At four o'clock Thursday afternoon, (July 31) a dense smoke was seen to rise on South Hill. The people of the lower end of town had no difficulty in determining the cause of it, for the could see as plainly as the end of their noses that the smoke came from the top of the old depot building of the D.L.& W. railroad.
Up town people, however, had more difficulty in guessing the origin of the smoke, but it was not long before news came down from the tops of the buildings, that the familiar, bonnet-looking structure which has for decades stood as a high landmark on the southern horizon was fast disappearing.
After awhile an alarm was rung and in less time than it would take to pick a sliver out of your finger, No. 5's boys were snatching their new hose cart up Aurora street. Other apparatus followed but just as 5 crossed the bridge, Foreman Terry knocked their fun into a cocked hat by ordering a halt. It was decided it would be useless to steam up South Hill, for two plain reasons - one, because the building would be burned down before reaching it, and two, because thee is no water up there anyway. So the fire department returned and only boys and reporters buckled to the task of going up.
The fire originated somewhere in the inflammable portion of the building. The first one to discover it seems to be Mr. Kimball, one of the engineers on the road, who was close by when the fire broke out. He had come in with his regular run and had gone back on the hill with an extra to be taken out in the morning.
Just as he left the upper switch he discovered smoke coming out of the roof about midway of the building. he at once blew the whistle and ran down on the lower track far enough to be on the home side of the fire when he stopped and proceeded to the scene of the incipient conflagration. His first object of rescue was the stove in the west part of the building. This was cold and was carried out safely. By this time other help arrived and a large majority of the goods in both parts of the building was rescued. Many household articles, however, burned up, as did also the building entirely.
The occupants were Mr. Merritt Stoddard and James Sullivan, with their families. The former occupied the west end, the latter the east end. Neither family is able to account for the fire. Mr. Sullivan had about 30 hens and chickens burned in an adjoining shed.
The building was put up in December, 1849, and cost about $2,000 then. It was used by the railroad as a depot before the road was constructed down the hill. When the latter work was accomplished, there was no further use for the "old depot", and it has since been occupied by employees of the road.
Mr. Sullivan had occupied his part for five years and Mr. Stoddard his for about two yeas. There was no insurance on the building, for although a strong, well built, and commodious edifice, it was not inventoried by the company. It had withstood the storms of a quarter of a century but on the last day of July, 1873 near night it deceased, it did. Editor's note: Inferring from the article, this depot probably stood below Coddington Road at the E end of top switchback, near the service entrance to Ithaca College.
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Editor: D G Rossiter