Saturday, November 19, 2011

Many Valuable Papers Saved at the Capitol.

March 31, 1911, New-York Tribune, Page 3, MANY VALUABLE PAPERS SAVED AT THE CAPITOL,


(Photograph by the American Press Association)

Commissioner Draper Gives Out List of Priceless Historical Documents Recovered.


Abbott's Body Not Found -- Bayne Accuses Firemen of Inefficiency -- Assembly and Judiciary Records Gone.

(By Telegraph to The Tribune.)

Albany, March 30.--With the firemen still pouring tons of water into the smouldering ruins of the broad western section of the Capitol building to-night, the whole imposing front of the great structure was brilliantly lighted, an effect which dispelled, in a large measure, the gloom which hung over Capitol Hill the night before. Hundreds of workmen were employed in cleaning up the debris in the fireswept rooms where the floors had held and were not dangerous to work on. They threw the blackened and charred remnants of thousands of volumes from the Senate law library in shovelfuls out of the gaping windows. The yard and streets adjoining the western end of the Capitol were covered with the white remnants of documents and book leaves.

A more thorough examination to-day of the sections of the building in the fire zone by State Architect Ware and his corps of assistants found many of the inside walls in danger of falling, and the order went out to the workmen not to venture into the main section of the west wing where the state library was located and the roof had fallen in. There was also danger, it was said, of parts of the outside walls on the northwest corner falling. The police lines were extended and pedestrians not allowed to pass on that side of the building through State street. The massive tower on that corner of the structure crumbled and fell during the fire. The families occupying houses in State street opposite the Capitol were not allowed to reenter their homes.

A score of employes of the State Educational Department were rewarded in their explorations to-day of the outlying galleries of the great state library, where some of the many state archives and priceless historical documents were found to be intact.

Dr. Draper Greatly Pleased.

Dr, Andrew S. Draper, Commissioner of Education, was highly pleased over the rescue of even a small portion of these irreplaceable records. He was hopeful that other books and records would be found in a fair state of preservation as the search was continued. Twenty-three volumes of the documentary records of the War of 1812, which had an inestimable historical value, were recovered practically unharmed. Fifty volumes of the Stevens set of facsimiles of English papers, bearing on the history of relations of the colonies and England, were also recovered.

But the great bulk of books and documents stored in the library were destroyed.

Dr. Draper gave out a complete list of the articles and manuscripts which were saved in this way. They include many valuable New York State documents of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The various constitutions of the State of New York, beginning with that of 1777, were among them. There were also the autographs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in a bound volume; the famous Major Andre papers., Washington's opinion of the surviving generals of the Revolution, written in the winter of 1791-92, various other Washington documents, and the invaluable Van Rensselaer papers.

The perilous condition of the Capitol ruins makes systematic search for the body of Samuel J. Abbott, the veteran night watchman of the State Library, who was lost in the fire, impossible. Mr. Abbott's son, who, with his sister, came here from West Newton, Mass., led the search to-day with several workmen who have been assigned to him for that purpose by Governor Dix. They dug all day on the edge of the pile of stone and twisted iron which fell to the third floor with the roof over the State Library. It is thought that Abbott was first suffocated by the smoke near his desk in the library and then buried there under the falling stone and iron. The searchers had to proceed cautiously on account of the danger of weakened floors and walls where they worked. No trace of the body had been found to-night.

Plans for Restoration.

With the various state departments, whose offices in the Capitol were rendered useless by the fire, fairly well settled to-day in new and temporary quarters, the wheels began to move in the direction of plans for the restoration of the damaged part of the building. An emergency appropriation bill for $100,000 for immediate repairs for the building and the tearing down of such walls as are in a dangerous condition, was introduced in both houses of the Legislature. The bills will be reported favorably by the Finance committees of the two houses, and will pass without delay. The State Trustees of Public Buildings, who are empowered to expend the appropriation, met this afternoon to consider the most pressing needs for which the money can be used.

Many suggestions by legislators and others as to what the state may do relative to rebuilding the burned portions of the Capitol are being made. Some believe that the state should acquire all the property as far west as Swan street, a block beyond the present Capitol grounds, and extend the Capitol to the present western limits of the park. They point out that the state departments are constantly spreading out and taking more room in adjacent buildings, and that even after the new Education Building is completed and occupied it will be found that the Capitol will be too small to accommodate all the requirements of the state departments.

State Architect Ware isn't concerned with these various suggestions, but is going ahead with immediate plans to remedy the present condition of the building. It was said that probably the building itself could be restored to its original condition at a cost of about $4,000,000. This is somewhat under the estimate made by the State Architect yesterday, before he and his men had an opportunity to make a more careful examination of conditions.

It is said that an appropriation of this size would practically wipe out the estimated surplus remaining in the State Treasury at the end of the present fiscal year. The state cannot bond itself for this rebuilding, and the money must be taken directly from the treasury.

State Architect's Statement.

The following statement was given out to-night on behalf of Mr. Ware as a result of to-day's examination of the burned portions of the Capitol.

The exterior walls of the pavilions on the northwest and southwest corners and the westerly gables appear to be plumb. Some of the interior walls of the library are in a very dangerous condition and should be shored up immediately. The dormers on the southwesterly pavilion are also in a dangerous condition and will require immediate shoring or tearing down. The State Architect gave instructions to the Superintendent of Buildings to keep all cellar drains and manholes open so as to afford easy outlet for the tons of water which are being poured into the building. All of this water is being taken off by the sewers, and, , so far as it can be ascertained, none of it can affect the foundations.

Examination of the Assembly ceiling made by the State Architect this morning shows that the westerly portion of it has been badly damaged by fire and water. The damage affects primarily the panels between the beams, which can be taken out and replaced, although in a few instances the beams themselves will have to be renewed.

The State Architect conferred with William Church Osborn, the Governor's counsel, regarding suitable steps to be taken by the trustees of public buildings to shore up the unsafe portions of the building, remove valuable furniture, manuscripts, etc., of the various state departments that have not been damaged, remove the rubbish and close off the damaged portion of the building pending the preparation of plans for reconstruction.

Governor Dix was at the Capitol early to-day and spent several hours at his office. He conferred with State Architect Ware and other state officials. The Governor, it was said, expressed the wish for an early investigation or inquiry into the causes which led up to the great destruction done by the fire. Senator Howard R. Bayne, of Richmond County, suggested on the floor of the Senate, when it met in the City Hall to-day, that the majority leader of the upper house should take steps to institute an investigation of the fire by the Legislature.

Senator Bayne, who was on the scene of the fire early and joined with the firemen in fighting the flames inside the Capitol, said to-day that the local fire department showed a serious inefficiency in handling the fire. They appeared to be utterly unable, with the equipment they had and from a lack of experience, to cope with a sizable fire like that at the Capitol.

Senator Bayne asserted that it was some time before other firemen appeared on the scene. They found that the hose was too short to reach the vital points of the fire after they got it in the building, he said.

Several of the state officials declared to-day that a rigid investigation should be made forthwith in order to provide better means for fire protection at the Capitol in the future. The Secretary of State, Mr. Lazansky, advocated the erection of a fire-proof vault in which to keep valuable documents. He suggested also the creation of a separate fire department to guard the Capitol against fire.

The destruction of the records of the Judiciary Committee of the Assembly will delay legislation more seriously than was at first realized. This committee had many of the most important bills introduced at the present session, including the direct nominations and women suffrage measures and all constitutional amendments. The committee will now have to consult each member of the Senate and Assembly to get a record of their bills before it, and it has no way of learning the objections to bills or of requests for hearings from outside organizations unless these organizations again communicate their requests and objections to the chairman of the committee. It may take two or three months to do all this, it was said.

The loss of the Assembly library will not handicap the lower legislative house to any great extent, since the files of bills can be replaced from the duplicates kept in the Senate library, which escaped unscathed. This applies only to the bills of the current session. The files covering the legislation of the last twenty years were kept on the Assembly side and were destroyed.

Elmer Blair, who was Deputy State Superintendent of Public Buildings until last February, gave out a statement declaring that his department had called attention to the inadequate wiring of the building in several of its annual reports, but that an appropriation for rewiring had been steadily denied.

"The electric wiring in the Capitol was installed years ago," said Mr. Blair, "and is out of date. I do not believe there is an insurance company in the country that would have taken insurance on a building wired as the Capitol was."

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