Saturday, December 9, 2017

Opera House Burns

Printed in the Jan. 13, 1906, edition of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle:

Haish Opera House Block At DeKalb Is Totally Destroyed With Contents
Fire Starts At Two O'clock Wednesday Morning from Unknown Causes. Eight Business Concerns and a Number of Roomers Lose All. Loss of Jacob Haish on Building, $25,000 and No Insurance.

It has been 30 some years, when a quarter of the north side of Main street was burned, since DeKalb has suffered from a fire so disastrous as that which occurred at 2 o'clock on Wednesday morning of this week, when the Haish Opera Block, on the corner of Third street, was totally destroyed, together with practically all of its contents.

The flames were first seen in the rear of Gus Kirchner's drug store, which was the second store from the corner, and when discovered the whole rear of the store was ablaze. The firemen arrived promptly, but the fire spread with great rapidity, and the firemen succeeded only in confining the blaze to the block in which it started. They were delayed by lack of water pressure. In an hour or two the rear walls had fallen, the basement was a heap of blackened and water-soaked ruins, and only the front walls and a portion of the south part of the east walls were standing.

This block was occupied by eight different business concerns, and the third or top floor was occupied by a number of roomers.

The loss to Jacob Haish on the building will be almost $30,000, on which there was no insurance. The rental was about $3,000 per annum.

J.A. Watson & Co., dry goods, loss $15,000, about two-thirds covered by insurance.

Gus Kirchner, drugs, loss about $6,000, insurance $2,000.

Tyrrell & Fay, publishers of the DeKalb Review, loss about $6,000, insurance $4,800. H.W. Fay's famous collection of pictures was destroyed, with the exception of two cases, in which was the Lincoln collection, the most valuable portion, but which consisted of only about 10 percent of the whole.

John Dunn, plumber and tinsmith, loss about $2,000, insurance $300. 

Honroe Cusson, notion store, loss about $500, no insurance.

J.S. Cusson, harness, loss about $2,900, insurance $1,900. He also lost two valuable high-bred Beagle bitches with their puppies.

C. Schuyler, dentist, second floor, partially insured. 

John E. Erickson, merchant tailor, second floor, loss about $900, partly insured.

Peck's School of Music, loss on instruments and music.

The roomers on the third floor lost nearly everything.

The Leishman building adjoining, occupied on the first floor by the Barb City grocery store and upstairs by Dr. Leishman, dentist, together with its contents, was damaged by fire and water.

The hook and ladder team ran away during the fire but did no damage. The street cars were blocked, and ran no further west than the scene of the fire all the next day.

Many of the roomers ran into the street in their night clothes and saved nothing but their lives.

One of the greatest losses, and which has aroused the sympathy of his friends, was Mr. Fay's loss of pictures. He had been collecting them for over a quarter of a century, and it is said they had been offered $14,000 for them. They had a national reputation, and were used by high-class eastern magazines to illustrate articles. Hardly a person of importance in statesmanship, literature, science, war or in any other way, living or dead, for half a century, but whose picture was in this collection. Hardly 10 percent of the collection was saved, and in getting these few out Mr. Fay sprained an ankle and Fred McLean had his hands badly burned.

Mr. Haish announces that he will begin immediately the erection of another block, and that it will probably be extended some 40 feet back toward the north, making two additional stores facing on Third street.

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