JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Shorpy members who are Patreon contributors get an ad-free experience! (Mostly -- there's still an ad above the comments.) Sign up or learn more.

Five-Alarm Candy: 1925

Five-Alarm Candy: 1925

December 28, 1925. "G.J. Mueller Fire." A five-alarm fire at George J. Mueller Candy Co. in Chinatown at 336 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., in view of the Capitol. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Also see "Where' the Fire?"

Also see
Mentions J.A. Mayhew, operator of E-9's wrecked fire engine. He did become DCFD's Chief from 1949 to 1952.

No. 2 Engine

Private Joseph A. Mayhew, of No. 2 engine company, suffered severe cuts on his hand when he picked up a broken hose connection. He was treated at Emergency Hospital.

Private Mayhew would go on to become Chief of the DC Fire Department. I believe that there has been a member of the Mayhew family in the Department since 1888. Joseph's great-grandson is now on the job as a Lieutenant. Also notice in the photograph on the left side the contraption for hanging the fire hose over the trolley tracks so the streetcars would not have to stop.

Mixed Reviews

My first impression of this photo was to note how effective the water tower was as a firefighting tool. It looks pretty useful, I wonder why it was so universally panned.

[Because most of the time it didn't work? - Dave]

National Mosaic

I want to know about the National Mosaic Co. -- did they just make tiles? Or complete mosaics?

["High-grade work in Mosaics, Interior Marble and Tiling," according to the company's ads. - Dave]

Much-Maligned Water Tower Vindicated

Fireman Injured,
Traffic is Tied Up By $50,000 Blaze

Tower Proves Value In Checking Flames

A Spectacular five-alarm fire in the wholesale candy plant of George J. Mueller, 336 Pennsylvania avenue northwest, shortly before 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon wrought $50,000 damage, tied up street car services for more than fifteen blocks and resulting in the injury of one fireman.

The top floor of the five-story building was enveloped in flames when firemen arrived, and it was feared that the fire, fanned by a brisk wind, would spread eastward along Pennsylvania avenue. Smoke from the fire was carried eastward by the wind, forming great clouds around the Capitol.

The much-maligned water tower, which has failed at so many big fires, was given credit for checking the fire. The tower was lofted to a position directly in front of the blaze. For an hour it hurled water into the building, the stream being pumped by four engines.

Private Joseph A. Mayhew, of No. 2 engine company, suffered severe cuts on his hand when he picked up a broken hose connection. He was treated at Emergency Hospital.

The fire, which was in that section of town known as Chinatown, was witnessed by a crowd that overflowed the sidewalks for more than a block. The Chinese occupants of the rooming houses, stores and cafes looked on anxiously through the windows.

The first alarm was turned in at 4:50 o'clock, the height of the traffic rush hour. It was after 6 o'clock before street car service on Pennsylvania avenue was resumed, and many home-going government employees and office workers were forced to walk home or hire taxi-cabs.

Fire Chief Watson went to the fire on the second alarm. On his arrival he turned in three more alarms. District Commissioner Frederick A. Fenning, who has jurisdiction over the fire and police departments, arrived on the scene early. Maj. Edwin B. Hesse, superintendent of the police, also was on hand, as were Traffic Director M.O. Eldridge, Col I.C. Moller, his assistant, and various other officials of the fire and police departments.

The cause of the fire had not been determined last night. It broke out in a supply of candy goods on the top floor. The entire building had been swept clean of trash in preparation for an inventory, according to George J. Mueller, of the candy firm, who said he was at a loss as to the cause of the fire.

The stock of candy in the building was extremely low, Mr. Mueller said, because of Christmas sales. What was there, however, is believed to have been lost.

The loss caused by the fire entirely was covered by insurance, according to Carl Mueller, secretary of the firm. The stock, he said, was covered by $25,000 insurance, the machinery by $14,000, and the building by $20,000.

The candy firm was established in 1849 by Carl Mueller, grandfather of the present owners. The fire is the second in the firm's history. The last one, which was in another building, was started by a tramp who had been sleeping in the stable.

The buildings adjoining the candy plant - the William Lee undertaking establishment and the store of the National Mosaic Co. - were damaged considerably by water.

Fire Chief George Watson said that the principal difficulty confronting him and his men was to find places of vantage from which to fight the fire. The Mueller building is higher than either of the buildings which adjoin, and this increased the difficulty. The fire chief finally decided to battle it from the front and rear.

While the fire was at its height Chief Watson ordered three of his men to come down from a ladder on which they were directing a stream of water at the blaze. He was afraid that the ladder would collapse. So were the spectators, who were visibly relieved to see the firemen descend. The ladder was resting on a tree, which obstruction caused it to sag and lean far to one side. Water from the hose froze in the street. In addition the firemen had to contend with ice covered hose.

Washington Post, Dec 29, 1925

Background snarkiness reported on the water tower:

Two mishaps of fire apparatus interfered momentarily with the fire fighting, a hose bursting under the strain of the water pumped through it and the high water tower failing almost as soon as it was put in operation. It was quickly abandoned and its crew manned a hose-line.

Washington Post, Jan 11, 1925

The firemen were handicapped because of the difficulty in finding places of vantage from which to play their hose. The water tower, which has failed so many times that it has become a joke, was no more willing to work last night than it has been in the past.

Washington Post, Jan 23, 1925

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2021 Shorpy Inc.