Over the years, Prescott, and Montezuma Street in particular, have experienced fires which destroyed buildings and created hardship for territorial Prescottonians. Perhaps the earliest of these was reported in the May 4, 1867 Arizona Miner.
At about 3:00 AM on May 2, a fire was discovered at the Pine Tree Saloon which sat on the south end of Whiskey Row where the present day Galloping Goose is. The fire spread north quickly, destroying or damaging a number of other businesses, including a bakery, a theater, and a mercantile.
The Pine Tree Saloon was operated by G.M. Holaday, an early Prescott resident who had operated several other saloons in town before settling at the Pine Tree. According to the Arizona Miner, “… In connection with the above saloon, there is a Bakery, where fresh bread, pies and cakes can always be had.” The bakery, run by Mr. Schroeder, was almost a casualty in the May 2 fire, but was saved from destruction.
The building next to the Pine Tree Saloon, The New Theatre, was reduced to ashes. It had been recently built specifically to serve as a theater by John Littig, owner of the Arizona Brewery on Gurley Street, and J. McGinley, owner of “McGinley’s Concert, and Dramatic Troupe.”
Just north of the theater was the former office of the Arizona Miner newspaper owned by Richard McCormick. It had been rented by Louis “Cheap John” Landsberger as a storefront for his mercantile business. Landsberger came to Prescott from La Paz in October 1866. Although the building was damaged, Landsberger’s goods were removed by a crowd of citizens and he suffered little loss.
According to the Arizona Miner, its former office “…was severely scorched”. Less than a year earlier, the newspaper had moved to the first brick building in Arizona on Granite Street, behind the Pine Tree Saloon. It was very close to the conflagration on May 2.
When the fire broke out, an alarm sounded and men rushed to the scene to fight the flames. There was no fire department at the time, and the newspaper noted a lack of buckets and ladders with which to fight the conflagration.
There is no record of who started the fire; it was believed to be someone who had a disagreement with Holaday. What is known is the amount of resulting loss. From the newspaper, we learn that Littig and McGinley’s losses were $3000, McCormick’s $2000, Holaday’s $1200 and Schroeder the Baker $200.
In today’s dollars, Littig and McGinley would have lost roughly $53,000, McCormick approximately $35,000, Holaday $21,000 and Schroeder $3,500. While fire insurance companies existed at the time, the newspaper does not mention that any of these men were insured. Their losses would just have been part of doing business.
A grateful Louis Landsberger was quoted in the May 4, 1867 Arizona Miner. “THANKS. – L. Landsberger, the Pioneer “CHEAP JOHN,” wishes to express his thanks to Messrs. Tyson, Wunderlich, Sykes, Fr. Henry, and a great many other gentlemen, for the timely assistance they rendered him in rescuing his goods on the Wednesday night fire. Those gentlemen displayed great action, and would make valuable members of a fire company.”
Next, we will see what became of this comment about a fire company.
Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.