Main Road Fire February 1859

From Hotels of Ballarat

There was a large fire in Main Road on 23 February 1859.

History[edit | edit source]

The fire started in an upstairs room of the Adelphi Hotel, and destroyed an area of about 200 yards along Main Road. Several hotels, businesses and at least 20 houses were burnt down:

We learn from yesterday's Ballarat Star that a tremendous fire occurred in the Main-road, on Wednesday night. About 11 o'clock the alarm was raised from the Adelphi hotel, in the upper story of which a fire, had then broken out. In five minutes, the fire brigade were out with their engine, but despite their most strenuous exertions no less than twenty houses, extending along 200 yards of the road, were totally destroyed. The damage done by this fire is immense, though by 12 o'clock all danger was over. Besides what the burnt houses contained, heaps of goods and furniture of all kinds lay in the open street, thrown from both the houses that were burnt and those which escaped. For a long way down the street on each side all the goods were hurriedly packed up and removed. It is impossible yet to estimate the value of the property thus destroyed. With regards to the amount of insured property, we have discovered that the Adelphi Hotel, the Alma boarding-house, the paperhanging warehouse, St. Nicholas Hotel, and Warne and Rand's store, were insured in the Northern Insurance Office. The Magazin de Frangais (the property of H. Block and Co) next door to the. St. Nicholas Hotel was insured in the Victoria Office. Lister and Angel's shop was also insured, but the office is at present unknown. The Times Insurance Company had also insured some of the property destroyed, but we do not know which. The Rising Sun Hotel, which was much injured, is also insured.[1]

The Geelong papers carried more details:

BALLARAT. THE LATE FIRE. WE have been enabled to obtain a few more particulars relative to the sufferers by the fire on Wednesday night, and we are sorry to find that the losses sustained by the calamity, have been heavy, and in some cases severe. The fire broke out in the Adelphi Hotel, and it appears originated from the incautious use of a candle among some straw taken out of some porter cases, which were being unpacked by a man employed by the proprietor. As there is to he an inquest held we forbear giving currency to the speculative opinions afloat as to the cause of the disaster. The ruins were visited during the day by many hundreds of persons, but little, however, could be noted beyond the blackened embers, and here and there a solitary chimney where lately a range of business premises had stood. Save the iron with which some of the roofs were covered, metal manufactures, and heaps of burnt fragments of clothing and drapery, half-burnt and odoriferous fruits and vegetables, and the remains of one or two unfortunate dogs, there was nothing distinguishable from the St Nicholas Hotel to Esmond-street—all was level with the ground. The wooden footpaths were partially burnt. The premises of Messrs Wittkowski, Bloch, and Lane, are a sad wreck from the efforts made by the axe men to cut them down. The buildings on the opposite side of the way also bears strong traces of the intense hart, scorched, blackened, and blistered; broken windows, and dilapidated verandahs, marked the whole front opposite the fire.

The following is a list of the premises burnt or injured:

  • The Adelphi Hotel, in which the fire originated, kept by the proprietor, Mr Lawson; insured in the Colonial Insurance Company for L750, and in the Northern Company for L1000. Eastward of this:
  • Mr Lewis' earthenware shop;
  • Belson and Co., stove depot;
  • Rosenwax and Co., Adelaide clothing store;
  • S. Morwitch and Co, auction mart. -

Westward of the Adelphi Hotel:

  • Mr. Joseph Dodds, tentmaker:
  • Bernstein's clothing store;
  • Mrs Leopold, Alma boarding house;
  • Mr Patterson, hairdresser;
  • Mrs Stevens, milliner and dressmaker. The three last-named premises comprised the block of two-story buildings on the corner of Arcade-street The buildings were owned by Mrs Harris.
  • An oyster shop in Arcade street
  • Messrs Lister & Angel's fruit store, at the west corner of Arcade-street: insured for 600/.
  • Messrs Warne and Band, drapers, insured for 2,000/. estimated loss between 4,000/ and 5,000/,
  • A refreshment saloon.
  • H. Lyte, hairdresser.

Up to this point all the buildings were completely destroyed by fire.

  • The St. Nicholas Hotel, T. Lane, proprietor, outhouses burnt in the rear, and main building destroyed by being pulled down; insured in the Northern for 1,000/.
  • H. Bloch & Co, outfitting store, stock much damaged and front of building partially destroyed by axes; insured.
  • Wittkowski Brothers, tobacconists, premises wholly destroyed by the attempt to pull them down, and great portion of the stock lost and destroyed; uninsured.

On the opposite side of the way, the Rising Sun Hotel, Matthews' boot and shoe shop, a Chinese eating house, Mr Boyd, printer, and several others, have sustained more or less damage from breakage of fronts, water, and removal of goods. We have been unable to obtain a full list of the insurances, but we have heard they amount to about £8000 in the whole, and are chiefly held by the Northern and Colonial Insurance companies. The estimated loss of property is variously set down at from £15,000 to £20,000.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "DISASTROUS FIRE AT BALLARAT." Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917) 25 February 1859: 5. Web. 2 Jun 2017 <>.
  2. 1859 'BALLARAT.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), 26 February, p. 3. , viewed 03 Jun 2017,

See also[edit | edit source]