From the Historian: Photo reveals details of 1916 Fairport blaze

Bill Poray

On Sunday, July 16, 1916, a fire broke out at the York State Fruit Company plant at the corner of North Main and John Street, today known as Lift Bridge Lane. 

According to the Monroe County Mail, "the fire started back of a row of paint barrels lying on the ground north of the company's generator building on John Street. It is supposed that there was a slight leakage of paint into the dry grass and that a passenger in a trolley car may have thrown a lighted match or cigar stub into the street back of the barrels.”

A photo from the scene of the York State Fruit Company fire on July 16, 1916.

There is a lot to see in this great photograph, from the archives of the Perinton Historical Society. The view is looking south on North Main Street. A fire truck loaded with hose is visible on this side of the lift bridge and hoses are visible lying in the street. The fire is a bit east along John Street and out of view of this image.

The old Cottage Hotel, lost to fire in 1968, is at the far left, with John Street, and on the other side of the street, the York State Fruit Company buildings. This is the location of the Box Factory building complex today. The Main Street lift bridge was just two years in existence when this photo was taken. The Town Hall, with cupola, is visible behind the bridge. In the early years, it housed both village and town offices. The building was just nine years old in this photo.

In the foreground is an early gasoline pump. In those days, refueling the family auto was typically done at curbside, as seen here. The large vehicle in the center of the image is a bus, which I suspect was used to bring Penfield firefighters to assist in putting out the blaze. At the far right, a vendor's wagon advertises "Corn Popped in Butter" on its canvas awning. Behind it is the porch of the Fairport Hotel, known as the Millstone Block for the last century or so, and still in existence.

Before the York State Fruit Company blaze, the same site had been devastated by fire in 1893. The DeLand Company's factory was virtually destroyed by an enormous blaze.

Bill Poray serves as historian for the town of Perinton.