The Big Fire

The following article is from the Village of Altamont 90th Incorporation Booklet "Below the Hellebergh - The Story of Altamont" by Arthur B. Gregg, former Historian, Town of Guilderland in October 1980.

The Big Fire

Almost two years prior to the adoption of its new name, the Village of Knowersville suffered its most disastrous fire. The memory of it and losses sustained remained with our citizens for years, and was probably on of the impelling reasons for incorporation. Here is a section of the account reported in the Albany Evening Journal of April 30th, 1886:

"The fire was the most destructive that the thriving Village of Knowersville ever experienced. The burned district on Church street (now Maple Avenue) included seven structures, those of the Henry Lockwood estate, and the shoe store of James Ostrander and the tin and hardware store of C. E. Taber. It started in the hallway leading to the Good Templars' rooms in the building occupied by Davenport and Frederick, druggist, and soon communicated to the sheds at the rear which extended between the isolated buildings. The fire ran through the shed of the carriage manufactory of Van Benscoten and Warner to the north, and also extended to the shoe store of James Ostrander on the south, and then to the Taber building, when it was discovered. Men were on hand with buckets early, but could do nothing save turn their attention to the Van Benscoten house on the south."

"The flames went quickly throught the two stories occupied by the carriage makers, and entered the handsome lodge rooms of Noah Masonic Lodge, recently fitted up at great cost. Then the blacksmith shop of John Friday and the harness shop of Frank Dexter succumbed. Next to the blacksmith shop on the north was the woodworking shop of A. H. Wilber, and the residence upstairs of Mrs. J. Frederick. This was the last house on the west side of Church Street (now Maple Avenue) for some distance, so that the flames stopped there after reducing it to ashes. The village owns a hand engine, but there are no large cisterns from which to obtain water."

The heavy losses were most discouraging to our early citizens; however, they soon took heart and rebuilt the west side of Maple Avenue. Many of those structures are standing today.