Wendel's Hotel and Opera House and Other Buildings Destroyed With a Loss of $50,000
FIRE ALARM SYSTEM USELESS
Woman Carried From a Burning Building
Firemen Do Good Work Saving Endangered Houses
(Special to the Eagle) Middle Village, L. I., May 20, 1901 ‒ The worst fire that has been known in years in the old Town of Newtown occurred in this village early yesterday morning, totally destroying Wendel's large hotel and opera house, Joseph Bermel's marble yard and office, part of Seibs' hotel, Mrs. Betzenhamer's confectionery store, the house occupied by Mr. Schaefer and the building owned by Mrs. Seibs.
The whole fire alarm system of the Town of Newtown being out of order, it was impossible for the different companies to get the alarm as quickly as in the days of the old town. The city authorities have refused to pay for its maintenance and this disastrous fire is the outcome. The residents claim, if the alarm was in working order, the place could have been saved.
The fire broke out as near as can be ascertained on the easterly side of Wendel's hotel, in the saloon occupied by a man by the name of Schelley, about 1:30 o'clock. Almost in an instant the whole interior was ablaze and the three occupants of the building ‒ the bartender, George Huelster, a stableman, and the cook ‒ were awakened from their sleep, choking with smoke. Huelster ran to the apartments occupied by the cook and, with much difficulty carried her from the burning building.
About this time the fire was discovered by the Rev. D.W. Peterson, pastor of the German Evangelical Church, in this place and by Patrolman John K. Carpenter of the Newtown Precinct. Mr. Peterson had been awakened from his sleep by a loud explosion which also attracted the attention of the officer. The minister, who resides opposite the hotel, rushed out, partly dressed, and rang the church bell, while Officer Carpenter ran through Juniper avenue, which was at this time like a furnace, arousing the tenants on the opposite side of the street, whose houses were already beginning to burn and who slept on unconscious of the conflagration. Carpenter was severely burned about the face and his uniform was a complete wreck, caused by sparks and fire brands falling on him. He took his life in his own hands in running through the street, which is only 40 feet wide, the flames spreading across the thoroughfare like huge tongues, lapping at the other frame buildings.
Fearless Hook and Ladder Company of this village appeared on the scene at this juncture and seeing that it could not cope with the fire alone telephoned for help. The sky was brilliantly illuminated for miles and three engines and a hook-and-ladder company from Brooklyn came to the fire, but on account of the scarcity of hydrants, they were obliged to leave. Maspeth Engine Company responded to the call and soon had a stream on the neighboring buildings that were burning and this company was followed by every company in the department, Engine Companies Nos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13. By strenuous efforts they saved the neighboring houses.
The reserves of the Newtown Precinct were at the fire, under command of Sergeant Williams.
It was reported that Mr. Wendel, proprietor of the building, had perished in the flames, but a messenger found him at the home of his son asleep and he was astonished to know his place was in ruins. He estimates his loss at $29,000.
The large marble yard of ex-Supervisor Joseph Bermel, stocked with handsome monuments, two of them valued at $5,000 were to be set today, was a total wreck. He places his loss at $14,000. J. N. F. Seibs, who conducts the hotel opposite Wendel's, estimates his loss at $8,500, and Mrs. Betzenhamer's store and building were damaged to the extent of $500. Schaefer's loss was probably $200.
The Middle Village trolley road runs along Juniper Avenue and at the outbreak of the fire live wires were dangling all over the street, imperiling many lives. Officer Carpenter was knocked down by one, but not seriously injured.
How the fire started is not known, as there was no fire in the hotel and the place was lighted by gas, which probably caused the two explosions heard after the fire was discovered.
Wendel's place was insured for $5,000; the rest, except Seibs, carried no insurance, and theirs is a total loss.