to save the building but the flames had taken too strong a hold to prevent their spread.

Charred remains of the first Washington High School, built in 1884.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

The Brainerd board of education plans to meet immediately to decide on locations for the holding of classes for the school year. It is hoped to find temporary locations by the re-opening of the school season after Easter. The students had been dismissed from their classes for their Easter vacation yesterday afternoon.

Due to the complete loss of books, and equipment, it will be a difficult matter to assemble the students and take up their school duties as left off. It is expected that churches and halls will be employed to house the students until a new school can be constructed.

Mr. Cobb made the following statement to the Dispatch this morning: “It is too early yet until the Board of Education meets to discuss temporary plans but it would seem to be the part of wisdom to expect the students would be housed at the reconvening of school in some temporary quarters yet undetermined.”

The school housed about 625 pupils 550 being high school students and 75 grade students.

Trophies won by the school, now blackened and charred by fire, smoke and water, were recovered this morning from the assembly room desk where they had been on exhibition. These trophies will become of historical value to the school in years to come.

No severe loss will be felt by any one insurance company as the policies were divided among fire insurance companies numbering close to 15.

The board of education will consider all phases of construction of a new high school at the earliest possible time. The regular meeting of the board takes place Monday evening and it is reported that the board will consider at that time the feasibility of holding an immediate election to decide on the site and bond issue.

Among the contents destroyed were many memorial pictures of graduating classes since the building was first used. These were treasured by the school and will be unable to be replaced.

There is a possibility that the manual training room can be repaired sufficiently to permit the holding of manual training classes there the remainder of the school year it was announced today by members of the school board. The walls on the south side at the manual training department escaped the full fury of the flames and are practically intact. It is possible also that another room in the school can be used to accommodate a class for the remainder of the year.

Secretary Louis F. Hohman announced this morning that G. D. LaBar president of the Brainerd Board of Education who is at present in Minneapolis had been notified of the fire by long distance telephone.

Mr. Hohman stated that the regular board meeting would be held on Monday night and that following the regular business the meeting would likely be adjourned until Tuesday evening for a special session to take action on the school situation. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 31 March 1928, p. 1)

The High School Passes

Yesterday the high school sunned itself in the glorious sunshine of spring. Proudly it looked out upon the world. Today it stands and suns itself just as proudly but with a gaunt high-hatiness [sic] and with hollow window casements and sorrowful emptiness within.

Last night in the moonlight, it looked like a spectre, and its tin peaks banging in the wind helped to keep up the deception, for again today it was a living thing.

Yesterday the sun stole round amid the crannies and angles and little unsuspected nooks; the sun was reflected back from its gabled roof.

The old high school was a building of character. The ruins show it. It had the streaks of dirt of the years. It had the uniqueness of changing fashions and its own stability. Time gave all its blessings. The grads will not forget the good times in the sewing room, the gym or the office.

And when the new high high school rears its head above the ground where its predecessor stood, if so it be, let us hope that it will be as fine a building as the old one and with some of its eccentricities, which, today, only the builders of movie palaces go out of their way to secure.

And so we close our little eulogy—if ever a building deserved one the high school did—and here it is.

The new school will be fine and modern, and we'll like it and be proud of it, no doubt, but just now we're thinking it would be nice if the new one could resemble the old one a bit and not be just three stories high and as square as a city block. We'd like it better. (Unknown Student, Unknown Newspaper 31 March 1928)

Something is missing. Whenever our thoughts turn to school, we have an intangible feeling as of something lacking. We imagine the daily trip to school. We shall hurry to get there before the last bell, and begin to work as soon as we arrive. And then we pause. Shall we? They say the old building burned, and we saw it, too. But can it be? Surely the old substantial structure must sill be waiting for us. And then a queer feeling comes over us when reason tells us that it is gone; that we won't trot up the old stairs again and hasten into the assembly to just beat the tardy bell. And we feel the vague loss of a guiding, kindly personality.

After almost four years of having it share in our joys and successes and hold a sympathizing silence at our failures, we shall miss it. We shall miss the strengthening spirit which its forty-four years of service gave it. And we shall miss the interesting position it held in Brainerd's history and life.

But we are glad, aside from the loss, that it went as it did. We should have hated to have had to see it torn apart; reduced to mere lumber and brick. Now we shall remember it as our gallant old building which died while in service, and its spirit and happy memories shall remain with us, and follow us into the new school we shall soon have. (Unknown Student, Unknown Newspaper 1928)

Side Gleams On Our Recent Conflagration


Taken as a whole our little blaze was a fiasco. Why any respected and decent fire should start in the middle of the night with nobody around to look at it and call it nice names, we fail to reason out. Of course, the Senior girls and the underclassmen might have used it for a pep fest, roasting marshmallows, snake dancing around it and all that, you know.

Among those other than the firemen, Mr. Cobb and Miss Tornstrom who risked their lives to save the permanent records (which reminds us that some people would risk their lives to destroy them) was Joe Greener who valiantly offered to climb over the rubbish into the office. Rumor has it that Joe missed the top of the seats and went down in the aisle. One of the statues that was partially melted gave way at this point.

The trophies were discovered in a decomposed state. Our latest one will probably be made onto pennies.

A great deal of sorrow was expressed by those who had gym shoes (most of which it seems were bought the day before at $3.85) pencils, pens, notebooks, et cetera. Contrary to expectation there will be no fire sale. (Unknown Student, Unknown Newspaper, 1928)

NOTE: The three articles above may have come from the Brainerd Daily Dispatch and may have been written by the high school staff of the weekly Brainonian.



Embers Fanned by Breeze Start

Small Blaze in Coal Pile at

High School


Curious Public Gathers at Scene of

Destruction; Pupils Take Stock

of Losses

Another view of the charred remains of the first Washington High School, built in 1884.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

As if to defy the powers of man debris from the Washington high school building, destroyed by fire early Saturday morning, continued to smolder over the weekend and a new fire broke out last night at 7 o'clock in the coal pile when the embers fanned by a breeze worked themselves into a miniature blaze.

The firemen put out the fire in the coal pile after half an hour’s effort.

A curious public gathered at the ruins over the weekend to inspect them and discuss the school situation as it now stands. Strict orders have been given by the police and fire departments to all people to keep back of the wires stretched around the school. The departments fear crumbling of the walls should a heavy wind occur.

Students took stock over the weekend of their losses in the school. Many lost their gymnasium outfits while 50 girls who were working on dresses in the domestic science department will not see the completion of their work since everything in the domestic science department was destroyed. The teacher lost many of her original recipes in cooking. A number of sewing machines, pianos, and typewriters were among the equipment lost, besides the large supply of books. A geographic globe of the world rests in one window on the south side to mock the situation. Smoke curled through the chimney of the school in an ironic manner. And the steel beams placed under the gymnasium floor remain grotesquely in midair as a reminder of a small gymnasium floor and many thrilling basketball games of the past.

Every effort was made to save the office and thus save the records. Superintendent W. C. Cobb and Miss M. Tornstrom, principal of the school, rescued many of the records by entering the burning building and taking them out of the two office safes.

Many cords of wood piled near the school were saved by firemen who drenched them with water.

The insurance adjustor is expected in Brainerd tomorrow.

Today school board members prepared for their regular meeting tonight to be held in the Commercial College rooms at the city hall. It is expected that the members will gather for the regular meeting and then adjourn until tomorrow evening to take up the high school situation and discuss ways and means of taking care of the students at the reconvening of school after Easter.

Saturday was no light day for the Brainerd Fire department. Thirty-eight men fought the conflagration at the school from 12:46 a. m., leaving the location after 8 a. m. In the afternoon the department put out a fire in a barn at 713 North 5th street which started from a grass fire. Considerable damage resulted. Two hours previously the department had extinguished a grass fire at the Koering field. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 02 April 1928, p. 5, c.’s 2 & 3)



Board of Education to Discuss Situa-

tion at Tonight’s





Building Question Relative to New

High School Comes

to Front

The Brainerd Board of Education meet tonight to discuss the situation of housing the students of the high school at the reconvening of school next Monday and to discuss the building question relative to a new high school for Brainerd made necessary by the destruction of the Washington building by fire early Saturday morning. The meeting will be held in the Commercial College rooms of the city hall and will start at 8 o’clock.

The board met for their regular session last evening. The Whittier P. T. A. in a letter thanked the board for the two new portable pianos received.

U. S. Veteran Bureau trainees submitted communications pleading assistance in the way of purchasing supplies such as seed and baby chicks. The matter was referred to the special committee that has been working on the situation for some time, and the committee was granted full power to act.

Reports submitted by the superintendent’s office concerning funds handled by the superintendent were received and referred to the finance committee.

The building committee submitted a report regarding the loss by fire of the Washington high school building on the night of March 30. The report stated that $93,000 insurance was carried on the building and $22,400 on the contents.

The committee further reported that a small number of text books that were in the students’ desks were removed and taken to a storeroom on Front street, placed on shelving to dry out with the object in view of endeavoring to have a few books to open school with next Monday, also that a quantity of athletic goods such as baseball suits, football suits and other equipment had been taken out of the lockers and placed in the storeroom to dry out. Committee members reported that since the fire Mayor Frank E. Little had placed two special patrolmen to watch the property during the day time and two janitors were patrolling the property during the night. On Sunday noon the two policemen were taken off and since that time Janitors Swanson and Gile have been taking care of the situation. The committee further reported that the cause of the fire is not known to them. A basketball game was played at the school Friday evening and all persons attending the game were out of the building by 10:30 p. m. The janitors and special men employed during the basketball game left the building by 11 o’clock. Nothing unusual was noted or detected by any of the janitors or special watchmen relative the condition of the building.

This committee gained the information that certain persons passed through the school yard on their way home between 12 and 12:15 a. m. and there was nothing to attract their attention from the building at that time. At the hour of 12:45 a. m. the alarm was turned in and when the firemen arrived the building was in a mass of flames.

The report of the building committee was accepted and Secretary Louis F. Hohman, was authorized to use his own judgment in the protection of the property and equipment within the building.

A motion was carried to refund to the Lowell P. T. A. their $100 that had been contributed to the Brainerd school district toward the purchase of two portable pianos.

Payment was authorized to Janitors Swanson and Gile for services rendered on account of basketball games held in the gymnasium, also Patrolmen Graff and Wallace Swanson.

Treasurer M. E. Morrison submitted to the board $5,000 in cancelled bonds that were taken up and which became due on April 1. This leaves but $15,000 of outstanding bonds against the Brainerd school district. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 03 April 1928, p. 3, c.’s 1 & 2)



Fire was discovered in the Washington School about one o'clock Saturday morning and had gained such headway that practically all of the building outside of parts of the South Wing, was destroyed.

Fire is presumed to have started either in the basement or the domestic science room.

A basketball game was held in the gym in the evening, but everything seemed in good order when the janitor and watchman left at eleven o'clock.

Luckily there was no strong wind though sparks set fire to near by houses a number of times, these were soon extinguished.

The building was erected in 1884 and housed the high school and grammar grades.

Insurance carried amounted to $93,000.00 on the building and $22,400.00 on contents, all of which is practically a total loss and will probably be adjusted on that basis. The six hundred odd high school students all suffered losses for which there was no insurance coverage.

Firemen fought to early morning and put up a brave though losing battle against the raging flames, which lit the night skies in all directions.

Plans were at once begun Saturday morning to arrange for the reopening of school at the close of the Easter vacation and the members of the board have found that their position is no sinecure. From latest plans, it is likely that the U. C. T. Auditorium will be used as assembly room and the upper story of the city hall, the Farmers’ Room in the Court House, store buildings and several churches will be used as recitation rooms. Plans are also under way to repair the old court house for use next year, as it will undoubtedly be a year or more, before a suitable new building can be erected and equipped.

Meanwhile there will be elections on sites and the voting of bonds though the District now has three hundred thousand dollars in a building fund, which with the insurance and another $200,000.00 which can be had from the State Investment Board at four per cent interest, Brainerd should have a school house modern in every way to replace the one which was the school home of so many of Brainerd’s citizens and which they loved for the old associations formed there. (Brainerd Tribune, 05 April 1928, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)



Believed Blaze Started in the Dom-

estic Science Rooms

on First Floor

From Saturday’s Daily—

The Washington High School building, South Broadway, was completely destroyed by fire last night. The yellow gray walls, charred, grotesque yet spectral in shape, are all that remain of the high school building that housed Brainerd students for the past 43 years. Early estimate of the damage placed it at close to $150,000 on building and contents.

Insurance carried amounted to $115,400, $93,000 on the building and $22,400 on the contents.

The Brainerd fire department received the alarm at 12:46 A. M. today by telephone from W. R. Ludlow, 612 South Broadway, who noticed the flames from his home. On arrival of the firemen the entire north section of the building was in flames. Thirty-eight firemen fought the conflagration for eight hours, using 3,500 feet of hose and 125 pounds pressure on five stream lines for five hours and one-half. Several roof fires from sparks blown to houses nearby were extinguished by the firemen. The two fire trucks and hook and ladder truck were brought into use.

No definite cause has been blamed for the start of the fire. The flames were first noticed near the domestic science room and as they leaped through the entire building two explosions were heard, believed to have taken place in the boiler room.

There was no loss of life or injuries connected with the fire. During the earlier part of the evening two basketball games had filled the gymnasium on the third floor, but by 11 o'clock the crowd had gone home and the building was empty.

All permanent records, referring to high school students, credits, etc., were saved when Superintendent W. C. Cobb and Miss M. Tornstrom, principal of the school, and firemen risked their lives to enter the flaming building at 1:30 A. M. to place the records in the safes.

Typewriters, desks, sewing machines, equipment and school supplies were destroyed. The few desks remaining in the manual training department in the basement were so wrecked by fire and smoke as to render them useless.

The flames consumed first the north section of the building, then the stairway section of the central part and finally the south end of the building. At 8:30 A. M. today the charred remains of the school as they lay in a conglomerate heap in the basement were still smoldering.

The Washington school building was constructed in 1884, with an addition constructed 26 years ago to take care of the increase in the number of students. It was not a modern building. The structure was of brick, three stories in height and measured approximately 175 feet in length and 100 feet in width with 15 class rooms.

Brainerd feels the loss of the old school like the death of an old cherished friend who has served the community well for years. Hundreds gathered at the fire last night but remained in safe distance from the walls which threatened at any time to crash. The firemen did every thing in their power to save the building but the flames had taken too strong a hold to prevent their spread.

The school housed about 625 pupils 550 being high school students and 75 grade students.

Trophies won by the school, now blackened and charred by fire, smoke and water, were recovered this morning from the assembly room desk where they had been on exhibition. These trophies will become of historical value to the school in years to come.

No severe loss will be felt by any one insurance company as the policies were divided among fire insurance companies numbering close to 15.

Among the contents destroyed were many memorial pictures of graduating classes since the building was first used. These were treasured by the school and will be unable to be replaced.

There is a possibility that the manual training room can be repaired sufficiently to permit the holding of manual training classes there the remainder of the school year it was announced today by members of the school board. The walls on the south side at the manual training department escaped the full fury of the flames and are practically intact. It is possible also that another room in the school can be used to accommodate a class for the remainder of the year.


From Monday’s Daily—

As if to defy the powers of man debris from the Washington high school building, destroyed by fire early Saturday morning, continued to smolder over the weekend and a new fire broke out last night at 7 o'clock in the coal pile when the embers fanned by a breeze worked itself into a miniature blaze.

The firemen put out the fire in the coal pile after half an hour’s effort.

A curious public gathered at the ruins over the weekend to inspect them and discuss the school situation as it now stands. Strict orders have been given by the police and fire departments to all people to keep back of the wires stretched around the school. The departments fear crumbling of the walls should a heavy wind occur.

Students took stock over the weekend of their losses in the school. Many lost their gymnasium outfits while 50 girls who were working on dresses in the domestic science department will not see the completion of their work since everything in the domestic science department was destroyed. The teacher lost many of her original recipes in cooking. A number of sewing machines, pianos, and typewriters were among the equipment lost, besides the large supply of books. A geographic globe of the world rests in one window on the south side to mock the situation. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 April 1928, p. 2, c.’s 1 & 2)



Over 500 Students Gather at M. E.

This Morning For Initial



Work Starts on Remodeling of Old

Court House for Additional


From Monday’s Daily—

Five hundred students who formerly occupied seats in the Washington high school building went to strange class rooms today. The sensation experienced by the pupils trekking their way to a new location, sitting down in church pews, and again locating in makeshift classrooms, were varied.

The pupils gathered at the Methodist church, Sixth street, long before the hour announced for the opening of the school. Many were there before 8:30 a. m. By 9 a. m. the appointed hour for the reopening of the school after Easter vacation all pupils were seated quietly in the auditorium of the church. Instructions were given by Superintendent W. C. Cobb relative to the different class rooms. It was a very difficult matter for the students to accustom themselves to their new surroundings, and it will not be for a day or so that the pupils will be able to resume the work left off a week ago Friday, the afternoon previous to the fire that destroyed the high school building.

Classes were moved in on the second floor of the city hall.

It is expected that the Methodist church will be used only until such time as the old court house can be repaired and remodeled to house many of the pupils. The County Board of Commissioners Saturday afternoon voted to allow the school board use of the building without charge and also to assist them in the remodeling of the building. The city council will meet at a special meeting tonight at which time the school housing proposition at the city hall will be taken up.

Superintendent Cobb made the following statement to the Dispatch today:

“The entire school assembled at scheduled time at 9 o'clock at the Methodist church and filled the entire church including balcony, Sunday school rooms and standing room to receive instructions concerning the situation confronting the high school and general directions as to plans for the remainder of the school year. The rest of the day has been devoted to the giving out of books, the assignment of teachers to class rooms and the acquainting of the student body with the two main buildings that for the present are to be used for school purposes.

“The teachers have already made a beginning of meeting with their classes, assigning lessons, and getting ready for the more regular and procedure of work which we hope will get under way by Tuesday.

“New typewriters to take care of all typewriting students will be ready for use by Tuesday morning. The typewriting district contest which was scheduled to be held in Brainerd next Saturday will be held as though nothing had happened to interfere. A number of towns will be represented in this contest.

“So far as possible the regular high school program for the remainder of the year including the musical operetta and general athletic events including tournaments and social affairs will be carried out so far as possible the same as though the school building had not been destroyed.

“Up to the present time the plans for repairing and conditioning the old court house look very favorable, and large crews will be rushing work at top speed to get these quarters in shape.

“The citizens of Brainerd including churches, lodges, and organizations generally have all been most considerate and accommodating in being willing to do their part to help meet the emergency. The student body has been appealed to to do their part also and prevent loss of time and money by earnest application to the student part of school work and put in their study time at regular hours the same as heretofore.

“There will necessarily be numerous inconveniences entailed in providing temporary accommodation for such a large number, nearly 600 all told. Patrons of the school are requested by school board and faculty to be patient and considerate in meeting the unavoidable inconveniences and cooperating to the fullest extent in getting through the school year. With good cooperation on the part of all and the problem is one that concerns every citizen, there should be no reason why valuable school time should be lost or wasted and by next fall it is hoped that conditions will be considerably improved. A tabulated list of classes and buildings will be published in the Dispatch tomorrow for the convenience of pupils, faculty and the parents.”

Mr. Cobb will conduct his office in the city hall. The telephone number is 216-W. (Brainerd Dispatch, 13 April 1928, p. 3, c. 1)



School Board Accepts Offer of Ad-

justers, $112,000 for Build-

ing and Contents Loss




Board Vote to Engage F. E. Ebner

as Special Counsel, Adjourns to

Next Monday Evening

At the adjourned session last night the school board accepted the offer of the insurance companies adjusters on the high school fire loss, $112,000 insurance for building and contents loss, the board to retain all salvage of building and contents. Walter H. Cobban, local adjuster, assisted the school board in its negotiations.

On motion of George Falconer, seconded by Fred Drexler, the board accepted the offer and the proper officers were authorized to execute all necessary papers. As stated by President G. D. LaBar of the board, there will be some 49 insurance companies paying their share of the fire loss. The original insurance carried was $93,000 on the building and $22,400 on the contents.

During the discussion on insurance matters cognizance was taken of the fact that pupils and teachers lost articles which carried no insurance. In the future, insurance may be carried to protect such losses. Miss Mary Tornstrom, principal, lost her typewriter in the fire. Various sewing class pupils lost dresses and dress material. Many lost books belonging to the Brainerd Public Library. The cooking class teacher lost her original recipes and other matter.

Vernon White, contractor, reported progress at the old court house reconditioning. He expected the building to be ready for occupancy a week from Monday. Steam was put on yesterday morning and a few returns were replaced. Five pounds pressure was put on in the afternoon and a few leaks in radiators developed.

After a discussion on the need of fire escapes at the old court house the motion of Fred Drexler, seconded by Mrs. J. A. Thabes, carried that two fire escapes be installed.

On motion of M. E. Morrison, seconded by John Holvick, carried, that the selection of a storage location for salvage be left to the building committee.

On motion of George Falconer, seconded by Mrs. J. A. Thabes, the motion carried that the finance and insurance committee place compensation insurance on any workers employed by the school board.

Mr. LaBar stated briefly: “We should start pretty soon informally and formally on our new building program. Our whole affairs from the start to the present time should be brought up to date to determine what move to make. We may need additional counsel, local or outside, as to what we can do and what we cannot do.”

F. M. Hagberg: “I move we employ F. E. Ebner as special counsel to assist the board. The motion was seconded by Fred Drexler, and carried.

Mr. Hagberg: “There are many things coming up on which we shall need legal advice.”

Mr. LaBar: “We shall need advice on building contracts, etc., when they come up.”

Mr. LaBar: “I do not know whether to adjourn to a certain date or to call special meetings.”

Mr. Drexler: “It seems to me we are losing time on some things. We should decide on a building course and start business.”

Mr. LaBar: “As far as the architects are concerned, that is a matter that should be discussed, too.”

Mrs. Thabes: “I’ve had plenty of them call.”

Mr. Holvick: “Three of them were at my place and showed me pictures and plans.”

Mr. Hagberg: “Something should be done quickly. Mr. Ebner should be notified and if he accepts, he can outline what we can do and cannot do. That will give us a start.”

Mr. Hohman: “We are absolutely certain on adjournments, but not on special meetings.”

Mr. LaBar inquired about teachers’ committee reports and Mr. Morrison replied, “With all these meetings held and coming on, when can the teachers’ committee meet?”

On suggestion of Mr. LaBar that adjournment be taken to Monday evening, the motion was made by Mrs. Thabes, seconded by Mr. Crust and carried. (Brainerd Dispatch, 20 April 1928, p. 3, c. 3)

SEE: Brainerd High School (First) in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


10 July




Several Thousand Dollars Damage

Done by Fire, Smoke and

Water on Four Floors




Entire Fire Fighting Force and Equip-

ment Out; Flames Checked

in Attic

Iron Exchange Building, located on the northwest corner of Laurel and South Sixth Streets, ca. 1926.
Source: Postcard

The entire fire fighting force of the city of Brainerd was called into action this afternoon to save the Iron Exchange building from flames which threatened for a while to get beyond the control of the heavy force of firemen.

The blaze which swept through the entire attic of the city’s largest business block caused a damage which early estimates place at several thousands of dollars. The majority of damage was done by smoke and water.

Heavy damage was done to the Masonic Temple and rooms leased by the Masonic order, the Iron Exchange hall and the attic storage rooms of the New Brainerd hotel.

Fire Chief H. McGinn said he would conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the fire which broke out in the attic and swept throughout the entire roof.

Two causes were advanced this afternoon as to the start of the fire, overheated chimney and wiring.

Forty firemen answered the call. Four lines were stretched and a steady stream of water was poured into the fourth floor of the building for nearly one hour. The lines were stretched from Laurel and Fifth streets, Laurel and Sixth, Front and Sixth and Front and Fifth. One hose was entered through the Laurel street entrance to the above floors of the building, one through the main entrance on Sixth street, and two from the rear.

An attempt to put into use a fire fighting equipment installed at the rear of the building failed when, as the water was turned on, the hose was forced from its coupling.

Thousands of people witnessed the work of putting out the fire. Hundreds stood for as long as five minutes and watched smoke coming through the cornices on the roof without one turning in the alarm believing someone else called the department.

All the fire fighting equipment in the fire hall which is directly behind the building was called into play. Two trucks let out hose at the four sections of the building and the ladder truck stood ready for service. Use of ladders, however, was not necessary. Firemen climbed fire escapes and entered the building through the various entrances.

The fire department answered the call at 12:23 p. m. and the majority of the crew remained at the scene of the fire until 2 p. m. when several remained as a precaution to a further breakout.

The tons of water thrown on the roof, and fourth floor of the building seeped through the heavy floors of the building to places even on the first floor.

The Hickerson Garment Co. employees were kept busy with washtubs carrying water out of their establishment on the main floor to prevent heavy damage to woolen goods and garments newly manufactured. There will be considerable damage in that department alone, officials of the company said.

The law offices of Swanson, Swanson and Swanson on the second floor received more than its share of the water. To protect their documents members of the firm placed all papers in their large steel vault and moved out pieces of furniture into the Booterie shoe store across the street on Sixth.

A survey of the third floor showed that water came through sections of the floor in the Masonic Temple and adjoining rooms although the majority of the damage to the Temple was done by smoke. Likewise the Iron Exchange hall was affected.

None of the documents of the Masonic bodies was destroyed. The majority of damage to the building is covered by insurance, R. R. Gould, of the firm of Gould and Gray, owners, reported.

The Chamber of Commerce room escaped severe damage although the smoke will cause some damage there also. The pool tables, directly in the path of dripping water, were saved from damage by foresighted workers on the second floor moving them.

Guests in the New Brainerd Hotel were assured by the management that there was no cause for alarm.

A 13 inch concrete ceiling in the Woolworth store, Sixth street, proved ample protection. The store continued to do business while firemen worked three floors over them putting out the fire.

The Paul M. Jones confectionery and the R. D. King sporting goods stores were little affected.

The offices of Dr. J. A. McGinn, dentist, Dr. E. C. Herzog, osteopathic physician, Gould and Gray, were little damaged.

Immediately after all danger of fire had passed workers started cleaning up the wreckage and water.

Assisting the local firemen were two from out of the state. H. W. Dunnion, detective on the Pittsburgh, Pa. police force, former fireman there, and J. A. McNab, of Company 9, Kansas City Fire Department.

The two immediately doffed traveling clothes, secured coats at the fire hall and proceeded to work with the other firemen. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 10 July 1929, p. 7, c.’s 1 & 2)



We appreciate the wonderful work done by the Brainerd Fire Department in so quickly getting the fire that threatened the Iron Exchange building under control. Their work is more remarkable considering the care used in protecting the property of the tenants from excessive damage by water and breakage in getting at the blaze. These volunteer firemen are to be commended for their efficient work.

A. A. BURNS, Prop.

New Brainerd Hotel.

(Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 11 July 1929, p. 7 c. 2)



R. R. Gould of Gould-Gray Co. Esti-

mates Damage to Iron Exchange



PLACES IT AT $10,000


Damage to Contents May Reach $8,000;

Cause of Start is Yet


While owners of the building and fire inspectors continued to search for the cause of the fire in the Iron Exchange building a check-up of the damage done was being made today.

R. R. Gould of the firm of Gould and Gray, owners of the building, stated this afternoon that he estimated the damage by fire, smoke and water to the building in the neighborhood of $10,000. Damage to contents by fire, smoke and water may reach $8,000, it was estimated today.

The majority of damage is covered by insurance.

No direct cause has yet been found for the start of the fire which yesterday afternoon broke out in the attic of the city’s largest business block on the corner of Sixth and Laurel streets. Forty-two firemen were called out to fight the fire. The majority of damage was done by smoke and water.

Repair work will start as soon as possible, Mr. Gould said.

Insurance adjusters were expected in the city today. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 11 July 1929, p. 3, c. 2)



Workmen to Rebuild Section in Iron

Exchange Building Affected

by Fire

Workmen have started repairing the fire, smoke and water damage done to the Iron Exchange building by the recent blaze there.

Redecoration is being done where needed. The carpenter repair work will be done under the direction of W. T. Carlson, Brainerd Contractor. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 23 July 1929, p. 7, c. 4)

SEE: Iron Exchange Building in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Hickerson Garment Factory in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

30 July



Flames from Grass Fire Lick Walls of

Historic Building on

West Main Street

The old trading post, West Main [Washington] street, popular trading center and rendezvous in the 80’s now vacant, was threatened by a grass fire yesterday afternoon.

The city fire department saved the relic of bygone days after the flames had licked the timeworn walls of the structure.

Old timers recalled when the trading post was in its heyday, of the picturesque dances put on by Indians there after bringing for marketing furs in the winter and blueberries in the summer. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 31 July 1929, p. 7, c. 4)

SEE: Trading Post 1870 in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

21 October



Sweeps From Ransford Pool Hall to

Ransford Annex and Journal





Ralph M. Sheets, Publisher, Has Arm

Injured When Debris


A spectacular fire, which started in an unused closed up stairway in the Ransford pool hall, swept through the ceiling to what was formerly known as the Ransford Annex and through the walls and ceiling into the Journal Press print shop, caused a damage last night estimated upwards of $20,000.

One hundred and twenty-five guests in the Ransford hotel were routed from their beds by the smoke while occupants of apartments and rooms in the westerly division of the hotel escaped from the flames carrying what possessions they could.

Ralph M. Sheets, publisher of the Brainerd Journal Press, a weekly newspaper, was pinned under the debris of the falling ceiling in his shop. He pulled himself to safety with the use of one arm, his other being fractured.

All loss is covered by insurance. The building, owned by J. Herschel Hardy with the Gould-Gray Co. agents, had a loss by fire, smoke and water upwards of $10,000. Mr. Sheets estimated his damage at approximately $3,000. Nels Nelson, operating the Ransford pool hall placed his damage at approximately $1,000. Fixtures, furniture, decorations and personal effects in the hotel rooms were damaged to the extent of approximately $6,000, it was conservatively estimated.

Debris littered the pool hall, Journal Press office and print shop and the apartments and rooms in the west division of the hotel today.

Repair work will be started in all sections affected as soon as a complete appraisal is made of the damage.

Fire Chief Frank Fuller and his men were praised highly on all sides today for their work in stopping the fire while Chief Fuller extended praise to Edgar Burke, manager of the hotel for his assistance in the direction of the locations of the rooms, to three of his firemen, Clyde McDonald, Vernon White and Dean White for exceptional service, to Joe Midgley, an occupant of the hotel for his assistance, and to all the guests in the hotel for the cool manner with which they reacted to the presence of fire.

The apartments hardest hit by the fire were those of Mr. and Mrs. Henry I. Cohen, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Midgley, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Gemmell and Mrs. C. M. Patek. Many personal effects in these apartments were destroyed by fire or otherwise ruined by smoke and water. All were present in their apartments when the fire broke out with the exception of Mr. and Mrs. Gemmell who are out of the city.

When smoke from the fire swept through the hotel guests dressed and gathered in the lobby. There was no evidence of panic and complete confidence was placed in the fire department.

The fire was traced today to an unused stairway to the west of the pool room. Fire Chief Fuller is investigating to determine its origin. The alarm as turned in at 11:40 p. m. was answered by 26 firemen. Three lines of 1400 feet of hose in each were brought to play on the flames which swept through the ceilings and walls.

The fire was officially recorded as out at 2:40 a. m. although a fireman remained at the hotel throughout the night.

Although the hotel guest rooms were unoccupied for the better part of one hour there was no pilfering reported.

Mr. Burke told how the guests in the hotel reacted to the fire.

“No one was excited. When the guests learned there was a fire they dressed and walked downstairs to the lobby. There was no panic. The fire chief and his boys did all they could. They worked systematically and I have a lot of praise for them,” he said.

“The entire west end of the building would have been a total loss had it not been for the valuable service rendered by Firemen Clyde McDonald, Dean White and Vernon White. They stuck with me and fought through the smoke to where the fire was without the use of fire masks,” said Fire Chief Fuller today.

“Mr. Burke went with me into the smoke and gave us directions. Joe Midgley also helped drag hose through the halls. We could have used four smoke masks but as it was we only had one. This however did not stop the firemen for they rushed into the smoke filled section of the building doing invaluable service,” the chief said.

After the fire the guests returned to their beds. Those living in apartments were given other rooms.

Mr. Sheets said today he hopes to publish his paper this week. Heaviest damage was done to a linotype machine.

Ralph R. Farrand, operator of the hotel, is expected in the city this evening from Des Moines to plan repair work. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 22 October 1929, p. 3, c.’s 1-4)

SEE: 11 March 1907

SEE: 28 October 1917

SEE: Ransford Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Journal Press in the Newspapers of Early Brainerd page.


22 June



Flames Partially Destroy and Damage

Complete Stock of Musical



Heavy Loss Comes in Destruction of

Pianos, Radios, Violins,

Horns, etc.

Fire swept through the Hall Music House, 708 Laurel Street, Sunday morning, partially destroying and damaging the complete stock of musical equipment in the store, causing an estimated damage of approximately $20,000.

Smoke filled apartments on the second floor of the Juel block and routed more than a dozen dwellers from their beds. Most of them escaped in their night apparel.

The damage to Hall’s Music House is covered by insurance.

I. S. Harger, manager of the Woolworth store, was the first to notice the fire. He woke with his apartment filled with smoke. Springing from his bed in his bare feet, the floor was too hot for him to stand on. He put on slippers, telephoned the fire department and made the rounds of the apartments, waking the people.

The alarm was turned in at 7:54 A. M., 17 firemen answering the alarm. By 8:30 A. M. the flames were under control.

The fire started in the radio repair department to the rear of the main store. It completely destroyed all radios, phonograph records, sheet music and equipment in the repair shop. Spreading to the main part of the store, it touched almost every instrument.

The heavy loss came from the damage to seven upright pianos, two baby grand pianos, 40 radios, 35 violins, 2,500 phonograph records, 10 Victrolas, two new trombones, banjos, 1,000 pieces of sheet music, and a variety of other musical equipment.

The fire is believed to have originated from a short circuit in the wires.

Damage was also done by smoke and water to any instruments not affected by the fire.

Smoke damage was also done to the Husted Hat Shop and the apartments in the Juel Block.

Alderman W. J. Hall, proprietor of the Music House, said he intended to start in business again at the same location. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 23 June 1930, p. 7, c. 1)

28 July



Flames Cause $10,000 Loss to Con-

fectionery Store and

$5,000 to Block




Fire Gains Start in Basement, Sweeps

Upward and Through


Starting in the basement, its source as yet undetermined, fire swept through that section, up through the floor and completely gutted the entire interior of the Fountain Inn, 614 [sic] [612] Front street early today.

The confectionery store, the largest in the city, had a loss estimated to run over $10,000. The Grandelmeyer block in which it is situated was also hit by fire, smoke and water, doing a damage to the building of more than $5,000, estimates revealed.

Practically all fire loss and that caused by smoke and water is covered by insurance.

The block is the property of Mrs. Rose Parker and has an insurance coverage of $10,000. Mrs. Parker who resides in an apartment on the second story and Ed. Hulett renter of a sleeping room, had losses by smoke and water to household goods, the fire being confined chiefly to the interior of the Fountain Inn, the property of John Kolias. Damage was also caused by water and smoke to the Louis Hostager store adjoining.

The Brainerd fire department received the alarm by telephone at 1:58 a. m. Four regulars and 26 volunteer men responded. The fire had gained such headway when first noticed that firemen were handicapped in getting the flames under control early. They fought the fire until 6:50 a. m. putting out four lines for a total of 2500 feet of hose. Connections were made at hydrants at the corners of 6th and Front, 7th and Front, 7th and Laurel and 6th and Laurel streets.

Fred Reinhardt, first aid man of the department was kept busy giving aid to firemen cut by steel ceilings and glass. Fortunately, however, no serious injuries were caused.

Fire Chief Frank Fuller today expressed commendation of the work of his men, giving them credit for keeping the fire concentrated in the one store.

So serious did the fire appear at the start that fear was expressed that the flames would spread to other buildings on Front street.

While firemen fought the flames at close distance the kitchen floor sagged and a heavy range started a downward plunge into the basement. It still rests in an opening of the floor.

The fire made a path from the kitchen to the main part of the confectionery store consuming the booths and traveling along the floor, walls and ceilings to the fountain and front part.

Fire Chief Fuller said that in actual fire loss the fire was the worst since the Brainerd high school fire, although the Hall Music House fire last month caused more damage. It was the second fire at the Fountain Inn location in the past five years. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 28 July 1930, p. 7, c. 1)

SEE: 24 January 1926

SEE: Olympia Candy Kitchen / Sugar Bowl / Fountain Inn in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

19 December














The fate of over 20 cars remained in doubt at 2:30 P. M. today as 50 Brainerd firemen were winning a fight against flames and smoke in the basement of the Conklin Motor Co., corner of Front and Fifth streets.

Whether the flames had destroyed the vehicles which included three new 1930 models, between ten and fifteen stored cars and 10 used cars, was undetermined at press time.

Early estimates of the loss by fire and smoke was fixed at $10,000.

R. D. Conklin, manager, said that cars owned by the company were insured to cover the loss. There was, however, yet to be determined whether the cars stored there were covered by insurance by owners.

The fire was spectacular. Flames shot high from the basement windows and as water from three hose lines played on them smoke belched forth to completely envelope the building.

The fire was confined entirely to the basement although flames were shooting through holes in the concrete floor.

Garage attendants worked feverishly in the smoke to rescue five new models from the main floor and some 15 cars on the first floor left there for storage and repairs.

How the fire started has not been definitely determined. It was the general assumption of firemen and workmen at the garage that the fire started from or near the furnace.

Mr. Conklin said that he had planned to remove the furnace, an oil burner, for a coal furnace this afternoon.

Fritz Johnson, a mechanic, first noticed the fire. He saw smoke pouring from the basement runway to the rear of the building, heard a little explosion and then yelled to A. A. Weideman, car salesman, to telephone for the fire department.

The fire department truck had only a few yards to travel, the rear of the garage being located across the street from the station.

A louder explosion than the first rocked the six-inch concrete floor.

Firemen were handicapped by the heavy smoke but courageously entered the smoke-filled basement. The fire was under control at 2:30 P. M. after it had raged furiously for one hour. It attracted over a thousand downtown shoppers who were kept at a safe distance should any terrific explosion occur.

A gasoline truck holding 100 gallons of gas and owned by W. E. Lewis was reported clear of the flames.

A Cadillac car, owned by D. C. Gray, valued at $2,000 and without fire insurance, was stored in the front part of the basement as was also a Packard owned by John S. Levis. Both cars were believed to have escaped destruction.

The building is owned by the Gould-Gray Co., and is covered by insurance.

All insurance is held by local agents. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 19 December 1930, p. 1, c. 7)

31 December









Back of the glamor, the thrill, the disappointment, even sorrow that races with fire apparatus through traffic, careening at corners, skidding on slippery streets and wallowing, plunging through muddy streets to reach the loftiest building to a wretched abode imperiled by blaze, there is a tradition. Firemen entering the service have lived it and firemen have died keeping faith with that tradition. It is one of service to the death to protect human life and man-made civilization embodied in its structures.

Even in the days of the bucket brigade, hand-drawn pump wagons, when firemen sweated to pull lumbering apparatus over sandy streets from three so-called hose houses that tradition was instilled in the hearts and bodies of Brainerd Firemen.

And today, Brainerd’s fire department, efficient, almost machine-like in the performance of its duty, rushes to the call when needed, backed by that tradition which influence was first felt more than half a century back.

There is no accurate information of the first fire department in this city. Regretfully, that information was lost, destroyed in 1900 when fire swept through the room in which the records were kept. The fire which broke out on the second floor of the building housing Hose Co. No. 1 and Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1, took its greatest damage in burning the early records. That hose house, later torn down and replaced by the Central Fire Station, South Fifth Street, was located to the rear of what is now the Paramount theatre, Front Street.

One Original Stands

Only one of the original three hose houses now stands. It is located on 13th Street S. E., a few yards south of Oak street. It housed the original Eagle Co. No. 4. Now its activities extend to meetings of firemen, boy scout meetings and a polling place during elections. It is time-worn.

The Northeast Hose House which served as the center for Liberty Co. No. 3, located on Second Avenue N. E., is the latest to be claimed by time. As the building became run down and firemen feared it would fall, residents of Northeast, boy scouts, petitioned the council through Aldermen Chris Elvig and V. F. Anderson to have it removed and a new structure built.

The hose house has been torn down and the council is expected at an early meeting to sanction the construction of a new hall to serve the needs of the Northeast community to act as a polling place for the first precinct of the third ward.

The early fire hall was the pride of volunteer firemen from the third ward in the city. The building was erected in the year 1884 by a man known now only as “Maxwell.” It was first operated as a saloon and purchased by the city for a fire hall in 1886 or 1887. Previously the Northeast fire station was located on ground that is now Third Avenue and B Street to the rear of the lot at 122 Third Avenue. The building was sold to Edward Crust when the hose company moved into the “Maxwell” building.

With the dismantling of the old building went the bell tower and the bell, the clang of the latter being heard throughout the town at the call of fire whether it was a chimney smudge or a conflagration. When it sounded firemen rushed to the hose house, oftentimes only half clad.

Liberty Hose Company No. 3 was organized in the late fall of 1883. The company consisted of 16 members including two torch boys who led the firemen at parades.

Old-Time Fire Fighters

Charter members of the Liberty Hose Company, Northeast Brainerd, and the first hose house and bell tower in the background, located near what is now Third Avenue and B Street. From left to right: On horse, Mike Hawkins, James Cullen, chief of the general department for Brainerd, Edward Crust, Pat Hawkins, Ted Anderson, Mike Cullen, Ed. Breheny, Andrew Wallace, Mike Reilly, Charles Tillquist, George Mahood. A 650x330 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 31 December 1930

The names of the first members to the best of Edward Crust’s recollection, Mr. Crust dividing honors with Edward Anderson with the longest service of those still living, are: Mike Cullen, James Cullen, Edwin Cullen, Mike Hawkins who now lives in Minneapolis, Edward Hawkins who passed away 18 years ago, M. J. Reilly, Pat Reilly, Ed. Breheny, deceased, Edward Anderson, George Mahood, Edward Crust, John Bowles, now a resident of Duluth, Walter Fivey, deceased, Andy Wallace deceased, George Forsythe, alderman from the third ward while he was a member, now deceased, Tom Watts, third assistant chief, deceased. The torch boys were Jim Wallace who now lives in a western city and Johnny Anderson, now of Minneapolis.

Charter officers of the company were:

Captain—Edward Crust.

Foreman—Andrew Wallace.

Assistant Foreman—Mike Hawkins.

Treasurer—James Cullen.

The present officers are:

Captain—Henry Haas.

First Assistant—Clyde McDonald.

Second Assistant—Thomas Crowley

Secretary—J. E. Crust.

Treasurer—Edward Crust.

The membership and the year each first joined follow: Edward Crust, 1883; Edward Anderson, 1883; Clyde McDonald, 1909; William Hogan, 1912; Fred Haas, 1913; Henry Haas, 1913; A. W. Gronquist, 1914; Wm. Webking, 1915; R. W. Crust, 1918; J. E. Crust, 1918; Tom Crowley, 1926; Sherman Stein, 1926.

The old fire fighting days were not without its trials and what now appears humorous incidents.

So winded did the men get in pulling apparatus through sandy streets before the entry of the horse that their energies were partly spent in arriving at the scene of the fire.

Tells of Early Days

Edward Crust was Captain of the Liberty Hose Company in Northeast Brainerd when it was first organized in 1883 and who was treasurer of that company in 1930.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 31 December 1930

“The procedure of notifying volunteers at fires in the old days was the ringing of the bell at Central as well as No. 3 and 4 Hose Companies located in the third and fourth wards. There was in those days quite a rivalry among the various companies when a central alarm was sounded. Each would attempt to reach the fire first. This rivalry extended also to each hose house where firemen would run madly to reach the hose house first,” said Mr. Crust in recalling the early life of the fire department in Brainerd.

“All small fires were taken care of in the third and fourth wards by their respective volunteer companies due to the extreme difficulty the Central company would experience in going over the rough roads. There was also the danger of leaving the business district without fire protection. It was a great task to pull the hose cart loaded with fire hose any distance. The men tugged hard but always managed to bring the equipment to the scene of the fire.

“All during the manpower days of fire fighting and before the horse power handling of the fire equipment was adopted we paid dues and were fined for non-attendance to fire, fined for non-attendance to practice. Practice meant the dragging of the hose cart two nights a week through streets of sand six to eight inches deep so to increase our efficiency in the service.

“After the horses were put into service the hardships of the third and fourth ward fire companies were greatly eliminated. This move connected us up with the city or downtown district and soon after there was a move to do away with the third and fourth ward companies. Upon investigation it was found that such a move was not practical either from a standpoint of efficiency or one of insurance economy so the hose companies remained,” Mr. Crust said in recalling this history.

Most Serious Fires

The following general alarm fires stand out in the history of the early companies: Headquarters Hotel, 1882, at Sixth and the N. P. tracks, fought by a bucket brigade; Villard Hotel, [04 May] 1887; the entire block west of the present fire station with the exception of the northeast and northwest corners in September [sic] [30 June] in 1889 [sic] [1888], [This fire does not include the Commercial Hotel or any of the other buildings listed here, they burned in the fire of 10 October 1890.] including the Commercial Hotel, Livery Barn, Catholic church and parsonage on Fifth street west [sic] [east] of the present courthouse; half of the block on the east side of Fifth street in 1891 [sic] [10 October 1890]; the Opera House and Con O’Brien’s store on Broadway [South Eighth Street] between Laurel and Front streets in [02 January] 1898; the Arlington Hotel on the corner of Sixth and Main [Washington] streets on January 1, 1903 [sic] [1904]; the L. M. Koop Dry Goods store, Linnemann Brothers’ Clothing store, Grandelmeyer Millinery store in [26] February, 1904; the Columbian Block in [1910 [sic] [28 October 1909]; the old Cass County Court House in West Brainerd, [26 November] 1894; the Olympic Theatre, Fifth and Laurel, [30 August] 1894; the Wise Block, 6th and Front streets, [30 January] 1905.

When the new Central station was constructed on Fifth street, motorized equipment was installed.

Fires doing heaviest damage to buildings in Brainerd since that time include: Model Laundry, April 24, 1919, rear end gutted and main roof burned; Cale Block, January 24, 1918, total loss; Northern Pacific Depot, February 5, 1917, total loss; Antlers and Globe hotels, January 22 [sic] [23], 1917, total loss, 2 lives lost; Earl [sic] [Carlson] Hotel, December 16 [sic] [15], 1916, total loss; Purdy’s Livery Barn, September 26, 1916, total loss; City Hotel, January 19 [sic] [20], 1916, total loss; Ideal Hotel, February 16, 1922, gutted; East hotel, November 1, 1923, total loss; Northern Pacific Car shop, October 5, 1920, total loss; Imperial Block, April 19, 1924, total loss; Anna Block, January 5, 1924, gutted; Koop Block, February 11, 1923, total loss; High school, March 31 [sic] [30], 1928, two-thirds total loss; Ransford building, October 21, 1929, pool room, printing office and hotel, $9,931.00 loss; Iron Exchange building, July 10, 1929, burned attic and large hole in roof, heavy water damage; Hall Music House, June 22, 1930, loss $11,500; Fountain Inn, July 28, 1930, loss $11,340; Conklin Motor Co., December 19, 1930, loss $5,000.

NOTE: The Earl Hotel became the Carlson Hotel. The Carlson Hotel burned on 15 December 1916.

SEE: Earl / Carlson Hotel in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

Compares Old, New Methods

Frank Fuller, chief of the Brainerd Fire Department, was asked to contribute a statement to this history comparing the methods of former days and those in use at the present time:

His writing in this regard follows:

In the old days there used to be a keen rivalry in getting to and fighting fires. Now there is the greatest cooperation between the companies and no rivalry whatever, which gives us greater efficiency. The firemen got the alarms by hearing the bell ring. Then it was a matter of getting to the apparatus and pulling it by hand to the fire. After arriving at the fire they had one line of hose. If it was a lucky day they had water pressure. Usually this was not the case. In any event the whole object was to extinguish the fire without a thought of the water damage.

Fire Chief, Frank Fuller, advocate of modern fire fighting equipment and methods, leading the Brainerd Fire Department of 50 volunteers and four salaried firemen.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 31 December 1930

Now, through the cooperation of the Northwestern Telephone Company, we receive our alarms over apparatus which transmits the alarm and location of fire over 45 telephones at the same time. We have given the telephone office an alarm from the engine house and received it back over the alarm equipment in twenty seconds and in another twenty seconds the apparatus was leaving the engine house. After reaching the fire our object is to extinguish it with as little water or chemicals as possible cutting down the damage to a great extent. The old firemen stood outside of the building and directed the streams at where they thought the fire might be or as near to it as they could through the smoke. The modern fireman dons a smoke mask and goes to the seat of the fire with a small pump tank or a small hose line and extinguishes the fire much quicker and with less damage.

It is impossible for a man to enter a smoke filled building in the winded condition that the old timers were in after racing to the fire. Even a smoke mask would be of no avail when one is in that condition.

I am happy to make the statement that to my knowledge, no profession has made the strides in the past few years towards the goal of perfection as the profession of fire fighting. We have a perfect right to classify ourselves as professionals with fire fighting as a profession.

To my knowledge no profession calls for such a varied knowledge as the profession of fire fighting. To be a successful fireman you must have some knowledge of medicine, so that first aid methods may be properly handled such as resuscitation, care of burns, wounds and fractures. You must have some knowledge of law so that arson cases can be run down and the criminals brought to justice. You must have a knowledge of chemistry so that proper precaution can be taken from poisonous gases, caused by combustion.

The fireman must also know methods of dealing with acid and alkaline fumes, how to properly ventilate a building to remove smoke and poisonous fumes, and must have some knowledge of salvage work and how to produce it.

The five cardinal points in fire fighting are saving of life, covering of exposures, confining fire, extinguishing fire and the production of salvage.

A number of years ago it was my proud privilege to wear the uniform of the United States Army, and while so doing I learned the value of discipline. The application of this to any paid or volunteer fire department is in my mind the paramount factor in the success of any fire department and I am happy to state that the discipline in our department is very good, the firemen might question my judgment after returning to quarters (which I request them to do) but at fires they trust to my judgment, knowing that I have perhaps made a study of the very condition we are working under. A fireman is ofttimes called upon to make snap judgments and he is sometimes wrong, but it is hard to be always right when working in an emergency under adverse conditions. Just criticisms made in a reasonable way are always welcomed by us and we wish the public to feel free to make them when they are due.

In the old days it was hard for the department to get apparatus, but I am happy to state that the present city administration has not refused a single request that the Fire Department has made.

As conditions are ever changing, and as it is my duty to protect the public as to fire and fire prevention, I feel it is my duty to ask for protective ordinances from time-to-time, and as they may seem to be of a drastic or revolutionary nature, and perhaps formulated in my own mind, I wish to state that such is not the case as we are associated with an organization that is national and their object is fire protection. When we ask for a protective ordinance we are basing it on things that have happened throughout the nation and is proven to be necessary, having public safety in mind.

With our present alarm system, water pressure is stepped up and retained at the point needed until after the fire. The Water and Light department gives us a pressure of 125 pounds and more if we need it. Our new truck has a 500-gallon a minute pump. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 31 December 1930, p. 3, c.’s 1-4)


09 March

Church Burns to Ground in Morning Fire


Flames Completely Destroy Large St. Francis Catholic

Church Causing Loss Estimated at

Approximately $50,000

Second St. Francis Catholic Church located on the northeast corner of 9th and Juniper, ca. 1925.
Source: Postcard

Only a smoldering mass of ruins catapulted into a basement heap when the supports gave way, the two chimneys standing in spectral relief against a background of sky and the towering facade of the steeple today remained of the large and expansive St. Francis Catholic church, corner Ninth and Juniper streets, following an early morning fire that completely destroyed the church edifice.

It was one of the most spectacular and devastating fires Brainerd has experienced in five years. For a time, it threatened to reach conflagration proportions with a high wind swirling firebrands over a radius of two blocks, igniting 16 minor blazes on 11 different buildings.

No one was injured although several firemen, fighting valiantly against the threat of spreading to nearby homes and the great handicaps of the high wind and eight to 12 below zero temperature, suffered severely frost-bitten fingers from handling the more than 2,500 feet of hose strung in five lines.

For more than four hours the fire fighters fought the blaze. The fire in the church was beyond control when discovered and firemen concentrated their efforts in saving the homes threatened by the blazing firebrands that swirled in the high winds and settled down on the roofs of homes in the path of the biting northwest wind.

It was five years ago this month that Brainerd experienced a fire that in extent exceeded the blaze that completely destroyed the St. Francis Catholic church this morning.

The night of March 30, 1928, fire destroyed the large Washington high school, causing a loss estimated at approximately $150,000.

The fire today was the largest since that time.

Partly Covered by Insurance

Loss is estimated at approximately $50,000. It included, besides the complete demolition of the building that has been the place of worship for the large congregation for 35 years, practically all of the church equipment including the impressive altar and valuable other equipment.


Only the sacred ordinances and a few vestments were saved when several nuns and the Rev. P. H. Ryan, assistant pastor, dashed into the flaming structure to save the sacred articles.

The loss is partly covered by insurance. It was reportedly protected to the extent of approximately $26,600.

With the walls crumbling and the fire smoldering in the basement, the fire fighters, numbering 26 members of the volunteer department and others hastily recruited from the throngs of spectators who braved the sub-zero temperature and biting wind of the early morning to watch the blaze, pulled down the remaining walls. Only the towering facade of the steeple and the chimneys remained standing this afternoon as the last vestige of one of Brainerd’s imposing church edifices. Two small charges of dynamite failed to break down the facade and extreme pressure of water also proved unavailing in the efforts of firemen to topple the lofty facade to prevent possible crumbling later, imperiling possible passersby.

The origin of the fire has not been determined. It is believed to have begun in the rear of the structure but the entire interior of the building was a mass of flames when firemen were called.

Passerby Discovers Fire

Arthur Lyons, a passerby, discovered the fire about 6:30 a. m. this morning. He noticed a slight wisp of smoke issuing from the building that later burst out into great masses of dense clouds. But, already the fire had gained great headway, filling up the large interior of the building before bursting forth into the open.

Lyons immediately sought a telephone to call the fire department. Hearing him rapping on the window of a home next door, Ed. Murphy, 305 North Ninth street, was aroused. He called the fire department.

Within a few minutes, all fire fighting equipment was on the scene and Ed Ovig, assistant fire chief of the volunteer fire fighters, began their four hour vigil of checking the firebrands in protection of nearby homes and in attempting to halt the progress of the fire in the church. Fire Chief, Frank Fuller, was out of the city attending the Minnesota Tax Conference and League of Minnesota Municipalities meeting in Minneapolis.

Second St. Francis Catholic Church interior, ca. 1925.
Source: Postcard

When firemen stepped into the building, they were greeted by a wall of flames and the entire floor of the sanctuary had already given way and fallen in a heap in the basement, carrying the altar and other statuary with it. The fire had eaten its way into the body of the church and quickly enveloped the entire interior, springing up to the balcony where the organ was. Shortly, the main floor gave way and the balcony followed, catapulting the organ into the blazing mass of ruins in the basement. The falling roof and crumbling walls added peril to the fire fighting activities and the intense heat, generated by the fire, could be felt for more than 50 feet, tempering the sub-zero temperature.

Mass was scheduled to be held at 8 o’clock. Only shortly before the janitor, Louis Bourassa, was scheduled to renew the fire in the furnace.

Many Homes Threatened

The Rev. J. J. Hogan, pastor, was at St. Joseph’s hospital, celebrating Mass there, when the fire was discovered. When he started for the hospital shortly before 6 o’clock he noticed nothing wrong at the church. Nobody had been in the church since last night when Lenten services were held, it is believed.

The home of Oscar Erickson, first door north of the church, was probably saved by the high wind taking the firebrands in the opposite direction.

Homes threatened in the conflagration included the two structures and a garage owned by Anton Buscher, the homes of Edwin Murphy, S. P. Shefflo, J. Sadler, W. E. Lutz, J. Kohlhaas and the Swanson residence.

While firemen were fighting the blaze, several residents of the neighborhood provided them with coffee and otherwise aided them. (Brainerd Dispatch, 09 March 1933, p. 1, c. 1 & p. 2, c.’s 3 & 4)

10 March





Members of the St. Francis Catholic church, left without a place of worship when fire early Thursday completely destroyed the large edifice that had served them for 35 years, will attend services Sunday in the auditorium of the new Franklin Junior high school. It was announced.

Through the courtesy of the board of education the school will temporarily serve the congregation. The Rev. J. J. Hogan, pastor of the church, announced that Sunday Masses would be held at the usual hours of 7:45, 9 and 10 a. m.

Weekday Mass is being celebrated in the St. Francis school. This chapel is entirely too small to accommodate the large congregation attending Sunday services.

Simultaneously with this announcement was a grateful expression of thanks for the many assistances and kindnesses shown by Brainerd citizens and organizations and churches following the fire. We cannot adequately express our appreciation for the fine and generous offers of assistance the Rev. Hogan said.

Especial thanks was expressed to Reverends C. M. Brandon, pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal church; G. Patterson, pastor of the Presbyterian church; E. A. Vallar, pastor of the Baptist church, Frank N. Russell, W. H. Gemmell and Harry Greenberg, manager of the Paramount theater, all of whom offered their assistance with several offering use of the churches, buildings and theater in which to hold services.

Meanwhile, the board of trustees have already begun discussion of the possibility of erecting a new church but plans had not progressed to a definite stage yet late today. (Brainerd Dispatch, 10 March 1933, p. 2, c.’s 5 & 6)

14 March





Mobilizing for immediate action looking toward the building of a new church edifice to replace the structure recently destroyed by fire, the congregation of the St. Francis Catholic church, through the various committees named to start rehabilitation activities, today had contacted architects and contractors relative to furnishing plans and estimates for a new church.

With nothing other than the size of the new church definitely established, the committees will hear preliminary plans and estimates as will be laid down by the architects and contractors at a meeting called for Thursday night. The meeting will be held on the mezzanine floor of the Citizens State bank.

The committees have definitely decided that the new church would have a seating capacity of 800 people, nearly twice as large as the destroyed structure. They have also decided that the new edifice will arise on the site of the old church. Other than these decisions nothing definite has been accomplished pending the meeting Thursday.

Heading the committees charged with the purpose of bringing about definite plans of construction, design and financing of the new structure are Don Ryan, chairman of the finance committee, and George A. Kampmann, chairman of the building committee.

Other members of the finance committee include E. W. Imgrund, S. MacDonnell, Dr. E. C. Herzog, J. M. Graham, William Houle and B. C. Pulkrabek. The building committee, besides Mr. Kampmann, includes William Burns, George O’Brien, F. H. McCaffrey, J. H. Kraus, E. J. Conroy, T. H. Schaefer, J. M. Mraz, Frank N. Russell, E. W. Imgrund, Dr. E. C. Herzog, S. MacDonnell, Don Ryan and J. M. Graham. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 14 March 1933, p. 2, c. 3)

15 March


With characteristic zeal and determination, the congregation of the St. Francis Catholic church, facing an emergency and situation that even in normal times is difficult, has already gone forward in plans for the erection of a new edifice to replace the church recently destroyed by fire.

Committees have been appointed with men of sterling and ambitious qualities as chairmen and plans are fast shaping into form for laying the foundation plans for the new church.

Brainerd citizens will respond eagerly to every plea within reason as they have to all civic projects regardless of denomination. Every cooperation has been offered as was evidenced in the flood of offers to help when the church edifice was destroyed. The inter-locking and closely knit citizenry exemplified in this emergency is a pleasing and gratifying tribute to Brainerd’s enviable reputation. It bespeaks the close harmony in all ranks of citizenry which makes Brainerd a pleasing and happy place in which to live and enjoy life. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 15 March 1933, p. 4, c. 1)

27 July





With the Standard Construction company, St. Paul, formally awarded the contract, preliminary work preparatory to the construction of the new St. Francis Catholic church today was well under way.

The Standard Construction company has sub-let the contract for clearing out the basement into which the debris of the old church was catapulted when fire razed that structure and excavation for the foundation of the new edifice to Rosko Brothers, Brainerd. This firm has a steam shovel on the project and a crew of trucks is busy hauling away debris and earth.

Much of the brick from the old church already has been salvaged, being cleaned and piled by the site of the new structure during the last few weeks. It will be used as inside brick.

Work of excavation and clearing away of the debris is expected to take about ten days. Actual pouring of concrete for the foundation will immediately follow.

Contract calls for the completion of the new $50,000 church edifice in six months but those in charge of the project believe that five months will see its completion.

All preliminary work and actual construction operations are in charge of John Knutson, engineer of the Standard Construction Company, who is personally supervising the operations on the site. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 July 1933)

10 August




A crew of about 30 men, including carpenters and other skilled and unskilled laborers, today were at work on the new St. Francis Catholic church as actual construction operations swung into full sway.

Pouring of concrete for the foundation has begun and the giant cement mixer is turning out thousands of yards of concrete for the foundation daily. Carpenters are working ahead of the cement mixing operations, building the forms and making the supports.

Work of pouring concrete for the foundation is expected to take another week but steady progress is being made. All the old debris that was catapulted into the basement and foundation when the old church was destroyed has been cleared away.

Considerable razing work must be done where the facade of the old church stood. The stone footings have yet to be knocked down and cleared away. The stones are being used in the foundation, being knocked into small pieces and embedded in the concrete. The new edifice will rest a short distance back from the front of the former structure.

The new church is scheduled for completion in six months, bringing the actual finish date to about January 1. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 10 August 1933, p. 2, c. 5)

SEE: Saint Francis Catholic Churches in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

21 October




Gray-Bishop Hotel, the log house in the rear was built by Reuben Gray about 1869, the house was built by John Bishop and this became the Gull Lake Club house in 1892, ca. Unknown.
Source: Oldtimers . . . Stories of Our Pioneers, Carl A. Zapffe, Jr., Echo Publishing Company, Pequot Lakes, Minnesota: 1987

Another historic landmark in the Brainerd community today fell prey to the elements when the 2 1/2 story frame building, for many years known as the Half-way house between Round and Gull lake about ten miles from Brainerd, was destroyed by fire.

The former hotel, located at Bishop’s creek, was destroyed by fire Thursday night. Origin of the fire was undetermined but the theory is advanced that it was caused by spontaneous combustion in the upper story.

The building was the property of William Nash, of Minneapolis, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mahadga and family lived on the place.

All their furniture, clothing and other belongings were destroyed at a loss of approximately $1,500. The Mahagda’s are now living at Green lodge.

The loss is partially covered by insurance.

The place, formerly used as a hotel, became known as the Half-way house being used as a stopover inn between this city and Walker. It was a popular place a half century ago when it was built and when travel was not as easy as at present and modes of transportation more remote and slower. (Brainerd Dispatch, 21 October 1933, p. 1, c.’s 2 & 3)

NOTE: This was the old Reuben Gray/John Bishop hotel property. It was later known as the Chambers’ hotel, which was eventually purchased by Leon Lum, J. L. Smith and others in Brainerd to be used as a summer resort.

SEE: 1892, 1893, 1897, 1899, 1900, 1918 The Gray/Bishop Property on Gull Lake in the Early Accounts of Brainerd page.


29 October



Martin Davis Is Dead of Burns,

2 Firemen Injured


Martin (Marty) Davis, 7-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Davis, was burned to death and two firemen were burned, one seriously, in a fire which swept through the metal warehouse room and office of the Davis Hide and Fur establishment, 214 South Third street, late Friday afternoon.

The boy, fatally burned when his clothing caught fire in the burning warehouse, died at 12:15 a. m., today in St. Joseph’s hospital.

Joseph Miller a member of the Brainerd fire department, was taken to the hospital with severe face and neck burns and Carl Peterson, another fireman, was slightly burned about the face. Miller was to be released from the hospital today.

The fire which caused the death of the boy and swept through the Davis warehouse, was of unknown origin. Acting Chief Sherman Stein of the Brainerd fire department, and Martin A. Nelson, deputy state fire marshal, said today.

Three Explosions

Three explosions which followed closely after the outbreak of the fire, carried the blaze through the building and it was the explosion of a barrel of alcohol which caused injury to the two firemen.

Other explosions were caused by an acetylene tank and oxygen tanks in the building. There was also a quantity of fuel oil stored in the warehouse, firemen said.

With the explosion of the acetylene tank, the office door was blown shut and jammed, locking Miss DeRosier, bookkeeper, in the Davis office, in the room where she was attempting to remove records. Miss DeRosier was released by firemen who forced the office door. All windows in the building were blown out by the first explosion.

Firemen burned were handling a line of hose when the alcohol barrel exploded. Miller who was first on the hose line, received the full blast of the flame in his face. Peterson, third man on the line was burned.

Firemen said today that no estimate of loss was available today. The fire was confined to the metal warehouse and office. Acting Chief Stein said. There was considerable smoke in the rubber warehouse but no serious fire damage, he said.

Funeral services for the Davis boy are to be held in Duluth Sunday it was said today at the Halvorson funeral home where the body was taken.

Martin was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Davis. The boy had arrived at the Davis office only a few minutes before the outbreak of the fire. He left his bicycle in the office, reports indicate, and then went into the metal warehouse. A few moments later the fire was discovered and the boy ran into the street, his clothing afire. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 30 October 1943, p. 1)


21 November



Explosion of Kerosene Can Causes Fire


A kerosene explosion in the bedroom of a three-room house took the life of Mrs. Nellie Haubrick, 17, 303 Seventh street, West Brainerd this morning shortly before 10.

Mrs. Haubrick, whose husband, Earl J. Haubrick is serving with the army somewhere in the United States, was reportedly lighting a fire in a Heatrola prior to the time the explosion occurred.

She was believed to have poured kerosene on live embers in the stove and it was reported that the can, which held three gallons of kerosene, had caught fire from the stove.

Can Explodes

Mrs. Haubrick rushed with the flaming container to the bedroom where it exploded before she had a chance to throw it out of the window. She was believed to have died instantly. The bedroom, at once, became a mass of flames and firemen were called to put out the blaze which took over half an hour.

She was badly burned over her entire body.

Heroic efforts on the part of William Tifft, a resident of West Brainerd aided in saving the lives of the remaining occupants in the building.

Sister Burned

Tifft, who lives in the house adjacent to the Haubrick residence saw flames pouring out of the bedroom window and immediately rushed into the smoke-filled room where he assisted Cora, 19, and Evelyn Carroll, both sisters of Mrs. Haubrick to bring the two children, one, Mrs. Haubrick's from the flaming building. Cora was taken to St. Joseph's hospital immediately where she is being treated for third degree burns. Her condition was reported fair by a hospital spokesman.

Dr. John Thabes, Jr., Crow Wing coroner said this noon that no inquest would be held.

Removes Body

Eino J. Rautus, a volunteer fireman pulled the body of Mrs. Haubrick, from the burning building through a window, but she was dead by the time she was taken from the room.

Christmas Presents

Wrapped presents, presumably for Christmas, added a touch of irony as they lay on the table near the stove.

Mrs. Haubrick is the daughter of Mrs. Cora Carroll a resident of Brainerd.

Her body was taken to the Halvorson funeral chapel where funeral arrangements are pending. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 21 November 1944, p. 1, c.'s 1-3)

07 December

Victim of Burns Dies in Hospital


Miss Cora Belle Carroll, 22, died in St. Joseph's hospital here last night of burns suffered November 21 in a fire which took the life of her sister, Mrs. Nellie Haubrick, 17.

Miss Carroll, who was in the home with her sister when a kerosene can exploded causing the death of Mrs. Haubrick, was fatally burned before she could be removed from the house which was damaged by the fire which followed the explosion. She had been under medical care at the hospital since the fire.

The house in which the sisters were burned is located at 303 Southwest Seventh street.

Miss Carroll was born in Brainerd April 30, 1922. She made her home for a few years with her parents in Nebraska and returned to Brainerd about seven years ago.

Surviving are her mother, Mrs. Cora Carroll, Brainerd; six sisters, Evelyn Carroll, Brainerd; Mrs. S. Sartwell and Mrs. R. Sartwell, both of Minneapolis; Mrs. Wallace Plumb, Ely, Nev.; Mrs. Lee Miessner, Maywood, Neb.; Mrs. Ray Churchill, McCook, Neb.; and two brothers, Frank and Earl Carroll, both of McCook, Neb.

Funeral services will be held Monday afternoon at 2 o'clock in the Halvorson chapel. The Rev. Mr. J. R. Michaelson will officiate and interment will be in Evergreen cemetery. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 08 December 1944, p. 1, c. 4)


02 May

Fire Destroys Voss and Wels Buildings Friday

The Voss Farm Supply fire destroyed Voss and the Fred Wels Realty office on 02 May 1952. A 1916x1535 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Andy Walsh
FIRE DESTROYS BUSINESS HOUSES—Roaring flames driven by a high wind quickly destroyed the Voss Farm Supply and Wels Realty office and garage here Friday. Two homes located on the east and west side of the burning buildings were extensively damaged. The fire was one of the most spectacular ever seen in Brainerd. A 3052x1780 version of this photo is also available for viewing on line.
Source: Brainerd Dispatch

A flash fire late Friday afternoon destroyed the Voss Farm Supply, 914 Front street, the Wels Realty company, garage and apartment, 910 Front street, and a one-room residence occupied by William Durham. There was also extensive damage to the F. O. Morley home, located just west of the Wels building, and an apartment building owned by Nels Christianson, and located east of the Voss store.

Fire Chief George Lucas today estimated the damage at approximately $70,000.

The blaze reportedly started when sparks from an acetylene torch, being used in the repair of a tractor in the rear of the Voss building, flew to a nearby parts washing machine filled with distillate.

According to workmen, there was a blinding flash and flames spread so quickly that it was impossible to save anything but some of the office records. Numerous explosions occurred during the fire.

Stanley Piasecki, a workman in the Voss store, said that by the time he had backed away two trucks and his own car parked in a lot in the rear of the building, the store was a roaring inferno.

The intense heat of the fire, fed by grain, gas tanks and paint nearly drove firemen back when they tried to move in close enough with a hose to put out the flames licking at the Morley home and Christianson apartment.

The Morleys were not home when the fire broke out and neighbors and friends climbing to the roof of the house tried in vain to use hand fire extinguishers.

When it became certain that the fire would spread to the house the volunteers hurriedly removed the furniture.

Proprietors of business places in adjoining blocks, armed with hand fire extinguishers and wet gunny sacks, climbed to the roofs of their buildings to stamp out small blazes caused by the flying sparks.

At least five families are homeless today because of the fire.

The Lester Christianson and Edward Carpenter families living in the apartment building and Mr. and Mrs. F. O. Morley are unable to occupy their homes because of the extensive damage. Fred O. Wels and Al Voss lived in apartments in their buildings, which are a total loss. William Durham, who lived in a small, one-room building on a lot in the rear of the Voss store, is also homeless.

Several one-room cabins located on property in the rear of the Christianson apartment house, had to be temporarily vacated because of smoke damage and are charred on the outside.

These cabins are occupied by Nels Christianson, Mrs. Emma Chase, Mrs. Mary Fleischacker, Mrs. Robert Hamilton, Mrs. Julia Rosenkranz, Mrs. Edith Tuttle, Mrs. Railes, Albert Kruger, Arthur Cage and Myrtle Beto.

Firemen poured water on the smoldering ruins until 11 p. m. before they were satisfied that the fire was extinguished.

The Northern Pacific fire company answered the alarm with the Brainerd Fire department. (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 May 1952, p. 1, c. 1)

Rescue Cat From Fire in Morley Residence

As flames were subsiding, and the situation was safe enough to enter the Morley home, a young boy raced into the house and ran out again, tenderly holding a yellow cat in his arms.

The cat had evidently slipped into the house at the outset of the fire, and had somewhat protected itself from smoke and water during the battle to save the structure.

Spectators reported the cat rescue scene to be nearly a "tear jerker." (Brainerd Dispatch, 03 May 1952, p. 1, c. 1)


13 November

$100,000 Fire Destroys Business Block Here


Sixteen Persons Escape But Lose All Possessions

Flames lick through the windows of the Early block as the fire which gutted the Early Block and O'Brien building early this morning gained headway.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Dr. Allan Cobb

A fire of undetermined origin, early this morning, gutted the Early block and O’Brien Building, at the corner of Laurel and South Eighth streets destroying the Super Valu Food store, Bob’s cafe, the offices of Dr. Bernard Hughes, Gruenhagen Plumbing shop, offices of the O’Brien Realty Co., and leaving homeless 16 persons, many of them elderly, who lived in apartments, on the second floor of the building.

With only the brick veneer walls of the building standing this morning, firemen were still fighting to extinguish the flames in the smoldering pile of rubble.

Estimated loss including the building and contents is over $300,000.

The fire was discovered at 3:15 a. m. today by Mrs. Melvina Lougee, who occupied one of the apartments in the Early block. She was awakened by the crackle of the flames and the smoke.

MRS. LOUGEE’S apartment was in the rear of the building where the fire apparently started and gained headway.

Mrs. Lougee, aroused 10 other occupants of the Early apartments, all elderly persons, who fled from the building wearing only night clothes and coats.

Tom O’Brien, who with his mother, Mrs. Con O’Brien lived in an apartment in the O’Brien building was awakened by the confusion in the adjoining building. He carried his mother, who has been ill for many months and only recently returned to her home from the hospital, from the burning building. He aroused his sister Mrs. Mabel Smith and her daughter Janet and Miss Nellie McCleary, who also lived in the building.

MRS. O’BRIEN was taken to the home of her daughter Mrs. John Chalberg.

O’Brien said today, “Everything in the building was destroyed. We escaped with only the clothing we were wearing. I did save a box of precious films of family pictures and I hope they include pictures I took while in Europe.”

O’Brien listed among his greatest losses today, an oil painting of his mother and father, family heirlooms and many scrapbooks of articles concerning the family and his own activities in politics and the Red Cross.

A member of the family said today, “Tom probably had more of that type of thing than anyone in town.”

THE RECORDS of all the business places were also destroyed.

Kenneth Storm, manager of the Super Valu food store had taken inventory of the store stock and returned it to the store safe, only yesterday.

Joe Gustafson, owner of the food market, estimated the stock loss alone at over $50,000.

Estimates of the loss in Dr. Hughes’ office, which had only recently been completed, and the other business places involved were not available today.

THE EARLY block, owned by the O’Brien estate, was occupied, on the second floor, by 11 elderly persons, including Mrs. Kate Early, who had resided in the building for 43 years. She is 82 years of age.

Other occupants of the building included Mrs. Albert Houle, Mrs. Edna Schwert, Mrs. Rose Trudo, Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Cuskey, Mrs. Oscar Eksten, Mrs. May Swartout, Mrs. Lucy A. Wilson and Mrs. Lougee.

The personal belongings of all were destroyed. They escaped with only the clothing they were wearing.

Authorities have been unable to determine the source of the fire but believe that a large amount of paper stored for a Brainerd printing company and anti-freeze and radiator alcohol also stored in the building were partly responsible for the spread of the fire. While intense flames did not burst through until sometime after the occupants had left their living quarters, it was impossible to re-enter the burning building because of smoke.

SMOKE was so intense that during the first few minutes of the fire firemen erecting a ladder to the window of one of the apartments, believing the occupant to be still in the building, were driven back. Further investigation, however, revealed that the building was unoccupied.

Tom O’Brien said today that a new building will be constructed but that “it very likely would not have living quarters” and that no definite plans will be made until conferences have been held with the renters to determine their future plans. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 13 November 1953, p. 1, c.’s 7 & 8; p. 2, c.’s 5-7)

Fire Forces City Pioneer

To Move Away

A sad but undaunted 83-year-old woman, who for over 60 years has been a familiar figure in Brainerd, boarded a bus today for Minneapolis, where she will make her home with her daughter.

Fire, this morning, drove Mrs. Kate Early from the apartment she has made home for 43 years. The fire also took from Mrs. Early all the reminders of the days when as a bride she established her home in Brainerd.

Mrs. Early who will celebrate her 83rd birthday on Dec. 9, clad in bedroom slippers, robe and coat, was waiting when stores opened this morning to purchase clothing to make the trip to the home of her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Art Gerber, 5823 Upton avenue South, Minneapolis.

“All the other women driven out by the fire last night are up having their blood pressure taken this morning but I haven’t time for that.” she said as she went to various stores to get out-fitted.

“All the Haviland china I planned to pass on to my children is gone and many other things, too. My home is gone now and so I will leave.” she said.

“I am very happy about one thing, though. Last week my daughter took my wedding dress in which she was also married, to her home. Now, my grand-daughters will be able to also be married in the dress.” Mrs. Early said.

Mrs. Early has been caretaker of the building in which she lived for 43 years. Occupants included many elderly persons in whom she took a personal interest. Mrs. Early always “looked after her people.”

An example of her interest was a complaint to the city a few months ago about the condition of the street in front of the building. “My people do not get around so easily and they may be hurt by stumbling over bumps in the streets,” she told authorities.

Mrs. Early in addition to her caretaker duties, was secretary for an insurance company for many years and was secretary for “the Irish in this state,” namely the Hibernians.

The 10 other occupants of the apartments in the Early building, owned by the O’Brien Co., and destroyed by fire early this morning, are being cared for by friends and relatives until homes can be found.

Also left homeless by the fire were Mrs. Albert Houle, Mrs. Edna Schwert, Mrs. Rose Trudo, Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Cuskey, Mrs. Oscar Eksten, Mrs. May Swartout, Mrs. M. E. Hodge, Mrs. Lucy A. Wilson and Mrs. Melvina Lougee, who discovered the fire. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 13 November 1953, p. 1, c.’s 7 & 8; p. 2, c.’s 5-7)


28 December

Four Injured, Three Rescued by Ladder

As $400,000 Fire Guts Baehr Building

Tenants’ Losses Are Heavy

Baehr Building at the northeast corner of 6th and Front, ca. 1948.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Many tenants of the Baehr building suffered heavy losses in yesterday’s fire. Some of them had no insurance.

Nine of the 11 apartments on the third floor were occupied and tenants were moving into a tenth apartment.

The apartments were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Peabody, Wilma Fairley and her 6-week-old baby; Patti Collins; Marvel Thomas and her son, John; Alice Johnson; Margaret Doesken; Sandra Pederson and Barbara Hollman; Herman Schaefers and his son, and Gwen Borden; Mary and Ardy Jensen and Anita Lee.

Many of the tenants were away when the fire broke out and had no chance to save anything. All they have is the clothing they were wearing.


Miss Collins said her loss included an engagement ring.

Miss Borden, Miss Jensen and Miss Lee all attend the Brainerd Junior college.

Mrs. Peabody was at work at The Dispatch where she is society editor and Mr. Peabody was going down the stairs from his apartment on his way to work for the Northern Pacific Railway when the blaze broke out.

Mrs. Thomas was not in her apartment, but 9-year-old John was and he escaped via the fire escape.

Mrs. Pederson was led down the fire escape by Bill Lane, building manager. Mrs. Pederson’s three young children were with her mother at the time.

Firemen took Wilma Fairley, her child, and Pattie Collins down the ladder.


These volunteer firemen hold a heavy pressure hose and shoot a strong stream of water into the burning Baehr building. Almost every man on the force was on the job and fought stubbornly on into the night.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Business and professional firms on the ground floor and second floor of the building suffered heavy losses.

Al Nelson, accountant with offices on the second floor, said that he lost at least $3,000 worth of equipment and furniture.

He was trying to get into the rubble this morning to learn the condition of 38 sets of books on which he has been working for 11 months for business firms.

“If they are lost, it will mean that all of that work will have to be done over,” he said. Nelson said that some of the records lost can’t be replaced.

Hugh Hoffman, insurance representative for Mutual Services, said he lost all of his books and records.

Hoffman was out making calls at the time and didn’t know about the fire until he returned to see it in flames.


Dr. Robert Kasper, dentist on the first floor, was preparing a woman’s teeth for filling when the fire broke out. He managed to put in temporary fillings before being forced to evacuate.

All of his equipment was destroyed.

Dr. W. C. Holcombe, optometrist, whose offices are also on the ground floor, was also working with patients. Suddenly the patients noticed smoke in the room.

Dr. Holcombe was able to get most of his equipment out.

A. A. Arnold, treasurer of the Brainerd building and Loan association, said that all important records were saved. He still didn’t know the condition of records in some fireproof file cabinets which remained in the building.

Arnold said that the association was setting up temporary quarters in the former Ashmun Jewelry store on Sixth Street. A meeting of directors was called for this morning to make plans for the future.

Rod Couture of Couture Jewelry managed to save some of his wares, but suffered a heavy loss.


Couture was faced with a double problem during the afternoon. When he and his wife returned home to check on their children, they learned that Mrs. Couture’s father, Frank Jarboe, had suddenly taken ill at the Northwest Paper company where he works and had been transported by ambulance to St. Joseph’s hospital.

Jarboe was listed in improved condition this morning.

The Christian Science Reading room which was also on the ground floor will open temporary quarters in the church building at Fifth and Kingwood.

Much of the goods from Gretti’s Knit Shoppe was save when workers carried box after box out before the blaze reached that point. Smoke damage was expected to be heavy.

Information on the loss at Public Finance corporation was not clear this noon.

Another office at the ground floor, the Gorham-Knudsen Appraisal service, was in the process of being opened. Clyde Gorham said that all office furnishings were saved. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 29 December 1964, pp. 1 & 11)

Theater Saved In 12-Hour Battle

This photo shows firemen at work in the early stages of the battle at the Baehr building. The ladder in the foreground is at the window where two women and a baby were rescued.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

A $400,000 fire ripped through the Baehr building here yesterday.

Four persons were injured, one of them seriously, and five others were rescued from the blaze. Three of the rescued were taken by ladder from a third story window.

The blaze broke out at 2:10 p. m. and firemen battled it for 12 hours before managing to save the Brainerd Theatre.

The most seriously injured of the three was Richard Raymond, 24, manager of Public Finance corporation. He was smashed to the ground by flying bricks and rubble when an explosion ripped out the east end of the building.


Ambulance attendants and volunteers work swiftly as they prepare to take Richard Raymond to St. Joseph's hospital. Raymond and two firemen were injured when an explosion sent bricks and debris hurtling through the air.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

An ambulance rushed Raymond to a hospital and surgery was performed to amputate his left foot. He was listed in satisfactory condition this morning.

Also injured when the explosion hurled bricks, debris and smoke the width of Front Street were Volunteer Assistant Fire Chief Carl Johnson, and Volunteer Firemen LeRoy Siegel and Lyle Sandberg.

Siegel was struck in the back and arms by the flying rubble. He was treated at St. Joseph’s hospital and allowed to return home. Later, however, he blacked out, and was returned to the hospital. He, too, is listed in satisfactory condition.

Johnson, who earlier rescued the three persons via ladder, was struck in the back. He was treated at the hospital and then returned to the fire, staying on duty far into the night.


Sandberg was one of several firemen who had climbed a fire escape at the east end of the building in an effort to open a hole in the roof to prevent the explosion from accumulating and gases caused by the fire.

Just before they started to climb to the roof, there was the sound of shattering glass and then smoke and rubble spewed out.

Sandberg was struck by flying bricks, but did not require hospital attention. Persons in the crowd across the street were also struck by flying glass and rubble.

One brick sailed through the front door of the Winnipeg bar across the street.


Before being taken back to the hospital yesterday, Siegel told The Dispatch that he had just taken a few steps out of the Public Finance corporation building when he heard the explosion. He said he instinctively ducked his head to avoid flying glass and about that time was knocked flat by the flying debris.

Siegel said he then crawled back toward the building to avoid further injury from the cascading debris.

Narrowly escaping injury was State Fire Marshal Martin Nelson, who had also just left the finance office. Nelson said he leaped back inside the building and was not struck.


Miss Patti Collins waits at the window as smoke swirls around her. Wilma Fairley is on her way down the ladder. At the bottom of the photo is Carl Johnson.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Johnson earlier had rescued Wilma Fairley, her 6-week-old son, Todd, and Patti Collins.

The three were trapped inside Miss Collins’ apartment on the third floor until Johnson climbed to the window on a ladder and helped them down.

Miss Collins told The Dispatch that she did not know the building was on fire until Wilma Fairley came to her door and said that the building was beginning to fill with smoke.

Miss Collins said she was dressed in her pajamas and scurried about looking for clothing. She said they planned to run to the opposite end of the building and go down the fire escape.


After getting to the ground with little Todd, Johnson went back for the child's mother. This photo shows him helping her from the window to the ladder.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

However, when they opened the door and started down the hallway, they found their path blocked by flames and swirling smoke.

They ran back into Miss Collins’ apartment—slamming the door behind them to keep out the smoke—and opened the window and screamed for help.

Firemen were in the process of getting hoses strung from hydrants to the building and it was a few moments before a ladder could be brought into use.

Wilma Fairley clutched her tiny son in her arms and cried out that the child was becoming ill from the smoke.

Fireman Carl Johnson arrives at the bottom of the ladder with Wilma Fairley's son, Todd. Also shown in the photo are Martin Nelson, left, state fire marshall, Ray Gildow, right, facing camera, and Joe Hall, back to camera. The other fireman is unidentified.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Johnson first carried the baby carefully to the ground and then went back for the mother.


Smoke poured from the window so heavily that Miss Collins could scarcely breathe as Johnson made his third trip up the ladder.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

By the time he got to the window for Miss Collins the smoke was swirling so heavily through the window that the two were almost screened from the vision of the crowd below.

Miss Collins, who works at St. Joseph’s hospital, lost all of her belongings, including an engagement ring. She was clad in pajamas and a house coat when she came out the window.

She had been living in the apartment about a month.

Sandra Pederson, about 20, another tenant on the third floor was led to safety down a fire escape by building manager, Bill Lane.

Mrs. Pederson said she was so scared by the smoke that she stayed inside her apartment.

Also escaping via the fire escape was 9-year-old John Thomas, son of Mrs. Marvel Thomas.

In the beginning many thought the fire would not be a serious one. Bill Peabody, who lives in the building, told firemen that the blazed seemed to be inside a room on the second floor which contained fuses and meters.

Fire Chief Ray Shortridge said he managed to get at what he thought was the source of the blaze and turned a blast of water against it.


Soon smoke was rolling out of windows and offices all along the structure’s length.

Shortridge said that the fire swept into the duct work which traverses the full length of the buildings.

Crowds of curious onlookers flocked along Front Street as the volunteers tried to find their way through the smoke in the building and get at the blaze.

Merchants and members of office staffs worked frantically to clear their concerns of merchandise and records.

Piles of boxes and other goods grew rapidly in front of Gretti’s Knit shop; Dr. W. C. Holcombe, optometrist, with the help of volunteers, pulled much of his equipment out, and other businessmen grabbed valuable records.


A city crewman is shown here taking down some Christmas decorations and wiring while the fire rages in the background.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

It was the quest for records at Public Finance corporation that proved to be the undoing of Richard Raymond, the office manager.

Raymond and several firemen had just been inside the office when there was a sudden whooshing explosion and smoke and flames shot almost the width of Front Street.

At the same time bricks, mortar and debris of all kinds hurled outward, cutting down those in its path.

The smoke billowed so heavily down Front Street that the entire street was obliterated from view. Spectators raced for safety and choked for breath.

It was several moments before the smoke cleared enough to take toll of the injured.


This photo of the Baehr building shows the huge clouds of smoke which rolled skyward shortly after an explosion ripped out the section of the third floor shown in the foreground yesterday afternoon. The photo was taken from a roof across the street.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Dan Gola

Chief Shortridge said the explosion was caused when smoke and gases from the fire collected in the east end of the building and then, when the pressure became so great that the walls and windows could not contain it, blasted through.

A rumor swept the crowd that one man lay buried in the rubble.

A later search through the debris, however, revealed no one.

By now the fire was ripping through the middle of the building, igniting everything in its path.

Firemen poured thousands of gallons of water on the blaze at the rate of 1,700 gallons per minute.

Still the hungry flames worked their way inexorably down the length of the building and ate their way to the top floor and down to the bottom.

Now policemen, bolstered by help from the highway patrol, roped off the sidewalk along the opposite side of Front Street to prevent spectators from getting into the danger areas.


This was the east end of the Baehr building following the explosion yesterday. Despite the blast, a bedroom dresser, far right corner, remained standing throughout the blaze.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Later the four-block area around the building was roped off from all traffic.

Now the firemen had only one chance for success of any kind. A fire wall kept the flames from entering the Brainerd Theatre and the firemen concentrated on saving that part of the building.

On into the night they worked, pouring steady streams of water on the blazing roof and through the windows.

Their coats became crusted with ice, their eyes red with weariness and smoke.


This photo shows street crews clearing ice and debris from the sidewalks and from Front Street.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

A Civil Defense water pumper was brought into play and gave the firemen another stream of water to pour on the blaze.

Still the fire burned stubbornly, now flaring up in licking red flames, now smoldering and throwing clouds of smoke and vapor toward the sky.

The Minnesota Valley Natural Gas company across the street from the blaze set up a coffee and cookie serving line for the wearying firefighters.

Later the National Guard sent a truck with hot coffee to the scene.

Restaurants and the Salvation Army donated coffee and sandwiches and the gas company office and Cave’s House of Flowers dispensed the food.

Finally firemen were able to quell the blaze enough so that they could get one line onto the roof of the theatre building on the Sixth Street side.

This finally gave them the upper hand and by midnight, it appeared that the Brainerd Theatre would be saved. The theatre has suffered heavily from water, but no fire penetrated it.

At 2:10 a. m., some 12 hours after they answered the alarm, all but eight firemen were sent home by Chief Shortridge. Two engineers, himself, and five volunteers remained on duty through the night to make certain that the blaze did not flare up.

The Baehr building is about 30 years old and is owned by E. J. Baehr, Minneapolis. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 29 December 1964, pp. 1, 2, 6 & 7)

Smoke Spread Rapidly Through Burning Building

The aftermath, 29 December 1964. A 850x683 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society, Courtesy of the Birney Wilkins Family

Al Nelson, accountant, who has an office in the Baehr building was the man who turned in the alarm when the structure first started to burn yesterday.

Nelson tells the story of the start of the blaze something like this:

He had been to a meeting of the Optimists club and was returning to his office when he smelled smoke as he entered the building

However, he didn’t become concerned because the incinerator often left a smoke odor in that vicinity.

Nelson went to his office at the east end of the building and began working on some books. Then he noticed the smell of smoke penetrating his office.

When he stepped into the hallway to investigate, the smell of smoke was stronger and it was beginning to be visible. Nelson ran down the hall and met Bill Peabody who had also discovered the smoke.

The smoke seemed to be coming from a control room filled with fuse boxes and meters.

Nelson ran back to his office to call the fire department while Peabody contacted Bill Lane, building manager.

The three met again at the control room. Lane pulled open the doors of a fuse cabinet and flames shot out, almost knocking him flat.

In moments flames and smoke were whipping into the hallway.

Lane contacted some of the tenants while Peabody directed firemen to the source of the flames.

Nelson ran back to his office and he and his wife, who was working there, grabbed the file cabinet drawers and went down the fire escape at the east end of the building.

At the same time that Nelson and Peabody noticed the smoke, patients in Dr. W. C. Holcombe’s office at the opposite end of the building saw smoke and flames in the building’s ventilating system. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 29 December 1964, p. 1, c.’s 1-4)

City Firemen Given Praise By Gorham

Brainerd’s Fire department received high praise yesterday for its efforts to save the Baehr building.

Mayor Clyde Gorham led off with these remarks:

“Today we can all be very proud of our fire department. I have watched full time, well trained fire departments operate, but with no more efficiency than our own Brainerd Fire department which worked far into the night in rendering a service to our city.

“I would also like to mention that their work was made easier because of the fine cooperation of our own police department. They were quickly and well organized.

“We also appreciate the cooperation of the state highway patrol and the sheriff’s office.

“I was very proud as I watched all these departments operating as a team in handling a difficult job. My sincere congratulations and thanks to all.”

Fire Chief Ray Shortridge, though glum this morning at the loss of the building, gave his men high praise.

“You can’t be happy about something like this,” he said, “but I am proud of the turnout and the fine work they did.”

Thirty-eight of Brainerd’s firemen responded. Actually 39 came, but Mal Frederick who is recuperating from a hernia operation was not allowed to help.

The other missing fireman was in Minneapolis at the time.

Shortridge also issued his thanks to the restaurants in Brainerd which furnished coffee and sandwiches to the men. The Minnesota Valley Gas company office and Cave’s House of Flowers remained open until about 2 a. m. to dispense the food. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 29 December 1964, p. 11)

SEE: Baehr Building in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


17 February

$165,000 Fire Damages 3 Buildings Here


Downtown Area

Hit by 2nd Fire

In Two Months

Brainerd firemen scaled the walls with ladders to get at the fire from the roofs of the burning structures.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

The second major blaze in downtown Brainerd in two months caused an estimated $165,000 damage to three buildings on Front and South Fifth street last night.

Less than two months ago, on Dec. 28, a $400,000 fire gutted the Baehr building, also on Front street.

Two of the tenants of the Baehr building also were tenants in the buildings damaged by fire last night.

The damaged buildings housed Culligan Softwater, Service News Agency, State Farm Insurance office and Al Nelson, accountant on the ground floor and 10 apartments upstairs. Nelson had moved into one of the buildings after the Baehr building fire.


From the outside things looked almost normal at Fifth and Front this morning. However, two of the buildings shown here suffered heavy damage. Escaping with the lightest damage was the 502 building on the corner, formerly the Hoenig Funeral Chapel.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Five of the 10 apartments were gutted by the flames, but five suffered only smoke damage as firemen kept the blaze from spreading through the upper story. One of the apartment tenants was Clint Wheeler who was a tenant in the Baehr building at the time of the fire there.

The upper stories of two of the buildings were gutted. The main floors had heavy water and smoke damage.

The 502 building, occupied for many years by the Hoenig Funeral home, escaped with only smoke damage.

The offices of State Farm Insurance and Al Nelson are located in the building. The upstairs apartments in that building were saved.


Lyle Anderson, owner of Service News Agency, attempts to get a soggy bundle of magazines out of the way of water which poured into his quarters last night.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

When the fire broke out, volunteers carried all the books and records from the two offices across the street to Galvin-Kolar Chevrolet.

Suffering the heaviest loss was Service News Agency owned by Lyle Anderson.

Anderson said he had just received shipments of books and magazines which were being prepared for distribution. His stock on hand was valued at $100,000 he said. Many books and magazines were heavily soaked.

While firemen fought the blaze overhead, a brigade of workers stood in water and passed hundreds of books and magazines along a line which stretched outside and into the former Bang Printing building.

The fire apparently started in the Culligan Softwater section on South 5th, according to Fire Chief Ray Shortridge.


The blaze started in the south end of the building and then burned north toward the street.

Firemen fought the blaze for 4 1/2 hours from inside the building and from the roofs before they brought it under control.

A wall between Service News and the 502 building and the efforts of firemen upstairs apparently saved the 502 building.

The fire was discovered about 7:50 p. m. when an occupant of one of the apartments walked to the fire station just across the alley and told them that it smelled as though there was a gas leak.

Four firemen—Albert Kleinschmidt, Pat Brady, Earl Nelson and Mal Frederick—went to the building to check. At first they thought it was a malfunctioning refrigerator and were preparing to carry it downstairs when they discovered smoke and then flames.


Three firemen stand on one roof and shoot a stream of water through the window into one of the second story apartments, their efforts were hampered by false ceilings in the building.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Thirty-eight of Brainerd’s 40-man fire department responded to the call as the trucks were moved into the street from the station next door.

Hoses were strung into the burning building and onto the roofs of an adjoining building and onto the roofs of the burning structures themselves.

The fire, aided by several false ceilings, proved to be a stubborn adversary.

Firemen would chop a hole in a ceiling to get at the flames only to find that there was another false ceiling above it where the flames were feeding and spreading.

The fire moved steadily toward Front Street from the rear of the building as the firemen yielded ground slowly—moving back only when the burned out roof cave in.


A fireman stands on one roof keeping a stream of water cascading onto another roof in an effort to halt the flames.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

The efforts of the firemen paid off about midnight when they halted the blaze about 30 feet from Front Street.

From then on it was a mop-up operation as they knocked out stubborn little blazes that stubbornly burned in corners and isolated spots.

By 2 a. m. the firemen were rolling up their hoses, ready to call it a day. However, six of them, including Chief Shortridge, stayed on duty through the night to watch for a possible flare-up of the flames.

The Salvation Army was on duty through the night, providing coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches for the firefighters.

The five apartments which were gutted were occupied by Mr. And Mrs. Chris Peterson, Melida Gansky, Mr. and Mrs. Pierre G. Albertson, Mrs. Otto Volkmanns and Mr. and Mrs. Evolt Kukko. (Kukko is superintendent of the Brainerd Water and Light department.)


The other five apartments which escaped serious damage were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jackson, Mrs. M. Jones, Clint Wheeler, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ylinen and Mrs. Ida Moyer.

All three buildings involved in the fire are owned by C. Elmer Anderson.

He said this morning that he has not yet decided what he will do as far as remodeling or repair is concerned.

The fire bypassed the office section of the Culligan Softwater agency, but caused damage in the regenerating room.

Russ Reiner, owner, said that some new equipment which had just been purchased was destroyed, but that much of the equipment escaped damage. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 18 February 1965, pp. 1 & 2)

News of Fire Comes Late to Nelson

Al Nelson, public accountant, was wondering today just how much bad luck was going to follow him.

Two months ago his office was gutted by a $400,000 fire which swept through the Baehr building.

Last night a fire ripped through two buildings and damaged a third in downtown Brainerd.

Nelson’s office was in the third.

Nelson was out of town when the fire broke out. His wife, with the help of volunteers, carried all of his books from the office in the 502 building to the Galvin-Kolar Chevrolet garage across the street.

When Nelson returned to town about 11 p. m. last night, he noticed smoke in the area, but didn’t give it much thought and drove to his home on Gull lake.

“My little girl met me at the door and said, “Your office has burned up.” he recalled this morning. “I just turned around and drove to town as fast as I could.” (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 18 February 1965, p. 1, c. 3)

Fire in Brainerd

$165,000 Damage

Fire caused an estimated $165,000 damage to three buildings in Brainerd last week.

The buildings, on Front and South Fifth Streets, housed Culligan Softwater, State Farm Insurance office, Service News Agency, and Al Nelson, accountant. Ten apartments on the second floor of the building were also damaged. Five of the ten were gutted by the fire, the other five were smoke damaged.

The Service News Agency, owner Lyle Anderson, suffered the heaviest loss. Shipments of books and magazines valued at $100,000 had just been received and were being prepared for distribution.

The fire started in the Culligan Softwater building and hampered firemen when they found several false ceilings in the structure.

The three buildings involved in the fire are all owned by C. Elmer Anderson. (Crow Wing County Review, 25 February 1965, p. 1, c. 1)


22 July

Raging Fire Guts Gibson Store,

Dooms Iron Exchange Building

Quick Police Action

Save Hotel Guests

As Smoke Fills Rooms

Iron Exchange Building on the west side of 6th, it occupies almost half the block between Front and Laurel, ca. 1911.
Source: Postcard

Fire gutted the Gibson’s Discount store here early this morning and damaged the entire Iron Exchange building to the point where it may have to be torn down.

The fire was discovered in the Gibson’s store at about 4 a. m. and firemen battled steadily for two hours before it was brought under control.

Residents of the New Brainerd hotel were all evacuated safely after the desk clerk, two Brainerd policemen and a fireman went through the hotel, awakening about 20 guests.

One man, about 80, had to be helped from the building and another man, a truck driver from Dallas, Texas, was awakened from a sound sleep when Police Officer Roy Cheney kicked in his door and helped him to safety.

The total extent of damage has not yet been determined. Fire Chief Ray Shortridge said the building will likely have to be torn down because the fire has rendered it unsafe. He said the building is valued at approximately $200,000.

Jim Daily, manager of Gibson’s, said that his store’s loss has not been determined. He said that there was a heavy inventory on hand for a special sale that was going on and also a heavier than usual supply of sporting goods for the summer season.

Iron Exchange Building burns, 22 July 1970. A 951x709 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Jamie Christianson Toman

Much merchandise was stored in the basement. The fire did not do serious damage there, but there was heavy loss from smoke and water.

The fire department’s Snorkel and the valiant efforts of the volunteer fire fighters are credited with bringing the fire under control.

The Snorkel poured thousands of gallons of water into the second story of the three-story building’s front section and this kept the flames from getting a good grip there. At the same time a revolving nozzle was placed in an opening through the floor and this kept the flames from spreading to the basement.

The fire was discovered about 4 a. m. when Police Sergeant Frank Murray heard an alarm bell in the alley between city hall and the Iron Exchange building. A quick check revealed flames in the Gibson’s store.

Cheney said there was smoke coming from the front of the building and then suddenly the front end erupted into flames, sending smoke and fire billowing in Sixth Street.

At about the same time, hundreds of boxes of rifle and shotgun shells began exploding, sending shattered casings and lead flying through the area. Some of the casings apparently hit the upper part of the Dispatch building across the street, knocking loose some plaster.

Police Office Roy Cheney said there was smoke coming from the front of the building and then suddenly the front end erupted into flames, sending smoke and fire billowing into Sixth Street.

Immediately after discovering the fire, Cheney, fellow officer Pat Makousky, and New Brainerd desk clerk, Harold Holk, Jr. began awakening guests in the four-story hotel.

In one of the rooms, they discovered an 80-year-old man who was suffering from smoke inhalation and helped him to safety.

Firemen at work on Iron Exchange Building fire, 22 July 1970. A 952x713 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Jamie Christianson Toman

By now the smoke was so thick that the men were driven out. Cheney then donned an oxygen mask and went through the entire hotel. He kicked in locked doors to check for occupants.

“I tried the doors to begin with,” he said, “but then the smoke was getting so bad that I didn’t stop for that I just kicked them in.”

The smoke was so thick, he said, that it was necessary for him to get inside the room to see whether there was an occupant.

One of the last men out was Leonard Mitchell, a truck driver from Dallas, Texas. Mitchell said he was sleeping soundly and hadn’t heard the shells exploding nor smelled the smoke.

His first knowledge of the fire, he said, was when Cheney came crashing through the door to awaken him and help lead him to safety. With Cheney at this time was fireman, Mal Fredericks, also equipped with a gas mask.

Ferdie Kuemper, Worthington, another truck driver, said he awoke and smelled smoke. Then he heard the exploding shells. “I wondered what the heck was going on,” he said, and then one of the officers was at the door to sound the alarm Kuemper grabbed his clothes and fled. “All I forgot was my shaving kit,” he said.

Firemen, meanwhile, were setting up their rigs rapidly for an all-out assault on the flames. The Snorkel was parked in the middle of the block on Sixth and the two pumper trucks on either end of the block.

With Fire Chief Shortridge directing the attack, firemen for two straight hours poured some 2,000 gallons of water per minute on the flames through 2,000 feet of hose.

Cases of oil in the store ignited and sent black smoke rolling into the street obliterating the view of just what was happening inside.

As the flames in the front of the building were knocked down the Brainerd firemen advanced steadily forward with their hoses until they were pouring water on the fire from within the store itself.

Iron Exchange Building fire.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

At about 5:30 a. m. it looked as though the fire was under control, but Shortridge refused to claim victory until half an hour later when only minor smoldering in floors and walls remained.

All of Brainerd’s full-time and volunteer firemen responded to the alarm, bringing about 40 men into the battle.

An emergency call was put in to the Nisswa Fire department and Larry Fyle, fire chief, and four of his men brought one of their rigs to Brainerd and remained on standby alert in case another fire call should come in while all of the city’s equipment was tied up.

Assessments of damage to various concerns in the building were still going on at press time.

John Emerson, co-owner of the hotel and the Vogue, said that he was out of the hotel business. A major portion of the hotel is located on three floors over the Gibson store and the supports were believed to be unsafe.

The Vogue itself suffered little damage, other than from smoke.

Sustaining the heaviest damage, other than to Gibson’s was at King’s Sporting goods.

The fire caused such intense heat that styrofoam minnow buckets melted.

Gordon Gessner, an employee of King’s, said he was in the building trying to save some of the merchandise when plaster from the ceiling began raining down. He made a dash for safety and didn’t return until the fire was under control.

Aftermath of the Iron Exchange Building fire.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

However, Gessner, owner Ellis King, and some volunteers did manage to carry out a number of rifles while the fire was burning.

“It was unbelievably hot in there,” Gessner said later. “When you got about 10 feet into the building, it was just like breathing fire.”

Escaping serious damage was Hank’s Rod and Gun shop, located in a separate building to the north of Gibson’s. The heavy Iron Exchange wall, plus the wall of the building owned by Hank Egenberger, kept the fire from penetrating.

Sustaining smoke damage was the Bargain Den on the corner of Sixth and Laurel. A “Fire Sale” sign went up in the window at 8 a. m.

Damage to the Masonic Lodge quarters on the third floor of the part of the building fronting on South Sixth was listed as heavy by Shortridge.

He said there was much smoke damage and that furniture in rooms near the Sixth Street side of the quarters was badly scorched by the heat and flames.

Firemen also used their rescue saw to cut a hole in the floor of the Masonic quarters to get at the flames that were burning stubbornly in the floor.

Damage to the second story, occupied by various offices, was also extremely heavy.

The exact cause of the fire has not been determined.

The building which covers half a block is owned by Dick Knudsen and Bob Alderman, both of Brainerd.

The structure was constructed in 1908.

The section of the Gibsons’s store that was gutted measures 75 feet wide at the street side and runs 140 feet deep.

Spectators lined the sidewalk across the street this morning as sign company boom trucks were used to take down signs on the outside of the building that threatened to crash down.

Plans call for boarding up the structure temporarily.

B. W. Train, district manager for Gibson’s, said at noon today that the store will move back immediately to its former location on Laurel Street. Fixtures are to be moved in beginning tomorrow and plans call for the store to be open for business with at least part of its merchandise by the middle of next week.

Two Brainerd Ambulances stood by during the fire, but the only services needed were one bandage a Band-Aid for minor cuts. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 22 July 1970, pp. 1 & 2, c.’s 3-6)

23 July

Fate of Iron Exchange

Still Hanging in Balance

Remains of the Iron Exchange Building after the fire.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

The fate of the entire Iron Exchange building remains uncertain today as city officials, local and state fire officials and insurance adjustors probe through the wreckage left by yesterday morning’s fire.

The Sixth Street side of the building has been boarded up and signs on the front of the building have been removed.

City Engineer Dave Reed declined comment on how much, if any, of the building would have to be torn down.

There is a question, he said, if part of the building can be torn down and the rest remain structurally sound enough to still stand.

Fire Chief Ray Shortridge, who was still investigating this forenoon along with Elmer Baltes, state fire marshall, said he is of the opinion that the entire building will have to come down.

He and Baltes are trying today to determine the cause of the fire.

Total loss in yesterday’s early morning blaze has been estimated in the neighborhood of $500,000.

Open for business today were the Vogue and the Bargain Den, neither of which sustained direct damage from the fire.

Gibson’s Discount store was gutted by the flames and the New Brainerd hotel was so severely damaged that it is closed.

Also closed today is King’s Sporting Goods store where plaster rained down from the ceiling and the merchandise sustained smoke and heat damage.

The offices on the second floor are also unable to be occupied today.

Gibson’s is already preparing the former store quarters on Laurel Street for occupancy and plans call for an opening by the middle of next week. (Brainerd Dispatch, 23 July 1970, p. 1, c.’s 2-5)

27 July

Evacuation Ordered

Until Iron Exchange

Safety Determined

Temporary evacuation of the fire-damaged Iron Exchange building within 48 hours was ordered Saturday afternoon by City Building Inspector Wayne Curtis but modification of the order to exclude the Vogue and Dugout from the order will be sought.

Curtis told the city council at a special meeting Saturday afternoon that he would order the evacuation until experts could determine how the burning of the north 75 feet of the building had affected the south 50 feet.

Curtis told the council that he believes there is a chance that collapse of the burned section of the building could have some pulling action on the undamaged part. He said, however, that the undamaged section of the building could stand safely by itself if the burned section were sheared from it.

The south 50-feet of the building, he said is built on the foundation of the previous building on the site and does not depend on the foundation of the 75-foot north section.

John Emerson, co-owner of the Vogue and Dugout, said a modification of the order would be sought because the part of the building occupied by the Vogue and Dugout is separated from the burned section of the building by an alley.

Dick Knudsen, one of the owners of the building, told the council that he would call in experts to determine if the south 50-foot section of the building could be safely occupied until a decision on the ultimate fate of the building is made.

The special meeting of the council was called at the request of Knudsen who told the council that he believes the condition of the north 75-foot section of the building poses a threat to the entire structure. He pointed out, however, that he was asking only a temporary evacuation of the building until its condition could be determined.

A letter from Fire Chief Ray Shortridge was read to the council in which he stated that he believes the entire building should be evacuated and condemned.

Curtis said he would issue evacuation orders, effective Monday afternoon, and post dangerous parts of the building under his powers in the city charter after the council indicated that it would support his decisions on the building.

In the fire Wednesday morning the north 75-foot section of the building which was occupied by Gibson’s store on the first floor and offices and the Masonic Temple on the second and third floors was completely gutted but most of the 50-foot south section of the building was not damaged.

Brainerd firemen were called to the building again at 1:30 p. m. Saturday when it was discovered that the fire had re-kindled in the ceiling of the Masonic lodge. Firemen quickly doused the blaze. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 July 1970, p. 1, c.’s 1 & 2)

May Have to be Torn Down

Part of Iron Exchange

Ruled Safe Temporarily

The Iron Exchange building may have to be torn down, Brainerd City Council was told last night, but that section housing the Vogue and Bargain Den is safe for temporary occupancy.

Making a written report to the council on the building’s condition was W. Hendrickson of the Stegner, Hendrickson, McNutt, Sullivan architectural firm.

“I would like to impress on you that this is a temporary report,” Hendrickson said in his letter to the council, and that in the final analysis it will no doubt be determined uneconomical to salvage any portion of the building.”

Hendrickson also said that “very nearly all of the building is unsafe for occupancy. However, we see no reason why the space known as the Vogue and the Bargain Den cannot be inhabited by the public providing proper utilities and the means of ingress and egress are satisfied to the standards of pertinent codes and agencies.”

The council took no formal action on the matter, but left it in the hands of Wayne Curtis, building inspector, and Dave Reed city engineer.

Reed said panic bars on the doors and exit lights will be required at the Vogue prior to giving approval for re-opening.

Richard Knudsen, one of the building owners, was at the meeting and urged immediate action by Curtis to allow the re-opening of the Vogue and the Bargain Den.

Also discussed at the meeting was the possible need for a covered sidewalk along the south Sixth side of the building.

This, too, was left in the hands of the building inspector to work out with the building owners.

Knudsen said he has made no decision as yet on just what to do with the building. He said insurance claims still haven’t been settled and a final report hasn’t been made by Hendrickson.

Reed said that regardless of the final report, his office will not recommend the building’s remodeling. Instead, he said, “we are recommending to you to take action under the statute and declare it to be demolished.”

Both he and Curtis said it is doubtful that any part of the building could be occupied once demolition is started in another part of the structure.

The building was badly damaged by fire early in the morning of July 22. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 04 August 1970, p. 1, c.’s 6-8)

09 September

Iron Exchange Building demolition, 1970. A 1000x730 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch
Iron Exchange Building demolition, 1970. A 900x498 version of this photo is also available for viewing online.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

09 September 1970. The Brainerd City Council last night ordered owners Dick Knudsen and Bob Alderman to demolish the Iron Exchange building within 90 days. The building, at 6th and Laurel Streets, was heavily damaged by an early morning fire in late July. (Brainerd Dispatch, Thursday, 09 September 2011)

SEE: Iron Exchange Building in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


22 April

House Fire Kills 2, Arson Feared

A house fire that killed a Brainerd woman and her son last night is being investigated today by authorities who suspect a type of combustible accelerant, such as gas, was used to start the fire in the screened-in porch of the house.

Dorothy Lieber, 55, and her son John Peter Lieber, 16, died in the fire that started at about 7:30 p. m. at 1514 Laurel Street.

A second son, Edwin, 27, and another resident of the house, LeRoy Rupert, 26, escaped the flames that engulfed and totally gutted the house.

State Fire Marshal Elmer Baltes said investigators were at the scene at 7:30 a. m. today “digging in the debris for evidence indicating arson.”

Although no such evidence has yet been found, Baltes said, “It still looks suspicious to me.”

“The explosion, the intensity of the fire and because it started on the exterior of the house indicate that it could quite possible be arson.”

Deputy County Coroner Terry Moberg, who is involved in the investigation said in a telephone conversation this morning that officials were looking for evidence such as a gas can or the scent of gas on the ground. “The odor of gas is not always destroyed by a fire,” Moberg said.

Authorities do have one suspect, Baltes stated.

Moberg commented, “There is someone we would like to talk to in regard to his whereabouts last night.”

According to Sgt. Frank Ball, investigator for the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department, interviews with neighbors or anyone having “hostilities” against the family are underway.

“We are trying to zero in on a suspect,” Ball said. “There are a lot of inquiries to be made.”

From statements given to Baltes by the survivors of the fire, the family was watching television when they heard an explosion and immediately saw a “fire ball” at the north section of the house. Edwin Lieber and Rupert escaped from a first floor bathroom window. Mrs. Lieber and John apparently went upstairs to save several kittens and dogs.

“I told them to leave the cats and dogs, they’ll find their own way out,” Edwin Lieber told authorities last night.

A neighbor told officials he was in his home when he heard an explosion and looked out the window to see the next-door house aflame.

Firefighter Denny Bollig was in the area when he saw black smoke billowing from the home and immediately called in the alarm. About 25 firefighters responded to the scene. Officials said firefighters had difficulty entering the home because of the debris within the house that block windows.

“The only means of escape was blocked,” Baltes said.

“The back entry way, which was the only logical way of escape, was completely filled with debris from the ceiling to the floor,” Ball said.

“This is the third house fire involving the Lieber family,” Moberg said.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the county coroner’s office, Brainerd police and the sheriff’s department will continue the investigation. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 23 April 1982, pp. 1 & 2)


26 February

Several Laurel St. Businesses Destroyed, 35 People Homeless

Alderman’s Furniture & Hardware
Source: Crow Wing County Historical Society

Fire swept through the 600 block of Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd, this morning, destroying Roberts Drug & Hallmark, Alderman’s Hardware, Link‘s Barber Shop, Alibi Bar, Bud’s Jewelry and the T-Shirt Co. No one was injured.

The Crow Wing County chapter of the American Red Cross said 35 people, living in third-story apartments above some of the businesses, are homeless. Eighteen apartment units were destroyed.

Brainerd Fire Chief Robert Hannon said the damage estimate won’t be known until insurance adjusters make their reports but said it could be “upward to a $1 million, but that’s just a guess.”

The Brainerd Fire Department responded to the fire at about 2:30 a. m. By 9 a. m., Hannon said he was “confident” the fire was under control. The fire was contained just short of the Blue Ox Bar, which suffered extensive water and smoke damage, Hannon said, but no fire damage.

Alderman’s Furniture & Hardware and Robert’s Drug & Hallmark.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

Firefighting crews were in the basement of Roberts Drug, where the fire is believed to have originated, early in the formation of the fire, and almost got it under control. But the fire broke through the first floor, spread through the walls and into the Alderman building, Hannon said.

“It just got too hot, too high and too much fire,” Hannon said.

No cause for the fire has been determined yet.

“There’s no way to know yet,” Hannon said. “It’s very difficult to determine the cause because it’s buried under two stories of debris.”

The state fire marshal’s office has been called in to investigate. Hal Hefti, state fire inspector with the State Fire Marshal’s division, said it’s too early to speculate on what caused the fire.

“At this point, I’m standing around, waiting, taking pictures,” Hefti said shortly after 9 a. m.

Downtown fire area.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch

As the fire consumed the Roberts and Alderman buildings, it jumped through the third floor over the Alibi Bar, which adjoins Alderman’s, Hannon said.

Brainerd police and Crow Wing County deputies, who responded at about 2:40 a. m., immediately evacuated apartment residents above Roberts and Alderman’s. And shortly afterward, officers evacuated all the residents of 30 third-story apartment units on the 600 block. At 9 a. m., Hannon said residents living above Opal Ann’s Closet, the easternmost store on the block and above Forever Yours Bridal, the westernmost store on the block, would soon be allowed to return to their apartments. There are six units above both Opal Ann’s and Forever Yours Bridal.

Timothy Olson, who lives above Forever Yours Bridal, said he unlocked the security door for police to roust sleeping residents.

“I was rapping hard,” Olson said. “It’s the first time I experienced anything like it.”

Crow Wing County Deputy Denny Langerman said he responded at about 2:40 a. m. “All we had (at that time) was some smoke coming out of Roberts Drug.” Third-floor apartment residents along the 600 block were notified of the danger and then evacuated. A passkey was obtained to make sure all apartments were entered to make sure they were unoccupied, Langerman said.

Aerial view facing north.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Bill McCollough

Law officers said they were able to evacuate all tenants from the endangered buildings.

Paula Bernier, who lived above the Alibi Bar, said police pounded on her door, waking her up sometime between 3 and 3:30 a. m.

“I was sleeping,” Bernier said. “I kind of smelled it. I got my jacket and shoes and cruised out of there. I really saw it (the fire) when I got out the door.”

The Brainerd Fire Department used 13 or 14 hoses to fight the fire, Hannon said, with the Brainerd Water and Light Department on hand to provide extra water. The Crosby and Nisswa fire departments assisted. Ambulances from North Medical Transportation also were on hand.

One Brainerd merchant interviewed this morning had little hope that his business could be saved.

“In danger? It’s gone,” said Bud Karnowski, owner of the T-Shirt Co., before the fire reached his business. Karnowski had been in business at that site since April of 1985. All he salvaged was a cash register. He didn’t know if he would open his business again in town.

Taken from the alley behind the stores.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

Jim Alderman, owner of Alderman’s Inc., said a thin, wooden partition, not a fire wall, separates his building from Roberts. The Roberts and Alderman buildings collapsed at 5:25 a. m.

Duane Roberts, owner of Roberts Drug & Hallmark, recalled that he was rummaging through the basement of his business at about 5:30 p. m. Wednesday, looking for his son’s baseball glove.

Early Thursday morning, the fire apparently started in the basement of Roberts Drug & Hallmark Shop, gutting the pharmacy and card and gift shop, and the adjoining Alderman’s Inc., a hardware and furniture store.

Roberts, notified at about 3 a. m., didn’t speculate on what caused the fire.

“We probably won’t know a thing until they (firefighters) get out of there,” Roberts said. “And then they may not know anything. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Roberts didn’t know what his plans would be after the fire damage was assessed.

“By the look of it, there’s not going to be much to start up,” Roberts said.

Roberts sat in the nearby Koffee Kup cafe early this morning, as did many downtown residents and business people. Roberts, in business at that site for 27 years, talked with Alderman, whose family has operated a hardware and furniture store on the same site for 67 years.

Fire at its peak.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

“I don’t know what there is to say. It looks like it’s a total loss,” Alderman said later. He said his only consolation is that his business is well insured.

There was another fire “about seven or eight years ago,” at his business, Alderman recalled. That fire started in a dumpster behind Roberts, he said, and caused smoke damage to the store furniture.

Support for down town business people affected by the fire will probably be planned.

“Right now, all we’re doing is taking phone calls and referring them to the Red Cross,” said Brainerd Area Chamber of Commerce office manager LouAnn Maschler. “There’s not much we can do until the store owners know what they’re going to do.”

“We’ll do whatever we can to help,” Maschler said.

“The same is true down here,” said Bob Schuler, owner of Gambles. Schuler is a member of the Downtown Business Council.

The president of the Downtown Business Council is John Given, owner of Bud’s Jewelry, one of the businesses destroyed in the fire.

Given was on the scene early this morning, moving merchandise of his his store before the fire spread to his business. It is not known how much of his inventory was saved. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1987, pp. 1A & 2A, c.’s 3 & 4)

Fire a Test for Red Cross Work

Help for people displaced by this morning’s fire came quickly.

Ron Huber, operator of the Koffee Kup Cafe at Seventh and Laurel Streets, rushed downtown about 3:30 a. m. when he learned of the fire and opened to serve food and coffee to firefighters and persons forced from their apartments by the fire.

Within a short time the cafe became not only Red Cross disaster headquarters but unofficial headquarters for people wanting to warm up or get a bite to eat before going back out to observe developments.

Cathy Gray, Crow Wing County Red Cross disaster chairperson, headed a team of workers in the cafe registering displaced people.

The chapter was reorganized last May and this is its first major test since then. “What a way to get your feet wet,” she said.

Exactly how many persons were forced from their apartments was not known, she said. By 8 a. m. Red Cross had registered 12 family units from 10 apartments but the list was rapidly growing.

Chuck Karnowksi, operator of the T-Shirt Co., said there were about 14 or 15 apartments, all occupied, in the building housing his store, Bud’s Jewelry, the Alibi Bar and Link’s Barber Shop. In addition there were about eight apartments, Karnowski said, over the Forever Yours Shop and others over Roberts and Alderman’s. The residents of those apartments which were destroyed by fire were all evacuated, according to law officers. Those apartments over the Forever Yours Shop, although not destroyed, were evacuated because of smoke.

Heavy acrid smoke rolls over firefighters in the street.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

Most of the homeless were finding refuge, Gray said, with friends or relatives. Others were being placed in homes of local residents who volunteered to take people in. As a last resort, she said, the agency was prepared to place people in motels.

Other agencies also moved in to help. The Dorcas Society of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was making clothing, household goods and blankets available to fire victims, Gray said. Also offering clothing, she said, was Good Will Industries.

Merle Gallant at the rear of Opal Ann’s Closet.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

Joyce Gauthier of the Salvation Army said it dispatched three people downtown with coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches for firefighters, emergency workers and victims. The agency was prepared to provide food for as long as emergency crews were on the scene, she said.

Later in the morning additional Salvation Army volunteers were brought in to help with clothing and food supplies from the agency's Food Shelf.

The Community Development Corporation at 1216 South Sixth Street also was providing food to fire victims.

Gray said agencies were coordinating their services to avoid duplication of effort.

Persons wishing to donate to the Red Cross can address it to Crow Wing County Red Cross, Post Office Box 423, Brainerd, Minn. 56401.

Anyone wanting to volunteer to join the Red Cross volunteer workers can call Gray at 829-7524. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1987, p. 6A)

Housing Appeal is Made

Crow Wing County Red Cross late this morning issued an appeal for housing listings for persons displaced by today’s fire.

As of 11 a. m. a total of 17 family units had registered with the Red Cross. They were being placed in temporary housing with friends, relatives and volunteers.

Rental housing will be needed, the Red Cross said, and persons having it to offer should register by calling Cathy Gray, Red Cross Disaster chairperson, at 829-7524.

A total of 31 apartment units were in the fire zone and 19 were listed as destroyed according to the Red Cross. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1987, p. 6A)

Smell Provides Hint

An intense smell similar to sulphur and rotten eggs woke Sue Maresch at 2:20 a. m. Thursday in her apartment above Roberts Drug at 618 1/2 Laurel Street.

The 23-year-old Brainerd Community College student tried to find the source of the smell by checking the hallway and looking out her window. Finding nothing unusual, she considered going back to sleep. But the smell got worse.

A minute or two later, she noticed a haze in her room, but couldn’t believe it was smoke from a fire. Two older residents had left their rooms and were standing in the hallway, looking confused. One was drinking coffee and giving water to her dog.

In the next few minutes, the haze thickened to smoke as it drifted through vents in the apartments and then into the hallway.

Maresch and another resident, Darlene Tollman, notified the police. Then Maresch pounded on the doors of apartments still containing people. The man in apartment No. 4 came out, but she got no answer from a couple in No. 5.

Maresch said the smoke alarm in her room did not go off until she was about to leave the building. She never heard the one in the hallway go off.

Maresch said the smoke got thick enough in the building in less than 10 minutes so that she couldn’t see the stairs as she was leaving the building.

“When I looked into the store (Roberts Drug), there was nothing but smoke,” she said.

Once outside the building, Maresch saw an occupant of apartment No. 5 wave his arm out the window to the police who had just arrived. An officer directed him to get out through the hallway, so the occupant and his roommate crawled on hands and knees down the hallway and stairs, and out the door.

The apartment residents wandered in the street for awhile, she said. “Two of the people were upset because they had left cats up there. It’s like, you’d just love to go back up there and get your things.

“One of the guys decided after awhile to leave for work—he figured if his things were going to be destroyed, he better go earn some money. I couldn’t believe he was doing it.”

The residents later went to an emergency Red Cross station that was set up in the Koffee Kup cafe nearby. Maresch eventually went to stay with a brother-in-law, Allan Solseth, in rural Nisswa.

She said she had final exams scheduled for today at BCC, but wasn’t sure what she was going to do about them. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1987, p. 7A)

Second Time Around for Drug Store

History repeated itself early today only this time firefighters weren’t as lucky as they were the last time fire broke out in Roberts Drug.

That was about eight or 10 years ago as firefighter Daryl Bahma remembered it. It started in a dumpster, he said, and quickly spread into the rear of the building. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene it was burning in the upstairs apartments.

The department’s big snorkel rig was pressed into service and because it allowed water to be thrown at the fire from an elevated position firefighters were able to, as Bahma put it, “push the fire right out the rear of the building.”

They didn’t do so without a fight, though. Bahma said only the thickness of a window frame stood between the fire and the Alderman building next door to the west. Had it broken through the events of today might well have happened back then.

At the fire scene today firefighters, police officers and citizens alike were speculating where today’s conflagration would rank on the all-time worst Brainerd fire list.

Consensus was that it would rank very high, perhaps at the top.

The only two fires that might challenge it were the Baehr Building fire and the Iron Exchange Building fire.

The Iron Exchange was located on Sixth Street on property used at present for the Brainerd City Hall parking lot. It started about 4 a. m. on July 22, 1970. Before it was over the three businesses it housed were in ruins. They were the New Brainerd Hotel, the Gibson Store and the Vogue Restaurant and Lounge.

The Baehr complex occupied most of the one-half block on the north side of Front Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets. It burned about 1964 according to Jeff Allen of the Crow Wing County Historical Society. The building used today for the roller skating rink was part of that complex and was saved. Those portions extending on eastward to Seventh Street were involved in the fire. Surviving portions were rebuilt and today house a line of retail and service shops.

Other notable fires in Brainerd history include the gutting of the First Lutheran Church, a lumberyard fire that cleared property currently occupied by Jim & Lyle’s Red Owl, and a series of early-day hotel fires including the Headquarters Hotel, the Arlington, the Villard, the Globe and the Ideal.

Retired firefighter Herb Stunek, standing on Laurel Street watching today’s fire eat away at building after building, said a fire like this has long been a major worry of Fire Chief Bob Hannon. “His one big fear,” Stunek said, “was a big downtown fire.”

To prepare the department, he continued, Hannon charted every downtown building noting location of entrances and exits, fire walls and potentially hazardous materials. He found, Stunek said, a number of places where fire walls had been breached to make way for remodeling or extension of pipes. In addition he found a number of basements needing cleaning up to minimize fire danger.

Jeweler Ed Menk agreed saying Hannon spent hours at the task to make sure he could get his crews in and out safely.

“I never saw so many hoses at a fire,” Stunek said.

Even Chief Hannon didn’t know how many there were. “I think we’ve got 13 or maybe 14,” he said.

Stunek said he was happy to be on the sidelines this morning leaving the action to younger men including his two sons, Keith and Kevin, who are carrying on the family tradition of serving on the Brainerd Fire Department. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 26 February 1987, p. 8A)

27 February

Firefighters Remain at Downtown Fire Scene

Firefighters remained on Laurel Street today, hosing down the debris left by a fire that destroyed a portion of a downtown Brainerd block Thursday.

Crews of four firefighters began four-hour shifts at 8 p. m. Thursday, Brainerd fire Chief Robert Hannon said today. “It’s just a matter of picking over those hot spots.

“We’ll be there all day for sure,” Hannon said.

The final damage figure will be determined after tallying the losses of the burned out buildings and smoke- and water-damaged buildings, Hannon said.

“That $1 million to $1.5 million loss figure looks pretty good,” Hannon said. “We’re not going to be far off.”

Inspectors from the state fire marshal’s office and insurance adjusters met this morning at the Brainerd Fire Hall to begin assessing the damage. Roland Cicchi, a state fire marshal investigator, said the investigation could begin perhaps this afternoon, depending on the fire department activities.

“Mother Nature has done a beautiful job of working with us,” Cicchi said. “It’s not a snowstorm, its not 20-below zero.”

Cause of the fire remains undetermined and won’t be known for some time, Cicchi said.

“At this point, there seems to be no indication of arson,” Cicchi said.

“The firefighters should get a lot of credit. It took courage, plain old guts and endurance,” Hannon said, noting that most of the crew are volunteers, not full-time employees.

“Unless you’ve done it, you don’t know what it takes to fight fires,” Hannon said. “The people of the town should appreciate them.”

And appreciation has been demonstrated, Hannon said. “We’re overwhelmed by the donations of food, sandwiches and coffee. We can’t thank every body (because there were so many).”

Six businesses on the 600 block of Laurel Street were destroyed. They were Roberts Drug & Hallmark, Alderman’s Hardware and Furniture store, the Alibi Bar, Link’s Barber Shop, Bud’s Jewelry and the T-Shirt Co.

Fire moves from Alderman’s toward the Alibi Bar.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

The easternmost building on the block, Opal Ann’s Closet, had light water and smoke damage, Hannon said. Residents who lived in upstairs apartments were allowed to return to their homes Thursday night.

The Roberts and Alderman buildings were a total loss and have the highest concentration of hot spots, Hannon said.

The Alibi Bar still has its main floor standing. “It appears to me that it will be demolished. But I’ve seen buildings damaged like that salvaged,” Hannon said. The decision whether to raze the building will be made Monday between the city building inspector’s office and insurance adjusters, Hannon said.

Video games, owned by Hazelwood Corp. of Aitkin were salvaged from Alibi, Hannon said, as well as some valuables belonging to the owner.

Link’s Barber Shop appears to be a total loss, Hannon said, adding he hasn’t talked to the owner yet about his plans.

Bud’s Jewelry suffered extensive water damage, Hannon said. Owner John Given managed to retrieve all his inventory, Hannon said, before the fire reached his store.

The T-Shirt Co. was heavily damaged with water and smoke and Hannon said he didn’t know if it could be salvaged.

The Blue Ox Bar has heavy water damage and managed to get much of its inventory out, Hannon said. “At this point, with clean up and a new ceiling. I think they’ll be able to get back in business.”

If the adjacent building, which contains the Alibi, Link’s Barber Shop, Bud’s Jewelry and the T-Shirt Co., is destroyed, Hannon said he didn’t know how debris from the demolition would affect the Blue Ox Bar building.

The westernmost building on the block, Forever Yours Bridal and Formal, had minor smoke damage, Hannon said. Residents in apartments above Forever Yours were allowed to go home Thursday night.

The VFW club, located around the block and adjacent to Forever Yours, had a couple inches of water, but is in operation without problems, Hannon said.

Hannon asked onlookers to remain outside the area taped by the Brainerd Police Department.

“Just stay behind the line and there shouldn’t be any problem,” Brainerd Police Chief Ralph Hitchens said, adding he realizes onlookers are curious, but that the line is designated for safety and security reasons.

Community support for the 35 left homeless by the fire is evident by efforts by the American Red Cross and Goodwill. The Red Cross opened a shelter at the Brainerd Senior Center at 9 a. m. today. Goodwill will have clothing available for fire victims at the west edge of the Brainerd Mall complex at the former Radio Shack site.

The Red Cross is distributing vouchers and making referrals for food and clothing. It is scheduled to be open today until 4 p. m., and will remain open later, if necessary, said Red Cross volunteer Elaine Aune. The Red Cross shelter will be open Saturday, too.

“There’s been great response from the community,” Aune said. “It’s just beautiful. People have been donating food, clothing and shelter.

“We want the people to know our appreciation,” she said. “I was telling my daughter that it’s just tear jerking.”

Goodwill officials said extra clothing from Duluth is expected Tuesday. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 February 1987, p. 1A, c.’s 1-5; p. 2A, c.’s 3-6)

Surviving Stores Expect to Reopen Soon

While six stores in the center of the fire-ravaged 600 block of Laurel Street in Brainerd appear to be total losses, three stores on either end of the block are expected to be open again soon.

Jim Alderman, 68, owner of Alderman’s Inc., and Duane Roberts, owner of Roberts Drug, suffered total losses.

Alderman, who had worked at the store for 45 years, guessed at damages of up to $500,000. He was fully insured.

Beginning-fire starts in Roberts Drug & Hallmark, five hours later the firemen were trying to cut it off at the wall between the Blue Ox Bar and the T-shirt Company.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

“It’s quite a shock to be in the business one day, and to have it burn down the next. I spent my life in the hardware business. It’s all I know.”

He said he will retire now, something he’d been planning to do in a few years.

“I’m not going to rebuild. It’s the end of an era for me.”

Roberts said it’s too soon to estimate his damages. Most of his inventory and records were lost.

“It was totaled, that’s about all I can say.”

Of the stores that plan to open again, the Blue Ox Bar appears to have suffered the most damage. The bar is one store west of the gutted T-Shirt Co.

Blue Ox Bar owner Bob Ferling said he hopes to open for business by Monday. The worst damage to the building appeared to be water damage to the ceiling materials in the bar and possible damage to the east wall.

“We’re going to try to open Monday if it’s safe,” Ferling said this morning while surveying the damage. “It’s up to the fire chief. We’ve got a lot of water damage. It’s a big mess.”

Ferling was told by firefighters that the temperature in the bar was no hotter than if the furnace had been turned too high. He said rumors that metal articles in the bar had melted were erroneous.

Ferling guessed his damages might be $10,000. He said he expects his insurance to cover about 75 percent of the cost. Ferling removed some equipment from the bar during the fire, but said it turned out to be unnecessary.

The owner of Four Generations Fashion, Gail Stanwood, is on vacation and was not available for comment. She is expected to return early next week.

LaVonne Thesing, owner of Forever Yours Bridal on the end of the block, said her store will be closed until the debris outside is cleared up, but she added that she has no major problems in the store.

Early Thursday morning, Thesing removed the dresses in her store that are for brides-to-be. She said she had been receiving many phone calls about the dresses.

“We are just fine,” she said. “We don’t have any water damage.”

End—five hours later.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

Perhaps the most remarkable story about stores on the block concerned Opal Ann’s Closet. Located on the east end of the block, the store is right next to where the fire started in the basement of Roberts Drug and Hallmark.

The store took in a small amount of smoke, but little else. It is to be fumigated soon, according to clerk Roena Frasl. Only a trickle of water got into the basement.

The store was originally built as a bank and has about a two-foot fire wall on its west side that kept out the flames.

“I heard that some people were amazed that this store didn’t burn.” Frasl said. “They must have said that this is really a well-built building. Younger people would have been more surprised, but not those who remember this as a bank.”

Firefighters used the basement of Opal Ann’s while fighting the blaze, she said.

Store owner Opal Ann Johns is on vacation. The building is owned by Joe Gustafson of Brainerd.

Chuck Karnowski, owner of the T-Shirt Co., expects his store to be leveled and doubts if much of the merchandise inside can be salvaged.

“It was mostly smoke and water damage inside the store,” he said. “We had water over our boots. It was like it was raining in there.”

Karnowski was able to remove the cash register and its contents during the fire.

He would consider opening another store in the same location if the area is rebuilt, Karnowski said. “I like the location. It’s well-traveled in the summer. ...It’s accessible to kids which is important to us.”

John Given of Bud’s Jewelry could not be reached for comment this morning.

Link’s Barber Shop owner Lincoln Lettman expects his store to be lost, though he hopes to remove articles from inside. He was able to remove the cash from inside during the fire.

He is disappointed that he was not notified earlier Thursday morning because he might have been able to remove more items from the store. He was notified by a relative in Austin only shortly before he was planning to leave for work at about 7 a. m. The fire started at 2:20 a. m. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 February 1987, p. 1A, c.’s 1-5; p. 2A, c.’s 3-6)

Chamber Working with Red Cross on Relief Effort

The Brainerd Area Chamber of Commerce is working with the Crow Wing County chapter of the American Red Cross in a variety of relief efforts for victims of Thursday’s fire that destroyed several downtown businesses and apartments.

Cheryl Gelbmann, president-elect of the chamber, said the chamber is working as a clearinghouse, fielding phone calls and inquiries about relief efforts. The chamber has also taken United Parcel Service packages for some of the businesses which burned down.

“There’s just so many volunteers with Red Cross and they’re real busy,” Gelbmann said.

The chamber official said volunteers are needed for clean-up crews for the downtown business district after the fire department gives the go-ahead. Persons interested in helping with the clean-up efforts may call the chamber at 829-2838.

Gelbmann also urged merchants with questions about the Red Cross voucher system to call the chamber. The Red Cross has issued vouchers to victims of the fire. The vouchers may be used for clothes, bedding and other necessities. The Red Cross scheduled a meeting for merchants on this topic at the Westgate Mall this morning. (Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 27 February 1987, p. 2A, c.’s 5 & 6)

18 October 1987. A downtown retailer, commenting in the aftermath of the Laurel Street fire said, “It’s sad.” The February fire put six firms out of business and now two more have moved to the Brainerd Mall—the Frances Shoppe and KIDZ. (This Was Brainerd, Brainerd Dispatch, 18 October 2017)

SEE: Walker Block in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.

SEE: Alderman-Maghan Hardware Company in the Buildings & Parks of Brainerd page.


21 October

Not again! Fire Devastates Downtown,

8 Businesses Lost; Renters Left Homeless

Rod Buckingham and Merle Gallant, Brainerd firefighters, worked at fighting an early morning blaze in downtown Brainerd by spraying water on the Front Street portion of the building. Fire gutted much of the building on the corner of South Seventh and Front streets.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls

Eight businesses were ruined and more than 30 people were left without homes as fire destroyed a building this morning at the corner of Front and South Seventh streets.

The Brainerd Fire Department was called at 1:27 a. m. to the fire scene. Firefighters and law enforcement officers roused tenants out of their apartments. There were 16 occupied apartments in the building.

After rescuing people from the burning building, which is owned by David Pueringer, firefighters turned to extinguishing the fire. Because of dense smoke and intense heat, firefighters could not save the building but worked to contain the fire from spreading to other buildings.

This was the most destructive fire in downtown Brainerd since the Feb. 26, 1987 blaze on Laurel Street.

Damage from today’s fire was estimated at $1 million, Pueringer said. The building has been known as the Anna Block Building, dating to the 1910s.

The fire's light illuminated the gutting of Minnesota Vacuum Supply (far left) and Our Manufacturing, as well as apartments above.
Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Steve Kohls