The Lubbock Centennial 1909-2009 - presented by The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
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The Lubbock Mercantile Co., on the southwest corner of the town square burned in 1911 after a fire started in the basement.

Proprietors face devastation of first business blaze

1911 Lubbock's fire record was broken last Friday night, and she can no longer boast of having had no fires in the business part of the city. At 11:00 o'clock last Friday night the fire alarm was turned in and the whistle made known to the sleeping population of this peaceful little city that the fire demon was getting in his work, and it was soon discovered that the fire was right in the heart of the business section of the town, and the chances were that the entire south side of the square would go. The fire was found to be in the basement of the Lubbock Mercantile Company's building on the southwest corner of the square, which was a two story and basement, full size of the building, which had a seventy-five foot frontage and was 125 feet long, built of concrete blocks, and was considered one of the safest buildings in the city and the least expected to burn.

When the fire was first discovered by the night watchman the basement was full of smoke and dense clouds of black smoke rolled out of every place where it was possible for it to get out, and it was utterly impossible for the anxious fire fighters to do effectual work, though they put forth every effort possible to extinguish the flames, after the fire-fighting apparatuses were put in motion, but it seemed that the building was doomed to destruction, and the angry flames ate through the first floor with great rapidity and once through the floor and into the big stock of dry goods and furnishing goods carried by the Lubbock Mercantile Company, and the millinery stock of Mr. Clara Abney, it spread the more furious, and within a few minutes the entire building was a mass of fire and the flames licked out into the quiet night atmosphere with all the destruction characteristic to their fiery monstrousness.

After it was found that there could be nothing done that would save the building, the large crowd of willing helpers turned their attention to saving the adjoining buildings, and the removal of the stock from them, and this was very successfully accomplished, so much so that the building occupied by the Palace Pharmacy immediately joining the Mercantile building was not injured by the flames in the least, or any of the other buildings. The Pharmacy building was damaged quite extensively by the east wall of the Mercantile building, falling upon it and caving in the roof and injuring considerably the fixtures in the building. The greater part of the stock had been removed to the streets. All the fixtures in the Palace Barber Shop were moved out and also the abstract and law office fixtures of W.D. Benson, were thrown out into the street to be safe should the fire spread to adjoining buildings.

This fire caused the heaviest loss that has ever been sustained in our city from this cause at one time or we believe we are safe in saying in all the fires that have ever occurred in the history of the town though we are over twenty years of age. And in this fire a great number of people are losers, for the fact that the building was filled full of merchandise in the basement and first floor, while on the second floor many offices were furnished and occupied by lawyers, doctors and real estate offices, all well furnished and presented an outlay of considerable cash.

The building was occupied by the Lubbock Mercantile Company who owned the building and carried the largest stock of dry goods and furnishing goods of any one firm in the city. Spikes & Way, carrying a large stock of groceries and feed stuff, the largest in town. Mrs. Clara Abney, Millinery and dress goods. Drs. Hutchinson & Peebler, physicians and specialists who had the most modernly equipped office in the south plains country. J.E. Murfee & Son, real estate. Dr. R.C. Lewis, dentist. Dr. M.C. Overton, physician and surgeon. Rectigraph Abstract Company. W.F. Schenck, lawyer. Henry Mount Architect. R.A. Sowder, lawyer. Wm. L. Baugh, physician and surgeon. J.E. Vickers, lawyer. Roscoe Wilson, lawyer, and S.C. Wilson, who had a suite of furnished rooms. The Citizens National Bank were occupying temporary quarters in the rear of the ground floor, pending the building of their new home. The City Meat Market were also occupants of this building with Spikes & Way.

The debris continued to burn several days and in fact is still burning in the bottom of the basement. The money safe of Spikes & Way was found Sunday morning and the burning timbers and other material was raked away so that it cooled sufficiently to open it.

The outside door was broken entirely off and the safe lying front up, with inner door locked. It was opened and found that the books, though badly scorched, could be read, and the accounts of the firm saved. Notes and other valuable papers in a leather wallet were intact. Greenbacks were burned to a crisp, but clearly visible as to the denomination, and number, and it is expected that all can be redeemed by the currency department at Washington. The silver and other coins were uninjured.

The large vault in the rear of the building was entered Monday about noon by drilling a large hole through the wall, and it was found that the contents, which consisted of the books and papers of the Citizens National Bank and of the Lubbock Mercantile, as well as many of the bank's customers' private boxes were unhurt, and seemingly none the worse for the fire.

All the firms in this fire will be open for business as soon as they can procure rooms and stores.

Spikes & Way will move their stock here from Slaton and will be in the building on the south side of the square, formerly occupied by the Western Windmill Company.

The Citizens National Bank has moved into their new building and though it is not finished, they are carrying on their business in the usual careful consistent way.

Dr. Overton has moved into his new offices in this same building.

J.E. Murfee and Sons are casting around for another location for their real estate office, but have not yet fully decided where they will be located till other offices can be procured.

The City Meat Market will be ready to serve the public and their old customers within a few days. They have not fully decided upon their new location.

This is the heaviest blow this town has ever experienced, and a large number of people are affected by it. The loss is heavy and the insurance is very light. The loss will probably aggregate $175,000 with a little less than $40,000.

The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History

SPECIAL SECTIONS: 1909-1933 / 1934-1958 / 1959-1983 / 1984-PRESENT | PRINT VERSION