A Village in Ruins

1895 Canaseraga Fire East Along Main St

1895 FIRE. Looking east along Main St. The jagged brick remains are in the Main-S. Church St. corner where the businesses were concentrated.



In a matter of two hours early in the morning on March 28, 1895, the business district and 34 residences in Canaseraga were consumed in one of the most devastating fires ever experienced in Allegany County.

The fire began about 1 a.m., apparently behind Henry Hulbert’s store which was located behind the Union Block and W. Main St. Pushed by fierce winds from the west, at times gusting to near hurricane force, the flames quickly leaped W. Main St. Soon both sides of the street were ablaze. The twin fires then raced each other across the four corners and toward the creek, the one on the south side of Main St. reaching it first. Simultaneously, the inferno expanded in both directions along Church St. It also backed into the wind to engulf Central House which was slightly west of where the Canaseraga Inn now stands. The intense heat and gale winds broke windows in adjacent structures, allowing the blaze to reach the inside of buildings a yet untouched on the outside. The brick walls in the Union Block crumbled. The flames were out of control from the start.

On the south side of Main St. not a building was left standing from the creek to the Central House. On the opposite side of the street, everything was lost between the Edward Mundy house, where the Stanley Teffts now live, and the then Carney house on the corner of River and Main Sts. Along Church St. on the east side the destruction was total from the railroad to, but not including, the James Prendergast shop. That shop was adjacent to the Bluestone Brothers Meat Market which in more recent years was the firehouse. On the other side of Church St. the fire consumed everything from the Shawmut tracks to, but not including, the Bluestone residence at the foot of the hill. There, fire fighters made a stand and contained the blaze. Charred beams are still visible in the back room of the Bluestone home, now occupied by Joyce McGregor.

By daylight only foundations and jagged pillars of brick which had once formed the corners of buildings remained. More than two dozen stores and shops, two hotels, the bank, the Post Office and 34 homes were destroyed. The fierce March winds an the heat currents set up by the inferno carried glowing shingles as far as the Arkport-Dansville Road. The Edgar Boylan barn a half mile from the four corners caught fire and burned. Small fires were ignited in several other places outside Canaseraga.

All that remained in the downtown area were the Prendergast shop, the meat market and Town Hall, a jewelry shop, a blacksmith shop, the cigar factory, a bowling alley and the two depots. Miraculously, no one died in the fire but several people were badly burned. Merchants managed to save very little stock. Most people saved very little beyond some clothing from the dwellings that burned. An estimate made immediately after the fire put the losses at some $215,000.

There had been quite serious fires in the 1870’s, all in the four corners area. Still, the village did not have a public water system when the 1895 fire struck. One was installed that summer when the heart of the village lay in ruins.



Excerpted from Town of Burns - A History, published by the Canaseraga-Town of Burns Sesquicentennial Bicentennial Committee formed September 1975.  Thanks go to Karen Meisenheimer of Fairfax, VA for her diligence & fortitude in preparing the information in useable form, and, Thanks to Town of Burns Historian, Faye Clancy for granting permission for the publication on the website.


1895 Canaseraga Fire Looking East Over Methodist Church


1895 FIRE. Looking east over the original Methodist Episcopal Church on W. Main. What were later the James Craig home and barn are at the extreme right-center.