Printed from:

Welcome to Columbia Magazine  

Cyrus / Columbia VFD saved the day- 1948 Brown Drug, Sandusky Fires

  • Remember the Firestone + Brown Drug fire in 1948?
  • The Sandusky Mill fire a little later the same year?
  • Fire training at Meadow Hill Inn probably improved firemen's skills

The Midnight fire at Arnold/Firestone Building at 200 Public Square April 29-30, 2012 a reminder of two fires 64 years ago, one of which occurred in the same location and resulted in the closing for a time of the Firestone Store and of Brown Drug Co. The other was a terrible fire at Sandusky Mill, then one of Columbia's major employers
This story first posted in CM 2006-03-14 05:51:05

By Cyrus

Columbia's volunteer firemen proved their mettle in the late spring of 1948 when two major conflagrations occurred in within 14 days of each other.

The first blaze, reported in the May 26 News, was discovered "between 6:00 and 7:00 Wednesday," May 19th, in the Jones Building & quickly spread to the building next door. Businesses mentioned in the Jones Building (owned by Mrs. G.R. Reed) were the Brown Drug Co., Firestone Store, Reed Bros. Ins., Farm Home Adm. and Dr. B.J. Bolin's office.

Businesses mentioned in the Taylor-Patterson building (owned by Mrs. Herbert Taylor and Mrs. J.F. Patterson) were The Men's Shop, Willis Dress Shop, Whitlock's Shoe Shop and H.B. Jones' law office.
"Loss by fire and water damage is conservatively estimated at $100,000 only partially covered by insurance"

It was also noted that "The volunteer firemen did splendid work or the flames would have spread to the Ingram Building, occupied by the White Cash Market, and doubtless swept the entire southwest corner of the Public Square."
Brown Drug Company, Reed Bros., FHA, had to temporarily move

As a result of the blaze, the Brown Drug Co. temporarily moved to quarters in H.A. Walker's new building; Reed Brothers opened offices in the First National Bank Building; and the Farm Home Administration offices moved to the Heskamp Building on Campbellsville Street. Dr. Bolin's office and the Firestone Store suffered less damage and reopened in a few days.

In the Taylor-Patterson Building, H. Taylor's Men Shop and Hattie Willis' Dress Shop each were closed pending damage estimates from insurance adjustors, while H.O. Whitlock's Shoe Shop and H.B. Jones' law office remained open.

This fire was of such a magnitude that volunteer firemen came from Greensburg and Russell Springs to help, but only one injury was mentioned. Charlie Clift, a Columbia volunteer fireman, suffered painful injuries when the attic floor gave way (he was manning a hose) and "he fell through a hole in the ceiling and rolled down a flight of stairs to the pavement below."

Columbia's second big fire of 1948 was at Sandusky Mill off Campbellsville Street

Columbia's second fire that spring of '48 swept to life around 3:00 a.m. on June 1 or June 2 and a hellsih inferno roared through the Sandusky Mill just off Campbellsville Street.

The June 2, 1948, News reported that "flames of an unknown origin destroyed a large lumber shed filled with lumber, the planing mill building and machinery, kiln and all flooring machinery at the Henry Sandusky Mill." It was further noted that because of extremely high rates, no insurance was carried, and Mr. Sandusky stated the losses might reach as high as $150,000.

The following week, a Card of Thanks appeared in the classified ad section of the News: "I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Columbia Fire Department and to all others who assisted in putting out the fire at my mill last week. /s/ Henry Sandusky."

In a strange twist of fate, these two blazes bookended--of all things--a fireman's school held in Columbia.

The June 2 News also reported that eighteen of Columbia's volunteer firemen attended the five-day school May 24-28, conducted by Capt. V.A. Beam, Chief of the State Fireman's School. Topics included the latest firefighting techniques, proper use of equipment, and methods of control and ventilation. "The evening sessions were held at Meadow Hill Inn through the courtesy of the manager, William L. Walker."

Almost certainly, this just-received training greatly helped the volunteer firemen in their efforts to contain the Sandusky Mill conflagration.

(Does anyone recall seeing either or both of these blazes?)

Your humble Central Ohio Bureau Chief

This story was posted on 2012-04-30 07:51:02
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.

(AD) - Many Reunion organizing efforts are also advertised in our REUNIONS category in our CM Classifeds. These are posted at a very low cost. See RATES & TERMS


Quick Links to Popular Features

Looking for a story or picture?
Try our Photo Archive or our Stories Archive for all the information that's appeared on


Contact us: Columbia Magazine and are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.
Phone: 270.403.0017

Please use our contact page, or send questions about technical issues with this site to All logos and trademarks used on this site are property of their respective owners. All comments remain the property and responsibility of their posters, all articles and photos remain the property of their creators, and all the rest is copyright 1995-Present by Columbia! Magazine and D'Zine, Ltd. Privacy policy: use of this site requires no sharing of information. Voluntarily shared information may be published and made available to the public on this site and/or stored electronically. Anonymous submissions will be subject to additional verification. Cookies are not required to use our site. However, if you have cookies enabled in your web browser, some of our advertisers may use cookies for interest-based advertising across multiple domains. For more information about third-party advertising, visit the NAI web privacy site.