Village of Lee Center Town of Lee, Oneida County, New York
Town Of Lee, Oneida County, New York Village of Lee Center

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Large Store and Dwelling Destroyed by Fire
Roman Sentinel, May 21, 1915

Lee Center was visited on Thursday night by the most disastrous fire this town ever experienced. The large two-story frame store owned and conducted by Willard D. Ingalls, and an adjoining dwelling, also owned by him, which of late had been used for storage purposes, together with all the contents of the buildings, were burned. Where a prosperous general merchandising business has been conducted for many years, today there was only a pile of smoldering ashes.

The Methodist Church across the street and a barn owned by Mr. Ingalls were saved by the use of chemicals thrown on the structure.

Mr. Ingalls’s loss is between $10,000 and $14,000, on which there is an insurance of $7,000 to $8,000. The March inventory of the stock in the sore amounted to nearly $8,000. There was about that amount of stock on hand at the time of the fire. The store was valued at $2,000 and the storage building was worth nearly $1,000 more. As soon as the debris can be cleared away and various business matters adjusted, Mr. Ingalls will build a handsome new two-story frame building and will resume business. The new store will be larger than the old one.

Mr. Ingalls left the store about 10 o’clock on Thursday night. It was nearly 11:30 when William Adkins, who also runs a store in Lee Center, discovered that the Ingalls property was on fire. About the same time David French looked from his house and saw the fire. He ran to the church and rang the bell for some time. It was the ringing of the bell that awakened Mr. Ingalls and he looked out to see the side of his store eight rods away, in flames.

By the time the fire was discovered nothing could be saved, as the flames were shooting out from all sides. A bucket brigade was formed and with assistance fire extinguishers furnished by Dr. Cox and others, nearby buildings were saved. Hard work alone saved the church and even then it might have gone were it not for the fact that metal roofs on the burning buildings held down the flames and sparks. By 5 o’clock this morning the fire had practically spent itself and Mr. Ingalls’s fine property was in ruins.

The burning buildings attracted a great crowd, many going there on motorcycles, and in automobiles from this city. Taberg and all the nearby places, while practically every person in Lee Center that could walk was at the town’s biggest fire. Everyone wanted to help and it was that spirit that prevented a greater loss. As it was the paint on the Methodist Church was practically ruined by the being blistered from the intense heat.

Mr. Ingalls is at a loss to know how the fire started by it is believed that it must have caught from the stove. Before he left the store for the night he carefully fixed the fire and can not understand how any harm could have come from that source, yet that is the only fire known to have been in or near the building, with the exception of the big lamps which he extinguished before he left.

The two other biggest fires of Lee were the big hotel and the store at Stokes. The hotel burned 15 to 18 years ago and the store 25 to 30 years ago. The store was owned and conducted by the father of Henry Stokes, who died about a year ago.

The photo below appeared in the Utica Globe in 1910 (for an unrelated article) and shows the Ingalls Store with the M E Church on the right, insert is barn behind building.

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