On Sunday, Tim and I spent most of the day down in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. I LOVE it there. We go to explore, and somehow we always end up in the Third Ward. The Art Festival was going on, and we saw some really neat stuff. We also passed by a statue I have seen several times. This time I took a picture and decided to do a little research!
This statue sits at 176 N Broadway. This building used to be home to Engine Company No. 10.
Are you ready for a history lesson?
On Friday, October 28, 1892 around 5:30-5:40pm, the Great Third Ward Fire started at the Union Oil Company at 275 E Water Street. Coincidentally three other fires were already burning so many fire engines were not available. The delayed arrival of the fire department allowed a series of explosions to go off inside the building. However, Chief Foley and his fire fighters had it all under control within a half hour. But….
It was windy that day. A gale of 50mph blew through the Third Ward and the drug store next door (F. Dohmen Company) caught fire. The flames jumped several buildings and burned two more buildings – Bob & Kipp factory and Jacob Wellaur & Co. Grocery. They were on opposite sides of Water St. The fire spread from there to Roundy, Peckham & Co. (Now known as Roundy’s!), the Milwaukee Chair Company, and a building owned by Pfister & Vogel Leather Company.
When B. Leidersdorf & Co burned, the smoke from the burning tobacco is described as having a blue tint.
So many businesses were destroyed within hours: J. E. Patton Co., J. P. Kissinger & Co., Milwaukee Art Glass, Inbusch Bros., Mann Bag Company, Crystal Soap Co., Bayley Bros. Iron Foundry, and Wirth, Hammel, &Co. Livery stables.
Strong winds came up again and carried soot and ash toward Lake Michigan.
Fifteen trains of freight cars worth over a million dollars (wow!) were destroyed. Nearby a freight house was filled with oil, and while it burned several explosions were reported to have shook the earth.
The Milwaukee Gas Company also burst into flames leaving many without gas.
The fire was finally stopped near Fernekes’ Candy Factory. The building went down due to the immense heat surrounding it.
When all was said and done, damage was estimated at $4 million (remember this was 1892!), 215 railroad cars, 440 buildings destroyed and covered 16 square blocks! Over 1900 people in the Irish community were left homeless. Four died that night including two fire fighters.
Rebuilding began, and Italian warehouse and manufacturing businesses took place of the Irish community and dry-goods commerce.
Engine Company #10 rebuilt in 1893. It was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This plaque was placed in 1991.
I would like to thank the Milwaukee County Historical Society for all of the information you just read. I do plan on doing the tour of all of historical buildings in the Third Ward and eventually doing blog posts of each.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Great Third Ward Fire with me.
Thank you for stopping by!