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1899 fire destroys Findlay’s hospital

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

On Oct. 23,1899, the city of Findlay found itself without a hospital because of a disastrous fire which destroyed the community’s facilities for the care of the sick and disabled.

The hospital which burned down stood on the site of the old hospital which stood for many years on South Main Street at the southwest corner of Pearl Street. The fire made it necessary for the local authorities to plan anew for hospital facilities, because the loss was complete.

The structure which went up in flames had not been in use for a long time. In fact, the length of time was only a little over four years.

Findlay’s first hospital was opened Dec. 23, 1891, in a dwelling which stood at 1217 North Main St. and which had been built by Dr. Abner L. Davis. A group of women started the institution, which was known as the Findlay Home for the Friendless Women. The boom days had brought a need for facilities of this kind and an organization to provide same was headed by Mrs. E.P. Jones, as president, and Miss Clara Barnd, as secretary.

It was soon realized that an institution of a broader nature was required and the large Dennis French home at South Main and Pearl was acquired for the sum of $10,000 with a $2,000 down payment and payments on a gradual basis. Possession was taken Sept. 1895.

It was the home that burned down in October, 1899. The name of the institution had been changed in 1896 to Findlay Home and Hospital.

The hospital fire started just before 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. When a fireman arrived, the fire was so far along that there was no hope of saving the structure. In fact, the city was without means of fighting the fire. Strangely enough, there was no water available, the newspaper accounts say. The nearest plug was at Third and South Main streets. This was 2,800 feet away. The city only had fire hose that was 2,500 feet in length.

At that time just before the start of the 20th century, the south end beyond the old Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western Railroad (Tangent Line) did not possess many structures and evidently the city had not gotten around to extending its waterworks that far south. Findlay had a waterworks, located adjoining what is now Riverside Park, which supplied water through a system of mains which evidently did not cover the entire area within the city limits.

“With this awful condition prevailing,” said the old Morning Republican’s account of the fire, “the fire department and the citizen spectators were compelled to only stand by helplessly and watch the magnificent structure go up in flames.”

There was no loss of life, fortunately. There were nine patients in the small hospital at the time the fire broke out. One woman had just undergone a delicate operation, two men were suffering from typhoid fever, one had a dislocated hip and the others were down with various ailments.

The patients, some from North Baltimore, Bowling Green as well as Findlay, were taken to nearby homes by nurses and others who volunteered to help in the emergency. Later in the day, the home of E.L.E. Mumma, nearby, was made into an improvised hospital and all patients were removed there. Mr. Mumma was just vacating the residence and six rooms were transformed into quarters for the sick.

The cause of the fire was a mystery. It started in one of two rooms in the attic. Some passers-by saw the flames emanating from the top of the hospital and quickly notified the hospital staff, which began to take steps to evacuate the patients. The firemen were called at once, but under the circumstances, they were almost helpless to extinguish the flames.

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