Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Great Fire of 1897

Before the town of Tulsa was incorporated there was no official fire department and thus, no fire equipment.  It is noted in several Tulsa history books that if one heard gunshots fired repeatedly, it meant there was a fire because no shop owner was that bad of a shot.  All available citizens rushed to the scene carrying a bucket and formed a line, creating a bucket brigade from the water well located just north of the Lynch store.  Passing the buckets of water proved inept most of the time unless the fire was caught early.  A fire that started in the middle of the night could be deadly.

Main Street Tulsa was mostly wooden structures with the exception of the Lynch Store, the Bank and the striking Price-Gillette store.  You can see from the roof-lines the three different buildings in this advertisement from 1895.  Price sold saddles and Gillette had a general store.

On down the street from these three buildings were other businesses including Scott's Store and the Commercial Hotel that was above the store, the Frisco  Meat Market and Mr. Goyne's Drug Store.

Looking North on Main Street, 1896:

It is believed that a leaky shipment of kerosene in the Gillette Store caused the massive fire that broke out in the pre-dawn hours on December, 1887.  

These photos were captured as the roaring fire destroyed nearly half of the little town that night.  

In the early dawn, the only building left standing on that side of the street unscathed was the Lynch Building.  

Somehow the bank's vault survived as well, so it was moved across the street to the Hall Store and business was carried on as usual until the bank rebuilt.  

It is unknown if any were injured in this fire.  One month later the city was incorporated and two years later Tulsa had a fine fire department.

In this photo from the 1940’s we see the old Lynch building on the left (it was, by then, the Lyric Theatre) and the next building that the bank built, then a hardware store. 

Before the wrecking ball took these buildings down in the early 1970’s, a piece of history was saved.  You can see this in the Vintage Gardens at the Tulsa Historical Society:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Another interesting post. Good stuff.