DESTRUCTION OF MR. DURYEA'S PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDIO.
A fire resulting in the almost total demolition of Mr. T. Duryea's photographic establishment, situated at the corner of King William and Grenfell streets, broke out during the small
hours of Sunday, April 18. Two constables on the beat in the vicinity had their attentien first attracted to the scene about 3.30 a.m. by the sudden bursting forth of flame through the roof. They at once raised an alarm, and com- municated with Mr. A. J. Baker, the Superinten- dent of Fire Brigades, who with Fire-reels No. 2 (Benbow's), 1 (Spence), and 3 (Morris's), was in attendance within half an hour of the intimation being given. Inspectors Searcy and Peterswald were also quickly on the spot with detach- ments of mounted and foot police, who rendered efficient service in suppressing the flames. It being so early, and Sunday morning, the streets were deserted, but the alarm soon roused people in the immediate vicinity, who promptly assembled. The fire must have been burning some time before it found vent through the roof, but then it quickly enveloped the whole upper storey in a fierce blaze. Those present before the Brigade arrived found it im- possible to check the ravages of the flames; but many valuable pictures and other things it is alleged might have been rescued had the specta- tors been allowed by the police to force an en- trance to the premises. The constables have appparently, however, no power to permit by- standers to rush to the rescue in such cases as this. It has been suggested that while every care should be taken to prevent reckless conduct and thefts, and preserve order at such fires, authority should be given to the police to call upon respectable citizens for aid without waiting for the anival of the Brigade, in which cases much valuable property might frequently be saved. The anxiety to keep doors and windows closed so as to prevent a rush of air which would fan the conflagration is doubtless the chief reason for preventing the access of volunteer rescuers to burning buildings, pending the arrival of the Brigade, but in some cases this rule ought seemingly to be relaxed. The firemen quickly adjusted three lines of hose, and an immense volume of water was thrown upon the flames from King William-street, Grenfell-street, and the rear of the premises, a full pressure of water being available owing to Mr. Baker having been able before he left home to communicate with the keeper of the valve-house, on the Hackney-road, by means of the telegraph line recently erected at his sug- gestion between that place and his residence. Some people having forced an entrance from King William-street, managed to recover the greater portion of the stock of pictures on the ground floor and in the show windows, but everything upstairs was destroyed, the fire having got complete mastery there before the Brigade arrived. The gasmeter on the upper floor had not been turned off, and till the leaden pipe melted wholly away the gas added fuel to the flames. The meter was wholly consumed, but the lead melting into the iron joint plugged it up, and thus prevented any further escape of gas. The Brigade prevented the flames spread- ing in the lower part of the building. The cause of the affair is purely conjectural. The general opinion of those who were first on the spot is that it started in the chemical room, as the flames were raging with great fierceness in that portion of the building, and frequent flashes of flame arose as the chemicals escaped from burst- ing bottles. The whole of the upper apartments, including show-room, ladies' room, operating room, and work, stock, and printing rooms, were slightly built, the partitions being chiefly lath and plaster, and in a very short time that portion of the property was com- pletely gutted, the roof fell in bodily, and nothing but the bare walls remained. The con- flagration raged with such fury that fears were entertained for the safety of the adjoining struc- tures occupied by Messrs. Hay, Hann, &Co., Mesas. Francis Clark & Sons, and Messrs. Clark & Crompton. The walls of the former building being one storey higher than the burning premises, the flames were prevented spreading beyond, but they rose sufficiently to thoroughly char the wooden braces upon which the joists of Messrs. Hay, Hann. & Co.'s roof is supported. The ridge-pole and upper rafters of the roof of Messrs. Clark & Co.'s building caught fire, but the flames were extinguished before they secured any hold there. A window in Mr. E. C. Baker's office overlooking Mr. Duryea's premises also caught fire, but the flames were prevented from getting inside. Some papers, however, were damaged by water. Messrs. Hay and & Son's show-room was similarly damaged; also Mr. Duryea's two lower business rooms and the premises under the same roof, including Mrs. Foalo's fancy warehouse, Messrs. J. C. Dunn and B. Allen's offices, and Mr. Jackson's hair- dressing shop. The stock in each of the shops was almost entirely destroyed, being saturated, and Mr. Dunn's office-fittings were rendered almost worthless. Messrs. Clark & Son's pre- mises were also damaged by water, and there was about two feet of water in their cellar. Mr. Duryea's loss is a very serious one, as the whole of his registered carte-de-visite negatives, numbering about 60,000, the possession of which has yielded a handsome income, besides an extensive stock of large plates and miscellaneous pictures, has been destroyed, together with the whole of his plant and improvements. Mr. Duryea's stock- in-trade represents a peculiar value, and no insurance can fully compensate for the loss sus- tained. We understand that the goods and im- provements, in which only Mr. Duryea has an interest, are insured in the Northern and Trans- atlantic Offices for £1,500 and £1,700 respec- tively. The building, which is the property of Mr. George Prince, is insured for £1,200 in the Australian Alliance Office. Messrs. Hay and Hann's property is covered by insurance, and Mrs. Foale's stock is insured in the Australian Alliance and South Australian Offices for £500 each. Mr. J. M. Solomon, J.P., on Monday, April 19, held an investigation into the cause of the fire. As the Coroner remarked in summing up, the matter is involved in mystery, and it is just possible that the fire might have resulted from the spontaneous combustion of chemicals used by Mr. Duryea in the prosecution of his business. During the course of the proceedings the Coroner several times checked spectators eager to put questions to witnesses, and stated his view of their position. The Jury returned the following verdict :— "That the premises of Townsend Duryea were destroyed by fire, but that there is not sufficient evidence to show what was its origin."