September 18, 1910: Alger-Smith lumber yard destroyed by fire

On this day in Duluth in 1910 the Alger-Smith Lumber Company on Grassy Point was destroyed by fire. A Duluth firefighter on his way to work at Engine House #8 on Grand Avenue in West Duluth first noticed the blaze at 6:30 a.m. By the time firefighters arrived, according to the Duluth News Tribune, “flames had made great headway and were spreading by leaps and bounds throughout the yard.” Soon after crews from three more engines houses arrive on the scene. A strong northeast wind made firefighting difficult, and they struggled to keep it under control—sparks from one engine started two other small fires, and one of the department’s horses was severely injured. Nearly 4 million feet of lumber as well as 10 million shingles and 4 million lath were destroyed along with trimmings and timber drying. In the end the yard was a total loss, estimated at between $75,000 and $100,000 (roughly $1.9 million to $2.6 million today) and a total of 100 million feet of wood. “The property loss,” the newspaper reported, “is fairly well covered with insurance. Flames had also threatened nearby American Carbolite, Zenith Furnace, and Imperial Iron Works. A railroad bridge to the Virginia-Rainy Lake sawmill was destroyed, and the fire destroyed the roof of a residence. Only one man of the 300 employed by Alger-Smith was on site at the time of the fire, and he escaped as did twenty horses. Unfortunately for barn foreman Joseph Eaton, his 200 chickens had disappeared. He didn’t see evidence they died in the fire, and assumed “people who turned out to see the fire captured them and most likely enjoyed chicken stew for their Sunday dinners.”

Duluth’s Alger-Smith Lumber mill. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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