Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VI.

OUR DWELLING-HOUSES.

Not long since I was in a splendid modern-built house in one of the cities near Boston. From cellar to attic I was shown how nice, cozy, convenient, elegant, grand, and rich were the different portions of this house, which had been built with the plans of an architect by first-rate carpenters, masons, plumbers, and painters, and filled with the fashionable furniture of the present day, with books, music, and everything which could gratify the most fastidious taste. It had all the modern improvements. And such houses are springing up in all our great towns and cities of our country, every one with all the modern improvements ;' and among those modern improvements there is not one dollar expended to prevent the destruction of these splendid buildings by fire. If the everpresent element of fire — in charge often of the most careless domestics, or from the furnace, fireplace, or stove, the lamp, gas, pipe, match, or cigar

once gets at work and finds its way into the ceiling or partition or stairway, there is room for it to play " hide-and-go-seek” from kitchen to parlor, from cellar to attic, in spite of the shrieks of the family and neighbors, and the yells of the populace, or the earnest, hard work of the fire department, when they arrive too late to be of any service. We then read: “The elegant mansion of

took fire last night, and in spite of the most heroic efforts of the firemen, was totally destroyed. Every effort was made by those who first saw the fire to extinguish it, but it had burnéd its way through into the ceiling (partition or stairway, as the case may be), where it could not be reached, and the smoke soon drove those who were so earnestly engaged out of the house. The loss could not be less than anywhere from twenty to one hundred thousand dollars). We most sincerely sympathize," etc. ; but not one word of wisdom or caution as to the manner of building, or procuring means to prevent the destruction of another when by carelessness or accident it once takes fire.

One thousand dollars expended on that house in filling its partitions, ceilings, and stairways with material which would not burn, and a mere pittance for an axe, buckets, and a couple of pumps, would have saved that house, and would save ninety-nine of every hundred of such buildings from destruction when they take fire, if people would be wise enough to procure them.

FIRE-PROOF DWELLING-HOUSES.

77

FIRE-PROOF DWELLING-HOUSES.

There can be little or no doubt that, with a proper amount of attention to the subject, and a liberal amount of money to commence with, there could be dwellings erected of concrete, cheaper, more durable, warmer in cold, cooler in warm weather, and absolutely fire-proof. Many such are now erected in England, Austria, and other portions of Europe, and a few in this country.

A little of the money we may be called upon for charity, to save from starvation the population of a city destroyed by fire, would bring into use houses which could not be destroyed. Here and there are a few in this country, but some of them are badly made, and some of the material does not "stand the weather,” and they crumble with the frost.

At Vienna, concrete houses are covered with terra-cotta, which preserves them for centuries.

The time will soon come when timber and wood will be too dear for poor people to use. The awful waste of it by fire will soon make it as scarce as it is at Paris. Then Yankee ingenuity will invent dwellings in which there will be no wood, inside or outside! Then a man's house will indeed be his castle, his place of shelter, his ark of safety.

Would that Massachusetts in her wisdom could

see that it would be for her interest to offer premiums for this purpose, so liberal as to insure this great blessing at once to all within her limits. Premiums for horses, mares, colts, bulls, cows, calves, hogs, pigs, sheep, and goats; premiums for apples, pears, plums, peaches, corn, wheat, rye, pumpkins, and squashes; aye, for thousands of other things, all good and proper, and yet all combined are not as important as that the people should live in good, healthy houses, wholly indestructible by fire. I believe it would make people more careful and more provident if they could realize that, once owning a house, it would always be their own, and not subject to the risk of being destroyed at any hour. Fifty thousand dollars given for premiums for this purpose would save millions of dollars worth of the firesides of the people, and the feeling of security would be of more value than untold millions.

A LETTER FROM THE SCULPTOR POWERS.

There appeared lately in the “ Providence Journal," a letter from the sculptor, Mr. Hiram Powers, which I regard as an important testimony on this point, and I give it entire.

FLORENCE, December 2, 1871. MY DEAR SIR:- - Your letter recalls to my mind what I have more than once said to my countrymen, namely,

LETTER FROM HIRAM POWERS.

79

That the day was not distant when one or more of our American cities would be destroyed by fire. I made this prediction to you, I remember, and I am sorry, indeed, that it has been so soon fulfilled. It only requires a combination of circumstances similar to those which existed at Chicago, to lay in ashes any other American city. Let the cold be below zero, with a tempestuous wind and the hour the dead of the night, when all are at rest, and a fire begin in some huge block of buildings full of combustibles, petroleum, etc., and just in the spot to be taken by the wind and swept through the city, and there will be another Chicago disaster. It is true that Chicago was built for a bonfire. Even the roofs were of pitch, I have been told. It was the strong wind, however, which did the business, and will do it again with a combustible city.

And I fear that there is not in America a city which is not combustible. There may

be some fire-proof buildings, but more depends upon their isolation than their structure. The fire at Chicago swept away fire-proofs and all in its way.

But it may be asked, "Is it possible to make a city fire-proof?” I answer, yes ; and without any great extra expense. To prove this, I have only to say that although there have been frequent fires in the city of Florence during the thirty-four years of my residence in it, not one house has been consumed, except a theatre, and that was not entirely destroyed. Rooms, full of goods, have been heated like ovens by ignited calicoes, straw hats, etc., but as the floors above and below were all covered by thin brick tiles, the goods burned without

« ZurückWeiter »