Friday, 24 July 2015

1884-01-29oo Tenement Roof Collapse

“There was a terrible crash on Napier street on Tuesday between 9 and 10 o’clock, caused by the accumulation of snow on the roofs of the frame tenement houses, Nos. 33, 35, 37 and 39, which broke the rafters and let the mass down upon the inmates.”

          Hamilton Weekly Times.   January 31, 1884.

          There had been a lot snowfall throughout the month of January, 1884. Finally on January 29, the load of snow which had piled on the roof of four adjoining tenement houses on the north side of Napier street, just west of Bay street, proved too much.

          A reporter for the Hamilton Times provided a full account of the effects of the incident on the residents, starting with no. 133 :

“It seems that the first crash took place at No. 133, occupied by Mr. Richard Bulton, laborer. Mrs. Boulton told the reporter that she and her husband were at the stove in the kitchen, preparing to go to bed, when the ceilings of the front rooms came down with a crash

“Two of the younger children were in bed (in the room off the kitchen); the eldest girl was sitting up. None of them were hurt, although the shock was terrible. They ran screaming from the house.

“It is certainly fortunate that the Boltons were in the kitchen at the time of the disaster; ten minutes later, they would have been in the bedrooms, and if the roof had fallen in then, they could not have escaped instant death.”1

                 1    “Four Tenement Houses : Have Their Roofs Smashed in By the Snow Narrow Escape of the Inmates.”

Hamilton Weekly Times.   January 31, 1884.

At the address next door to the Boltons, there were seven members of the Burns family at home:

“Mr. Jospeh Burns is an invalid through rheumatism. He with his wife and five children were in bed when the cave-in occurred. It happened almost immediately after that at the adjoining house.

“The eldest girl was in the front room, reading at the time, and her escape was a most miraculous one. One of the heavy beams fell across the bed where Mr. and Mrs. Burns were lying. He escaped, but she received an awful blow on the shoulder. Their little daughter, Margaret, received a nasty cut on the left eye from one of the falling timbers.

“The Burns are in destitute circumstances. Mrs. Burns said to the reporter : ‘Oh, sir, we have no home, no shelter, no victuals, and, as you see, we are out in the snow.’

“This is certainly a case which is deserving of attention on the part of the charitably disposed.”1

The stories of the families at # 137 and # 139 were similar to those of their neighbors. No one was hurt in either home although Mrs. John Abbey of Toronto, who was visiting her father was somewhat shook up :

“She went into convulsions, through fear, and her life for a time was despaired  of. She is, however, much better today.”1

The next morning, following the roof collapse, there were many who came to look at the damage.

The Times reporter noted that, while quite a number of people were present, there was little practical assistance provided :

“Throughout the forenoon scores of citizens gathered at the shattered tenements, and offered consolations but very little substantial aid was tendered to the sufferers who had been so suddenly deprived of a place to lay their heads on.

“All these people are in very poor circumstances; let those who doubt go and see.

“The Times reporter saw in No. 129 a kind-hearted poor person cooking her last two links of sausage and a couple of potatoes to satisfy the cravings of the homeless children.”!




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