Dublin's first major fire occurred on May 26, 1889. One hundred and twenty five years ago today, Dublin's business district was one mass of charred timbers and smouldering ashes of once bustling businesses. There was no hope in sight. Gloom, despair and agony permeated the smoking ruins.
When the business section of Dublin began to expand, stores and other places of business were expanded well beyond the original plan of four lots/buildings per block. The closeness of buildings to each other , coupled with the fact that brick buildings were somewhat scarce, even in the early 1890s, led to massive fires in the downtown area, some fueled by drought and wind, others fed by insidious incendiaries.
Dublin's first "great" fire (great fires are never great) began early on a quiet Sunday morning. A westerly wind was howling down the main street from the west. It had not rained in weeks. Water was scarce. Napoleon Baum was only beginning to erect the town's first public well on the northeast side of the Courthouse Square. With the two requisite elements for a catastrophic conflagration present, the smallest spark would ignite a firestorm.
Investigators focused on the source of the fire and determined that the flames emanated from the Post Office causing the whipping winds to leap from one wooden structure to another. For nearly nine hours, townsfolk futilely sought t0 extinguish the rolling mass of flames. The Dalton Hotel was sacrificed by dynamiting it to save the Tillery and Burch houses.
The fire burned everything from the corner of Lawrence Street around the block and down Jefferson Street stopping before reaching the Troup House. Among the buildings suffering substantial losses were the Post Office, the old Hooks Hotel, Roughton's store, B.F. Duggan's Grocery, C.W. Brantley's house, F.W. Shelton's general merchandise store J.W. Gilder's building, P. Hillman's restaurant, Peter Franklin's barber shop, Jesse Cowart's grocery, George Bang's Dublin Jewelry Store, H.P. Smith's shoe store, Susan Tillery's store house, Nathan Burch's building, Willis Dasher's restaurant, L.C. Perry's stables and buggy shop, and M.L Jones' store, which was the highest valued loss at $4000.00. Jones came out smelling like a rose because he had $3000.00 in insurance. No other building owner did. G.W. Maddox's furniture store suffered the most damage with $3000.00 in uninsured losses.
Only the slightly damaged brick office of Dr. R.H. Hightower (where Deano's is now located) survived the fire in the entire block southwest of the courthouse square. The final total of damages ranged from $25,000.00 to $50,000.00 with eleven business houses being totally engulfed in flames. The total figure was most likely at least $40,000.00. Two or three weeks later, the rains finally came and the town was safe, at least for a while.
One of the burned buildings belonged to H.C. Roughton of Sandersville. Upon hearing of the fire, Roughton rushed to Dublin by train, arriving just before the fire was finally under control. He sought out L.A. Chapman, the owner of the brickyard. The next morning before the ashes cooled Mr. Chapman began delivering bricks to the site. What resulted may be the oldest building in downtown Dublin. It is occupied in 2014 by New York Fashions