Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Williamsports "Million Dollar Fire" in 1927 - The Linck Block

In what was described as the worst fire in Williamsport's History, the entire Linck Block was destroyed on February 16th, 1927.  One fireman would lose his life battling the blaze, and a mother and infant child would die weeks later, as a result from exposure and shock on the night of the fire.

It all began on Tuesday, February 15th, although no one realized it at the time.   The Linck building had a garbage chute, with an opening on each floor for residents to drop their refuse down to the basement where it would be put in the incinerator.  On Tuesday afternoon, a small fire was discovered in the chute.  Firemen arrived and quickly, and rather easily, put out the fire.

 At 5pm that evening, work on the buildings new fire escapes was completed.

At almost 2am on Wednesday morning, the building was discovered to be on fire.  Flames spread quickly, and this time, by the time the firemen arrived, there was no hope of saving the building. The only hope was to get all of the residents evacuated.

The Williamsport fire department was assisted by fire companies from Lock Haven, Jersey Shore, Muncy, Montoursville, and two South Williamsport companies.

All traffic on the Pennsylvania Railroad was temporarily suspended during the fire, and officials of the railroad ordered all trackmen to assist firemen in laying hose under the rails.  Once this was accomplished, rail traffic resumed.

"Many thrilling rescues were made by firemen as the partly clothed residents of the apartments were carried down on ladders from the fourth story of the building."

Mrs W.J. Danley was rendered unconscious by smoke.  Her husband got the attention of the firemen, and once a ladder was thrown against the structure, Danley threw his wife over his shoulder and carried her down from the top floor.  He was badly burned during he descent.

Charles Thomas Mahoney 1881-1927.  The first fireman killed in the line of duty at Williamsport.

While battling the blaze, a roof collapsed, and Fireman Charles Mahoney fell to his death. His body would not be recovered until nearly two days later.

By 9:30am, nothing but a few sections of walls was left standing.

A few weeks later, papers reported that a Mrs Jack Donley and her 3 month old child both died on the same day, both having suffered from shock and exposure on the night of the fire. Although I can't be certain, it unfortunately seems likely that Mrs Jack Donley was the "Mrs W.J. Danley" who had been carried from the building, unconscious, by her husband.

Fire escapes had been completed at 5pm on Tuesday, just ten hours before the fire began. It's believed that had the work on the fire escapes been delayed by one day, "the loss of life would have been appalling".
The Linck Block Before The Fire

The Linck block  had a frontage of 200 feet on West fourth street, and extended to West Edwin street a distance of 208 feet.  It contained the Hippendrome Theater, several stores including the Williamsport Hardware and Stove Company & Linck Furniture Store, and a number of apartments on the upper stories.

The Lewisburg Journal reported that there were 150 apartments in the upper stories of the building, which covered an entire city block.

The old home of Theordore Hill, deceased, which stood next door on West Fourth street, was badly damaged when a wall fell from the Linck block.

The east end of the Weightman Block was considerably damaged by fire, which was poured onto the walls to keep it from catching fire as well.

In 1927, the Linck block was owned by Frank E. Plankenhorn & H. Merrill Winner, the men having purchased it from the Linck estate in May of 1926. Nearly $100,000 had been spent on renovations since the purchase.  Modern show rooms and new store fronts had been added to the stores.


Find More Local History & Stories From Nearby Towns Here:

The Park Building, including the Park Theater, was built at the location, opening in 1928.

J.H. Linck, hardware merchant, and president of the Williamsport Hardware and Stove Company, was born in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, March 24, 1844, son of John and Catharine (Heyler) Linck, natives of that county.......The subject of this sketch was reared in his native county, and received a common school education.  In 1864, at the age of nineteen, he enlisted in Company E, Two-Hundred and Seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, and served until the close of the war.  He participated in the battles of Petersburg and Fort Stedman, also in several skirmishes in which his regiment was engaged.  After the close of the war he worked as a bookkeeper, and later in a hardware and stove store, and came to Williamsport in 1873, where he succeeded the firm of White & Taylor in the hardware business.  He continued the business until 1887, and then organized the Williamsport Hardware and Stove Company, of which he has since been president.  Mr. Linck is the builder and owner of the Linck Block, on West Fourth Street, and ia a man of much enterprise and business energy.  He was one of the original stockholders of the Demorest Sewing Machine company and the Lycoming Rubber company, and was formerly a director in the latter institution.  He is the principal owner of the West End Furniture Company, is a stockholder and director in the Emery Lumber Company, and was one of the original projectors of Grand View cemetery, in which he is a stockholder, and besides his large hardware business, he is extensively engaged in the coal trade.  He was one of the organizers of the Board of Trade, and manifests a deep interest in everything that has for its object the god of his adopted home.  Mr. Linck was married in 1876, to Angie, daughter of Henry Veil, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Four children have been born of this union:  Edgar, Charles; James, and Nellie.  Mrs. Linck is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, to which denomination the family adhere. He is a Republican in politics, and is a member of Reno Post, G.A.R.  He is the owner of and occupies the beautiful home known as Overlook, corner Sixth and Rural Avenue, just north of the city limits, and is the owner of the beautiful half-mile drive road connecting the Vallamont Drive with Grand View Cemetery."    - The History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, 1892 by John F.Meginness, p. 875:

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'll read the comments and approve them to post as soon as I can! Thanks for stopping by!