1890 Fire Destroyed Masonic Block in Wilson
Cries of “Fire! Fire!” rang out in the Village of Wilson in the early morning hours of August 19, 1890. A fire of unknown origin had been spotted in the Masonic Block on Young Street. Almost immediately, men, women and children poured into the streets to assist with the fire fighting efforts. The stately Masonic Building, at the corner of Young and Catherine Sts., which contained not only the FAM Ontario Lodge but several businesses as well, was the first to go followed by other businesses on both streets. By daybreak it was evident that very little would be left of the entire block that was bounded by Young, McChesney, Pettit and Catherine Streets.
As the smoke cleared, villagers assessed the damage. The FAM Ontario Lodge lost their meeting rooms, records and Masonic items. The following businesses that were housed in or near the Masonic Building were also destroyed: Metzger and Son Hardware Store; C.N. Markle Dry Goods Store; and the offices of The Star, the village newspaper. Down the block, the fire destroyed the Dox surveying office, several barns and a blacksmith shop. Those structures were owned by E.V.W. Dox and Catherine Johnson. Fortunately the wind shifted before it destroyed Marshall’s Carriage Factory.
By the next day, the business owners, with the exception of the Metzgers, had vowed to rebuild the block with bigger and better buildings. This was the second fire the Metzgers had endured that year as their home burned down in the previous winter. They decided to return to their hometown in Pennsylvania. Most of the businesses moved to other locations while the block was being rebuilt. Many business owners insurance on their properties which helped with the rebuilding efforts. The Masons built a new three story brick building that stills stands in Wilson today.
Ironically, the day after the fire an excursion boat from Toronto docked in Wilson with 700 Canadian Masons on board. It was unfortunate that the Wilson Masons could not invite them to visit their Lodge in the village.
Wilson has witnessed other spectacular fires in its history including many wooden hotels. In 1908 the Tower House Inn with its many towers, turrets, porches, and other architectural features burned to the ground. The last major fire occurred in 1980 when the Hub Hotel and the Post Office went up in flames. That block has also been rebuilt.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094