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March 10, 2013

Ferocious fires in Malone history

Fire burning out of control in any situation most probably means heartache and pain for someone.

When fire destroys whole blocks of buildings, especially in small communities, it can be crippling.

Many North Country towns have experienced the pain of fire threatening their places of commerce, socialization and stability. Malone is no different.

While absent landlords and lack of building upkeep have certainly altered Malone’s downtown, the village has also seen more than its share of destructive fires.

The town now known as Malone was carved out of the Town of Chateaugay on March 2, 1805. Its first name was Harison, then Ezraville, and finally, in 1812, Malone.

In the mid to late 1800s and again in the 1900s, fire destroyed a number of hotels and businesses in the community.

Frederick Seaver, author of “Historical Sketches of Franklin County” (1918), includes five pages of notable fires that destroyed homes, churches and businesses in Malone.

Franklin Academy, the community’s first state-chartered school, partly burned in 1835, grieving a village that held great pride for this place of education.

A brick building replaced the first school, but on Christmas Eve 1880, the academy was destroyed by fire again, mostly due to lack of water.

WEATHER PROBLEMS

Many beautiful Victorian homes have disappeared from Malone’s landscape, falling victim to fire.

According to Seaver, on March 27 1847, William King’s home, at the corner of Main and Pearl streets, ended up being a total loss due to “the greatest snowstorm ever known in Malone … snow lay four feet deep … so that the engine could not be brought to the grounds, no water hauled from the river.”

The Elmwood Hotel then replaced King’s home, eventually being sold and renamed the Olympic Hotel. A fire started there Feb. 11, 1899, when most of the help was serving a banquet at the armory, just up the street.

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