The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

November 21st, 2012

History of the Springhill Fire Department

Part 2


      The Springhill Fire Department has had to deal with many serious fires since its inception in 1890.  In 1895 and 1896 there were two major fires on Main Street.  All the east side of Main Street from the Post Office Corner to the Sprague Block at the Miner’s Hall and as far back as Drummond Street was burned out with the exception of a few houses. The Gilmour Block covered the area where the Town Hall was later located.  Glendenning’s’ stable, Simpson’s Carriage Shop, Niagara Hotel, the Murray Block, the Hall Block and over 60 other buildings were lost in these two fires.

     The Main Street Fire of Dec. 26th, 1957 razed a large part of the centre of Main Street business section and a portion of the residences on Fir Street.  The fire began in the basement of Stedman’s Store.  With the high winds and an explosion of flames from the  front of the building the fire was out of control. There was a further setback when the firemen lost water pressure due to a power outage.  The fire destroyed Stedman’s 5c to $1.oo Store, and the Herb Terris Building and leveled a four car garage behind these buildings. 

     On the South side of Main Street the stores that burned were:  Kaylene’s Photographic Studio, H.S. Terris Insurance, Stedman’s, Jay’s Women’s and Children’s Clothing Store and Agnew Surpass Shoe Store.

     Businesses that burned on the North side of Main Street were: Springhill Record, Leadbetter’s Clothing Store, James Ryan’s Groceteria, the Saffron Building which housed Morris Saffron Company and Sziron’s Jewellers.  One building containing an empty store and J.S. Gillis’s Hardware, The Vogue Millinery, the T. Eaton Order Office and Pat McLeod’s Barber Shop.  The fire also destroyed four houses on Fir Street.  In total 14 businesses, 4 homes and 10 apartments were lost.

      Then again on July 20th, 1975 Main Street was hit by another major fire when a fire broke out in the “Outside Inn” restaurant due to an electrical problem.  The flames then engulfed Nelson’s Book Store and continued up Main Street destroying the Knights of Pythias building which housed a laundromat and Mrs. Brown’s Flower Shop, caught Letcher’s empty building, the Capital Theatre and John’s Smith Store with his apartment over the store.

     Due to the high winds embers ignited the Wilson’s Store on the other side of the street along with the Cookie Jar, formally Withrow’s Drugstore.  Embers also landed on the high roof of the Town Hall, Police Station and in a few minutes the roof was ablaze and flames were engulfing the former Town Hall.  The furniture repair shop back of Wilson’s Store was quickly in flames and to prevent the fire from going further up Church Street the home of Mrs. Harold King was dynamited and the fire was contained.

     Meanwhile flying embers jumped Elgin and ignited the shoe store of Ed McLean, Casey’s Barber Shop, Demetre’s Candy Store, Don Ryan’s storage shed at the rear of the shoe store and continued into Letcher’s Furniture Store with its apartments and the Springhill Club.  Then in a matter of minutes the Record Office was destroyed for the second time in 18 years.

     Embers from the theatre and Smith’s store also destroyed the shoemakers store between Smith’s and the Legion.

     A total of 12 families were also displaced by this fire.

     Other important fires include Roger’s Store in 1931, Herrett’s Store, Jewkes’s Store in 1975, Alick’s Hardware, The Strand Theatre, The United Baptist Church in 1970, The Salvation Army Hall in 1975, The Herrett Road School in 1960 and the Elgin Street School in 1967.

     Probably one of the most “sociable fires: was at the Liquor Store, around 1930!

The record number of calls was one night around 1919 when the department was called out 17 times.