Isidore Davis, a tenement resident who ran a wine-making business also in the basement, was returning home at about 3:45 a.m. when he saw flames coming from a funnel in the restaurant’s sink.
Within 10 minutes, engines and a hook and ladder company were on the scene. But already the fire had spread to every floor of the building.
“Men, women, and children were on the fire escapes screaming,” a newspaper wrote. “Quickly the hook and ladder companies extended ladders to the escapes in the rear and front of the building.”
After wind gusts fueled the flames, some of the 150 residents began to jump. “Persons crowding on the fire escapes dropped like flies or plunged into the arms of the waiting firemen.”
Fires in crowded, unsanitary tenements weren’t rare in 1905. But the heavy death toll made the Allen Street fire front page news.
“The great loss of life in what was merely a two-alarm fire is ascribed by firemen to the fact that escapes were blocked with boxes and rubbish, while nearly every opening to allow a free passage from one escape to the other was boarded over,” the Times wrote.
After an investigation, the Tenement House Department ended up taking the blame. Inspectors reportedly didn’t keep 105 Allen Street’s fire escapes clear and the roof skylight unlocked.
The head of the department, however, insisted his men did the best they could, but after every inspection, residents would lock the roof and clutter up the escapes once again.
[Lower left: 105 Allen Street today]