The June 6, 1940 Fire That Destroyed the George M. Reynolds Mansion (Part I of II)
On June 6, 1940, a tragic fire entirely destroyed the George M. Reynolds mansion located along Boston Post Road at the Esplanade behind Huguenot Memorial Church. Out of the tragedy came some good. The site subsequently was cleared and became today's Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park. Today's Blog posting will provide the first half of a newspaper article that appeared the day after the fire in The Pelham Sun giving an account of the fire. The remainder of the article will appear in tomorrow's Blog Posting.
“$75,000 Manor Apartment House Fire
Nine-Family Three-Story Apartment House Total Loss; Was Remodeled Mansion and One of Pelham Manor’s Oldest Buildings; Entirely of Frame Construction and Regarded as Pelham Manor’s No. 1 Fire Hazard.
FLAMES SPREAD SO RAPIDLY TENANTS LOST EVERYTHING
Building Furnished With All Appointments of High-Class Residential Hotel – More Than One Hundred Firemen in Battle; Three Firemen Injured; Building Owned by Bowery Savings Bank, Leased by James Riley Macon.
A $75,000 fire which last night threatened to destroy the nine-family three-story apartment house building at the corner of Boston Post Road and the Esplanade, Pelham Manor was fought by firemen of Pelham Manor, New Rochelle and North Pelham for an hour before being brought under control. Fire damage was confined to the upper stories which were gutted.
The apartment house was of frame construction and was regarded for many years as Pelham Manor’s No. 1 fire hazard.
The alarm was turned in at 10:38 p.m., by Patrolman William Hamilton. Mont D. Rogers of Pelham Manor, was driving by when he noticed the glare of flames in an upper apartment tenanted by Mrs. L. Ogden Thompson. He notified the patrolman. Acting Chief Arthur Fawcett realized the hazard in the frame building, immediately called for assistance from New Rochelle. A police call brought the North Pelham department to the scene. At one time more than one hundred firemen were fighting the blaze.
‘The entire house seemed to be ablaze,’ Hamilton relates, ‘I ran across the street and went through all the rooms that I could get into, shouting a warning. I think there were three persons in the house, and they got out before I got through the building. One woman wanted me to get her jewels, but there wasn’t any time to stop for anything.’
Superintendent Smelled Smoke
William Tegeter, superintendent of the building, lives with his wife in a building originally a coachhouse in the rear of the mansion. This was not damaged.
‘I banked the fires for the night at 9:00 o’clock, Tegeter told The Pelham Sun. ‘A carpenter had been doing some work around the house and there were some shavings mixed in with the coal. A few minutes later I smelled smoke, but I thought that it must be the shavings. I went into the basement, and there was nothing wrong. A half hour later when Mrs. Macon and I were in the workshop near the stable, Mrs. Geddes came and said that the odor of smoke in the house was strong. When she went to investigate, my wife came running out of our house yelling ‘The house is on fire.’ The flames were shooting out from the second floor porch between Mrs. Geddes’ and Mrs. Thompson’s apartments. I telephoned to the fire house, but someone else had turned in the alarm.’
Mrs. Geddes was in her apartment when she smelled smoke. ‘I went through the building, and although the smoke smell persisted, I didn’t find anything wrong,’ she told The Pelham Sun. ‘I went down to get Mr. Tegeter, and when we came out of the workshop, the entire rear of the building was in flames.’
When the first alarm brought the Pelham Manor firemen to the scene at 10:38 o’clock, a column of flame was pouring out of the center section of the roof. The glare from the blaze could be scene from the farthest sections of Pelham Manor. Even before the firemen reached the scene, the Boston Post Road was choked with traffic and people. The first few lines of hose had no sooner been stretched than it became necessary to divert the traffic. Police sent east-bound cars around the Esplanade to Pelhamdale Avenue and then back to the Post Road, while west-bound vehicles were forced to turn right at Pelhamdale avenue."
Source: $75,000 Manor Apartment House Fire, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 30, No. 10, Jun. 7, 1940, p. 1, col. 1.