Author Topic: 176 Years Ago Today:  (Read 1417 times)

Offline Boingo the Clown

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176 Years Ago Today:
« on: April 18, 2016, 05:29:15 PM »
The city I live in, Kingston, Ontario, is commonly known by its nickname, "The Limestone City".  Most people know the nickname came from the large number of limestone buildings in the downtown core, but not many people know the reason why they were put there.

But I know.

The reason happend 176 years ago today.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Really.  It was.

It wasn't raining, but gale force winds were blowing in from the southwest, and it was causing havoc down in the harbour.

At around midnight on the morning of April 18, 1840, heavy wind and waves had pinned an American steamer against John Counter's Wharf.  Fearing damage to the vessel, the ship's crew decided to leave for open water and stoked up the boilers for a full head of steam. As the ship laboured to get away from the wharf, sparks from the funnel were blown into the wharf, setting fire to the roof of a warehouse. 

The fire spread to nearby warehouses, another steamer moored at the wharf, and a schooner. The blazing schooner broke free from its moorings and was blown north towards the Cataraqui bridge.

The wooden bridge was the only crossing of the Cataraqui river other than the crossing at Kingston Mills, several miles away.  Troops from the 83rd Regiment, foot rushed to the bridge to protect it from the burning schooner.  They managed to put out the fire on the bridge, and the schooner was towed away with much effort against the wind.

Kingston's volunteer fire fighters and 4th Battalion Militia fought the raging fire on the wharf.  Men were staioned on rooves, dousing small fires from wind blown sparks, as the fire fighters attacked the main fires with hoses and engines.

By 2:30 am the fires seemed to be under control ...

... and then the gunpowder exploded.

Now according to the law, gunpowder was supposed to be stored in a proper powder magazine.  Storing the powder, not surprisingly, cost a fee.

James Fraser was a cheapskate.

James Fraser didn't want to pay the fee.

James Fraser decided he would store it in his warehouse instead --

-- all one hundred barrels!

And now the warehouse was on fire ...

... and at just before 3:00 am ...

... the fire and the gunpowder met up and decided to shake hands.

Needless to say, the explosion was tremendous.

The fire fighters and the militia were violently knocked to the ground, windows were blown out all over town, the mansion home of John Counter was severely damaged, the roof of Thomas Kirkpatricks fancy home was blown off, and flaming shards of James Fraser's now non-existant warehouse were blown high into the air.  The debris rained down everywhere within a three block radius, setting everything it landed on on fire.

The fire was now everywhere.  It was uncontroled and uncontrolable.

By the time the fire burned out, more than 50 homes were destroyed, the vender stalls in market square were gone, City Hall was gone, and dozens of business, taverns, and warehouses were reduced to ashes.

It was a complete disaster.  The only good news was nobody died.

With the heart of Kingston's downtown reduced to a smoldering ruin, the city council met to decided what needed to be done.

The city would have to rebuild, of course, but the council wondered what could be done to prevent the spread of fire in the future.

It was decided that fire spread too easily between wooden buildings, and so it was ruled that all new construction in the affected area was to be built from either limestone or brick.

This rebuilding phase was referred to as "The Limestone Revolution" and gained Kingston the nickname it is known by today --

-- "The Limestone City".
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 01:25:08 AM by Boingo the Clown »

Offline xbolt

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Re: 176 Years Ago Today:
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2016, 05:49:13 PM »
Wow! I love reading cool stories from history.

Tell James that he's a doof.

Offline Awesomedude249

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Re: 176 Years Ago Today:
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2016, 08:49:45 PM »
That's really weird, considering just down the street from me there's a small house fire
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