1898 Fire on the Northeast End of Main Street

The north side of Main Street had been rebuilt just 20 years before, but was still primarily of wood structure. It was a busy business district.

Twenty years after the 1878 fire that destroyed both sides of Main Street, the alarm of “Fire!” was sounded at 2 AM on June 13, 1898.  I am sure that there were folks whose memories returned to that earlier cry with a sense of dread.

The fire began in a storage building connected to Reno Drug Store at the Northeast end of Main Street.

Reno Drug Advertisement Items

When discovered, the townspeople quickly began to organize to contain the fire.  Some went to the Town Hall to retrieve the only piece of fire equipment in town, a hand-operated pump, and found that there was lumber piled in the way that had to be moved.  By the time the apparatus was freed, the fire was consuming the store and moving on up the street.

So, the men, women and children of Spartansburg settled into the demanding job of the bucket brigade. Soon it was realized that help was needed and a telegram was sent to Titusville asking the Mayor to send fire equipment and men to assist.  Preparations were made, but another telegram was received stating that no help was needed after all.  A few men boarded a train to come to help, but no equipment was brought to town.  These men jumped in to spell those who had been on the front lines and had blistered hands and faces from being so close to the heat.

As the fire progressed, some concentration was given to the Town Hall which was at the back of the Main Stree buildings on North Alley and Water Streets.  With help from some of the men from Titusville, Town Hall was rescued.

Unlike the fire from 1878, no arson charges were brought against anyone for this fire.  It was contained to just the north side of Main Street from the Depot to Water Street.

Cleanup began right away, and by the day after the fire, contracts for rebuilding were already signed.

1898HorsesCleanUpFireLooking West
This man and his team are ready to haul away the debris from the fire. The Hewell House Hotel is seen to the west, having survived a second fire.
The Depot still stands at the east end of the fire area.
Looking west from the Depot shows the total destruction of the north side of Main Street. The building at the top right is probably the Town Hall.

News articles from June 14 and 15 describe the scene and the business losses from the fire.

As the smoke cleared and the cleanup began, Spartansburg leaders met and passed an ordinance that all new construction in the business district were required to be built of fireproof material.  Some of those brick buildings remain in service today.

Article from the Spartansburg Sentinel (reprinted)

Articles about the Main Street property rebuilds