THE FIRE OF 1838
COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Captain Franklin Ellis119
One of the most destructive fires which ever visited Hudson was that which in the year 1838 swept the ground which is now Franklin Square.* It commenced about five o'clock P.M. on Tuesday, the 7th of August, and was supposed to have been occasioned by a spark from the smoke-stack of the steamboat "Congress," which had stopped to take in tow a barge lying in the dock. It was first communicated to the store-house of Samuel Plumb, and being assisted by a strong northwest wind, spread with great rapidity until nearly seventy dwelling-houses, besides stores and other buildings, were destroyed, and about one hundred families were thrown shelterless into the streets. "The whole square bounded by Water, Front, Fleet, and Ferry streets was laid in ruins; also the square surrounded by Ferry, Front, and Still streets and South bay, all the buildings between Cross street and the bay, the lumber-yards of R. Reed and William Hudson, and the whole square bounded by Front, Second, Partition, and Cross streets, excepting three houses." The loss was estimated at $150,000, on which was an insurance not exceeding $50,000.
In the newspapers of that time it was mentioned that the firemen exerted themselves to the utmost to check the ravages of the fire, and the gallant service which they performed on that day was spoken of in terms of highest commendation.
*Franklin Square was immediately laid out on the ground made vacant by the fire. On the 11th of August the council resolved,
"That in their opinion the public interest of the city requires that a public square be laid out and opened in said city, including all the land within the following bounds, to wit: beginning at the southwesterly corner of Fleet and Front streets, and running from thence southerly along the westerly line of Front and Ferry streets; from thence westerly along the northerly line of Ferry street to the northeasterly corner of Ferry and Water streets; from thence northerly along the easterly line of Water street to the southeasterly corner of Water and Fleet Street: and from thence easterly along the southerly line of Fleet street to the place of beginning."