Harrisburg, PA State Capitol Burns, Feb 1897
STATE'S BIG LOSS.
FIRE AT HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA.
PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATIVE HALLS IN RUINS.
LOSS ESTIMATED AT $1,500,000.
INEFFICIENCY OF THE HARRISBURG VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT BLAMED -- MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATURE SAVED ALL THEY COULD -- INSURANCE ONLY $100,000.
Harrisburg, Feb. 3. -- The Pennsylvania state capitol has been destroyed by fire, the legislative halls are in ruins, and a new structure must rise from the ashes that has served as a meeting place of the Pennsylvania legislature since 1822. The flames within the short space of one hour ate up $1,500,000 worth of property. The inefficiency of the Harrisburg volunteer fire department is generally blamed.
The house was in session and the senate was about to convene after a few minutes recess, when the flames were discovered. Smoke could be seen in small volumes pouring out into the capitol grounds from the house windows. The members were not mindful of it until the great clouds rolled by the windows. Instantly there was a motion to adjourned and all was consternation.
In the senate the members were lolling about in their seats. The place began to smell of smoke and soon dense clouds rolled down the rear elevator shaft. Senator JOHN C. GRADY of Philadelphia quickly warned the senators and there was a general hustle to remove effects. Fire alarms were sent in and the dignified senate became a mass of howling men. Desks were being jerked loose and carried out. The same work was going on in the house chamber.
Out in the grounds great crowds quickly gathered. The flames were then shooting out of the roof over the lieutenant governor's chamber, where the fire originated. The fire department was slow to arrive and the hosemen about the capitol were doing their utmost to check the blaze. It was useless. The fire licked up the little streams of water.
At last the local companies started steams on the senate wing roof, then a sheet of flames. The water had hardly force enough to reach the blaze.
Rapidly the flames destroyed the roof and ate their way down into the senate chamber. The men who were trying to recover property were driven out. The flames shot along the senate roof, wound themselves about the dome and on to the roof of the house chamber. Althought there was a heavy rain and snow falling the woodwork burned like tinder. Soon there was a fire in every portion of the building and there was no hope for the historic structure. During the fire several persons were slightly injured by falling timbers. For a time it looked as though the adjoining apartment buldings would be destroyed, but a shifting wind saved them.
The records of this session were saved.
The contractor for the improvements in progress had an insurance of $70,000, his contract not being finished.
The departments in the burned building were the following:
Senate and house committee rooms.
Senate librarian's room.
Chief clerk's room.
Barber shop in senate.
Lieutenant governor's room.
Room of president pro temp.
House chief clerk's room.
Speaker of house's room.
Resident clerk's room.
Two telegraph offices.
Room of the Harrisburg Legislative Correspondents association.
Paster and folder departments.
Cloak rooms in both branches
The engine rooms.
There is not much over $190,000 insurance on the building and contents, according to the statement of the treasury officials.
Salem Daily News Ohio 1897-02-03
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!