When the Gong Rings


A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois


Fire Log                                           1922-1929

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43.                           Also read:  page 36   page 37   page 38   page 39   page 40  page 41   page 42


1920's FIRE LOG

  • 1922-- Livery Stable Fire at 5th and Madison and several adjoining structures

  • 1923-- Boyer Ice Cream Factory;

  • Old Armory Building in which the Rardin Daily News was located; this building was famous because a reception was held for Abe Lincoln in it

  • Charleston Grain Elevator Fire

  • 1926-- Hall Grocery Store; North Bails Flat Store Fire

   Mid winter in Charleston brings on another disaster on the same sight as once occurred in 1898. The new high school, built in 1899, would catch fire and burn to the ground. As a headline in the January, 1927 Courier stated: "The main building of the Charleston high school, a brick and frame structure two stories high, was destroyed by fire Monday night, entailing a loss of about $175,000. Insurance to the amount of about $75,000 was carried on the building." The night was January 4, 1927. The memories of the former three story Central or College building at 700-900 block of Jefferson (1898) would flash through all older citizen's minds. It was Christmas eve for the previous fire.
    The Courier described the burning of the second high school as "Reaping damage in sums of thousands of dollars every hour it out-fought two fire departments and razing the building for the second time in history, fire completely destroyed the Charleston High School building . . . and practically all the contents, Monday night, and burned furiously until after daybreak on Tuesday. More than 300 students and pupils of the Jefferson Grade School which was a part of the large building, were thrown out of their school work." Charleston Fire Department could have had much quicker warning than the 1898 fire. A telephone message could have called them. The men could this time ride the truck to the scene, instead of having to pull the vehicles. Fire fighting ability for such a large fire was not much different than 1898, Evidently another department was called in to help. There just was not enough water pressure to effect the great flames and heat.
    The copper containers placed in the corner stone of the first high school building (destroyed in 1898) together with additional items in the 1899 building were recovered. A third building would be constructed on the same site* That building still stands.


    In 1928, Mayor Eberle authorized the taking of an official census of Charleston. The new count of the people of the city was to determine whether or not a paid fire department could be maintained. At the time, it was stated that "the city had a paid fire chief, but all its firemen were volunteers. Several bad fires had occurred lately." [the big quote by the mayor in 1928-slight understatement!] One could list a myriad of everyday house blazes, cats in trees and all the regular alarms that would occur, but as far as Great Fires, there were none for several years.

A Courier clipping of August 29, 1928, tells of the testing of the '28 Boyer, bought from Boyer Manufacturing of Indiana, "About 10 o'clock this morning Fire Chief Lang and his helpers were 'in the height of their glory." Why? They had the new fire truck and booster pump in action on the southwest corner of the square. A large crowd of spectators assembled to see the powerful spray of water climb to the court house roof with seemingly no difficulty. Charleston does not need to worry about its booster pump any longer."
    In 1929, Chief Sprout conducted fire drills at Washington and Franklin schools. The children evacuated the buildings in seconds.


       Fire which started in the basement under the Hall grocery store, discovered shortly after 2 o'clock Monday morning (November., 1926) completely destroyed the North Bails Flats, located on the east side of Seventh street, north of Van Buren street, the store, buildings, their contents, rendered six families homeless and entailed a loss estimated at between $40,000 and $50,000. Fortunately there were no injuries.