Old St. Andrews



Fires in St. Andrews



In the days before automobiles, when most households and businesses were equipped with barns and stables full of hay, and when the ordinary means of lighting and heating was with fire of one sort of another, and before the advent of running water, fires were such a common occurance that sometimes it seemed as though St. Andrews was visited by one every week. Some were of major virulence, such as the fire which gutted a large part of Market Square in August of 1856 and left large gaps in the downtown which were not fulled in for years. Hotels seem to have been especially vulnerable. The Railroad Hotel in 1874, Kennedy's Hotel in 1879, the American House in 1883, the Argyll in 1892, the Algonquin in 1914--all were destroyed by fire. In those pre-running water days, fire tanks were required to be located throughout the town. These seem mostly to have been underground reservoirs. In one year it was noted that there were 22 of them. Reviewing the old newspaper accounts of these fires, it is interesting to see the Town turning out en masse to form bucket brigades, and how every now and then some citizen, sometimes even a child, could distinguish themselves in this community effort. Of course there were fire companies. The newspaper excerpts show the evolution of the fire machine from the the hand-pumper to the steam engine and finally to the gasoline powered versions. An important step in fire prevention was the acquisition of water from Chamcook Lake via the CPR's main line to the Algonquin Hotel. This saga is explored in my book on the Algonquin. The Town long recognized the need to a waterline from the Lake, but never had sufficient resources to build it. With the arrival of the St. Andrews Land Company in 1888, great hopes were renewed that such a project could be finished at last, as the Company announced that as a part of its model cottage development at Indian Point, it would supply it and the Town with both electricity and running water. But the Chamcook Water Company never got off the ground. It was left to the CPR and the final exhaustion of its artesian well system to bring water to the hotel, and for the Town to negotiate a connection at its line. But this took many years and much acrimony to finally complete the deal. Not until 1921, more than 30 years after the incorporation of the Chamcook Water Company, was the Town able to turn from bucket to faucet.