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Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899

Addendum: Port Washington Star: Port Washington, Wisconsin Saturday February 17, 1900,   p. 81

Page 81

A year ago, on Sunday February 19th, 1899, occurred the great Port Washington
fire. The Wisconsin Chair Company's factory, one of the largest in the world, was burned
to ashes, together with several blocks of business houses and residences, docks, and other
Six hundred workmen were thrown out of employment in the dead of winter,
many of them homeless. Stagnation seized every business enterprise. The city's hopes
and prospects had been blasted in a night. Desolation and ruin seemed the only prospect
in store for the people.
But, stricken and almost hopeless as they were, no supplicating voice was raised
for outside hope by the people of Port Washington. Then, as ever before and since, they
relied upon their own resources. The city took care of its own needy ones. Situations
were obtained elsewhere for hundreds, and they were sent away.
Dazed for a week by the great blow and loss that had come upon them, no effort
was made towards rebuilding the town. Then came a proposition from the Chair
Company, asking a $25,000 bonus and a side track. The Northwestern road would build
the side track---if the city paid the right of way.
The common council held a meeting and called in many of the leading citizens. A
start was attempted on the bonus. G. Biedermann & Co. gave $1,500. The Gilson Mfg.
Co. gave $1,000, The Boemer Bros. gave $1,000. Others gave smaller sums. Week after
week went by. Many public meetings were held. Finally the bonus was raised.
The right of way for the side track was equally hard to secure. Weeks of valuable
time were consumed before success rewarded the efforts.
But success---ever the reward of industrious and intelligent effort---at last was
Many busy workmen were engaged throughout the summer and fall in rebuilding
the burned district and the mile spur from the main line of the Northwestern railroad.
Before the year ended all was finished.
The factory has been running for the past two or three months. It is bigger and
better than ever. A fine new line of chairs are being produced. Traveling salesmen are in
all parts of the country, and orders in plenty are coming in. The success of the company
and the prosperity of the city is assured.

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