Feb 28, 2009



Half the Business Portion is in Ashes
Fire Originated in Baranowski's Saloon Building
Marion Higgins, Landlord of Ravenna House, is Killed
Flames Spept Away Ten Business Places and Two Dwellings--Seven Families Unhoused--List of Losses and Insurance

From our own correspondent.

Ravenna, Michigan, April 5. - What was yesterday the thriving and pleasant village of Ravenna today somewhat of a scene of ruin and ashes. A fire which originated there last night in the saloon of M.C. Baranowski swept a part of the business portion of the town and carried with it several dwellings.

Marion Higgins, proprietor of the Ravenna House was injured by the explosion of soda water fountain cyclinder and later died.

The village of Ravenna in the arrangement of its business houses lies in the shape of a letter “T’ the perpendicular extending west toward Muskegon and the horizontal embracing the principal business street, reaching from Crockery creek on the south to the hill and Free Methodist church on the west.

The Barnowski saloon laid well toward Crockery creek and in the south shank of the “T”. After sweeping the surrounding buildings the flames had an easy leap to Bartholomew’s hardware store and the rest of the village. After the fire had destroyed a part of the business portion of the town it was feared the residence portion might also be wiped out. By one o’clock Thursday morning the following business places had been reduced to ashes:

Alberts & Co., general store.
Aaron Rogers, drug store
M.C. Baranowski, saloon
Castenholz & McNitt, meat market.
Conklin & Easton, general store.
Ravenna hotel and barn.
E. Bartholomew, hardware.
Mrs. J. P. Herman, harness shop.
George Bunce, pool room.
J.F. Tibbitts, undertaking rooms.
Benj. Hoffelmeyer, residence.
Henry Walker, residence.

Telephone communication with Muskegon and other points was cut off entirely, and the only way of sending messages was through the M, G. R & I. R.R. telegraph office.
At 1:15 a dispatch was sent to Dr. G.S. Williams, at Muskegon, asking him to come to Ravenna on a special train as Marion Higgins, Proprietor of the Ravenna house, had been seriously injured. The train which had brought a steamer from Grand Rapids rushed through to Muskegon and brought Dr. Williams. Mr. Higgins, however, was so badly hurt that he died about 2 o’clock.

At 11 o’clock a message was sent to Grand Rapids asking for help. A steamer and hose wagon in charge of Cpt Kirwin and six men of No. 6 engine house were forwarded at 12:15 and arrived here in quick time, doing efficient service in preventing a further spread of the conflagration.

The first reports were exaggerated. Not more than half of the business portion is gone. Ten business places, two dwelling were burned and seven families rendered homeless. The fire started at 10 p.m., from a coal stove in rooms above M.C. Barnowski’s saloon, occupied by Barnowski. The entire building was almost immediately involved. The fire communicated with A. Rogers drug store and the telephone exchange, swept the postoffice and other buildings south, leaped to the Ravenna House, burned almost the entire street running north and south. Bartholomew’s hardware store occupied the corner of Main and Stafford streets with his warehouse. At this place the fire was fought the hardest. Had it burned a dozen more business places and many dwellings would have been burned. Volunteers worked heroically and successfully and saved the rest of he town.
The Ravenna women deserve credit for their work. Several came from sick beds and worked side by side with the men, carrying water and fighting the flames.

The killing of Marion Higgins, causes great gloom–worse that the fire. He was the popular and well known landlord of Ravenna House. He stood on the porch of the hotel when a cylinder exploded from a soda fountain in the rear of Rogers’ drug store. It blew 100 feet across the street, striking Higgins in the chest, crushing him, broke his left arm once, his leg in three places. The iron which struck him was about four feet in length and four feet in diameter and was a hollow tube weighing about 40 pounds. Higgins was carried to the residence of Jacob DeHart, where he died later. He leaves a wife and son here, three brothers in Ohio, four sisters in Ohio and Minnesota.

The Citizens’ Telephone Co., of Muskegon, sent a gang of men out this morning and within an hour established telegraphic communication with Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
The compilations of the losses and insurance are as follows:
M.C. Baranowski, saloon fixtures, $400; no insurance. The building was owned by the Muskegon Brewing Co. Included in Baranowski’s loss in $100 in cash.
–- Henry Hull, postoffice building and physicians office, loss $500; no insurance. Contents, loss $500; no insurance. Most of the postoffice fixtures and - - lies were saved. Dr. Hull succeeded in saving a good many of his surgical appliances.
S.L. Alberts & Co., loss on their general store building and contents is $9-00; $3000 insurance.
Castenholz & McNitt’s loss on meat market fixtures is $500; no insurance. The building was owned by Mrs. L. Clark, of Ravenna, formerly of Muskegon. Loss on building $1000.
Mrs. J.P. Herman, harness shop, loss on building $600; no insurance.
Aaron Rogers, drug store and telephone exchange; loss on building, $2000; $750 insurance.
Mrs. Marion Higgins, Ravenna hotel and barn; loss $6000; no insurance.
Ed Bartholomew, hardware store; loss on building, $1000; no insurance; loss on stock, $3500; $1000 insurance.
George Bunce, pool room, loss $150; no insurance. The building occupied by Bunce’s pool room was owned by Tom F. Rogers, the loss being $1000 with no insurance.
On Conklin & Easton’s general store the loss on the building was $3000, insured for $1000; loss on stock $10,000 insurance $6000.
J.F. Tibbitts, undertaking room, loss on building $800, insurance $400, and the loss on the stock was $200; insurance $300.
Ben Hoffelmeyer, residence, loss $1000, no insurance.
Henry Walker, residence, loss $400; no insurance.

The funeral of Marion Higgins will be held from the residence of J. DeHart , at 2p.m. Sunday.

Supervisor John Laubach says that the fire will decrease the amount of the Ravenna assessment roll- the making out of which he was about to begin- $10,000.

Among the number of families who occupied rooms over the buildings used as stores that were burned out, were Avery Cook and Henry Wilder, who occupied the rooms over Castenholz & McNitt’s meat market.; Mr. Titus, who occupied the rooms over Rogers’ drug store; S.L. Alberts, over S. L. Alberts & Co., Ed Bartholomew over his store; Frank Lavender, photographer lived over Tibbitt’s undertaking establishment.
In most cases nearly all of the household goods of these people were carried from the building, but many articles were lost.

The streets of Ravenna today are strewn with household goods and stock for the stores. The letter boxes from the postoffice are lying in the street with the mail in them, just as they were when the fire started.

The insurance on the Ravenna House expired March 18 and was about to have been renewed.

The Ravenna Rolling Mill was in the path of the flames but a pump in the mill connected with the dam saved the building. It developed this morning that excellent fire protection could have been offered by the facilities at this mill but there was only one length of hose available and while that saved the mill it could not be used with any effect in checking the rest of the fire.

There are no hotel accommodations here. Muskegon sent out a large delegation this morning and it looked as if there would be large inroads made on the cracker barrels.

As stated the fire started over Barnowski’s saloon and then spread to Rogers’ drug store, the next door south. At the same time it leaped across the street and caught on the roof of the Ravenna House. It was only a short time before the hotel was in flames and the barn was also burning. Two cows were in the barn and these were cremated.
S.L. Alberts & Co.’s, general store next became involved, and then the fire broke out in Castenholz & McNitt’s. meat market.
The people of the village were thoroughly aroused by this time and were engaged actively in carrying out stock from the stores and household goods for the rooms used as places of residence. All was the greatest confusion and excitement. Many of the rescued goods were left in the street and burned there.
From Castenholz & McNitt’s the fire went to Bunce’s pool room. In the meantime the fire started north and caught in Conklin & Easton’s big general store. There was a vacant lot between where the fire originated and this store and a brave effort was made to save the building. It seemed for a while as if the efforts of the workers would be successful, but this was prevented when the building burst in flames, making it impossible even to save any of the stock.
The fire next leaped across the street to Bartholomew’s building and then to the Herman harness shop, and easterly to Hoffelmeyer’s residence which was formerly the Dr. Stewart residence, and to the small house of Henry Walker across the street.
The greatest fight of the conflagration occurred at the warehouse of E. Bartholomew, just in the rear of his store. All efforts were directed here to save the row of business places, which extended west from this point on Stafford street. This building was repeatedly afire but the bucket brigade and the Grand Rapids firemen succeeded in checking the fire’s progress at this point. Had they not succeeded in checking it here the entire business part of the village would be a heap of ashes today.
The visitors from Muskegon, Grand Rapids and other points were agreeably surprised this morning upon their arrival here. The reports of the morning papers had been largely overdrawn, giving the impression that only one of Ravenna’s business places remained.

Naturally the probability of rebuilding is already attracting attention. It is likely that many will rebuild but on a smaller scale,. S.L. Alberts & Co., and A. Rogers own adjoining property and they will probably build together.

Transcribed by Holly Spencer

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this important and interesting part of the history of Ravenna.