May 6, 1908
MUSIC PAVILION IS BURNED.
Fire, supposed to be of incendiary origin, completely destroyed the music pavilion, one side of the German village and part of the promenade at Electric park, Forty-sixth street and Tracy avenue, last night about 9:30 o'clock. The damage is estimated at $20,000.
Flames were first seen pouring out of the northwest corner of the music pavilion and it is believed the fire was started in that vicinity. Harry Alexander, who lives at Forty-sixth street and Virginia avenue, was one of the first to discover the fire and turned in an alarm. He stated that within twenty minutes after he first discovered the fire the music pavilion was a mass of flames, and in a few minutes more was burned to the ground. The roof fell within fifteen minutes after the fire was discovered.
As soon as the fire was discovered the Electric Park fire department, members of which live near the park, turned out and made an attempt to subdue the fire, but it was beyond their control. Jack Hutson, a watchman at the park and one of the firemen, was overcome by smoke and had to be carried to the office. He recovered in a short time.
Firemen from No. 22 hose house were the first to arrive, and by fast work managed to get the flames under control before they spread to the other buildings. They were assisted by several other companies which arrived later The music pavilion was completely demolished. It is next to the German village, and the side wall connecting them was destroyed. Part of the promenade in front of the building was destroyed.
That the fire was of incendiary origin is the belief of the fire department, M. G. Heim, one of the owners of the park, who arrived soon after the fire started, and the watchmen. The park has a private electric plant, and all currents were turned off the buildings so that the fire could not have originated from that source. No workmen have been in the pavilion or adjoining buildings for weeks, and nothing was in the pavilion to have caused the fire.
George Barker, a laborer living at 4501 Tracy avenue, made a statement at the park that he saw two negroes running from the scene of the fire shortly after the flames were discovered, but later stated that two children claimed they saw the negroes. He did not know the children's names.
M. G. Heim stated that he believed the fire must have been of incendiary origin. "There was no current on the electric wires in the music pavilion and nothing that could have caused a fire there," said Mr. Heim. "The saloon is to be established in another building, not far from the music ha, and it may have been the intention to destroy that building, but the attempt was not a success. The damage is about $20,000."
A squad of police was sent to the park after the fire and ordered to watch the buildings until morning to see that no further attempts were made to burn the buildings.
A score of workmen will be put to work early this morning clearing away the debris and preparing the music hall for the opening which will take place May 17. Mr. Heim stated that the fire will not postpone the opening of the park. A temporary open air shell will be erected for the band and the wall on the side of the German village will be rebuilt.
Jacob Baas, night watchman for the south side of the park, is positive in his belief that the fire was not only incendiary, but that a good quantity of oil was used in starting it. At 8:45 o'clock he made his rounds with a lantern, and there was perfect stillness and darkness all over the grounds. Being chilly, Baas went into his shack on the south and to the rear of the "boat tours" concession. He barely had time to light a fire and remove his shoes when a sheet of flame across the grounds above the music pavilion caught his attention.
When he rushed out there was far more smoke than flame -- great clouds of blackness that seemed to suggest that much of the interior was burning before the flames showed on the outside. Baas's immediate decision then was that "a plenty of oil must have been used to get that kind of a quick start."
His belief is that the start was below the German village back of the band stand, though when he got close the fire was spread so generally that there was nothing about the fire itself to suggest where it started.
Manager Rohrer of the People's Amusement Company, who lives at 4507 Tracy avenue, came upon the grounds soon after this, and with Jack Hutson, head night watchman, whose station is in the office near the gate, did what could be done to manipulate the company's fireplugs and hose. Hutson was practically overcome by getting into the thick of the smoke.
H. Smith and B. C. Smith, brothers, who work at the park days and board at 4619 Tracy avenue, saw Edward Solberg, park electrician, shut off all electricity early in the evening as he was leaving the park, and there is no possibility that the fire could have started from the electric wiring.
Sam Benjamin, the park manager, who lives in the clubhouse on the grounds was with his wife at the Majestic theater when told of the fire. An old negro servant had been left alone with the two small children of the family. All were in bed and the woman being hard of hearing, it was some time before she and her charges were aroused. Early in the fire the roof of the clubhouse caught, but a sudden downpour of rain quenched the blaze before it had a good start. Had it been a dry evening the clubhouse, starting to burn at this time, would probably have been in ashes before the intervening structures, and have rendered the rescue of the nurse and children difficult.
After midnight last night M. G. Heim and the park manager, Sam Benjamin, discovered what they believed to be proof that incendiaries caused the fire. Two men had climbed the eight-foot board fence in the rear of the pavilion, using a large overhanging elm tree to aid in scaling the wall. Barbed wires along the boards had been cut and the footprints of the two men were plain, leading from the foot of the tree to the northwest corner of the pavilion, where Baas, the watchman, thought the fire must have started. The footprints were measured and watchmen left to guard them until morning, when the police will have opportunity to make minute observations of the prints.
Electric park, at its present location, was opened only a year ago this month. It comprises twenty-eight and one-half acres in extent, and represents an investment, M. G. Heim said last night, of $500,000.