The Collingwood fire of 1904

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Collingwood, once a booming gold town and, as Gibbstown, mooted as the nation's capital in the 1850's, was virtually destroyed by fire in 1904.

November 7, 1904, was a bleak day for the residents of Collingwood township. 

Collingwood fire, 1904, Nelson Provincial Museum Tyree Studio Collection: 177092
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Little was left of the town after a disastrous fire swept through the heart of the settlement in the early hours of the morning. A strong Westerly wind aided the flames' journey as they leapt from Stallard's bakehouse to Rait's general store and the two adjoining houses of Mr G. H. Allan and Stallard's boarding house. The fire then spread across the street to the Post Office, Cottien's boot shop and on to Pinkerton's Hotel. Twenty businesses were destroyed that night and it was only the hard work of a large number of volunteers that prevented dwellings near the beach being added to the building loss.

The fire was bad enough, but residents, who had worked through the night trying to save their property, were dealt another blow when teeming rain started just after 3am. With nowhere to immediately store their salvaged possessions it must have been heartbreaking to now find that water was the cause of further damage to their precious belongings.

As word of the disaster spread willing helpers arrived from Bainham, Rockville and Ferntown to lend a hand. Mr J C Burford, owner of the S.S. Lady Barkly, offered to take any large items from Nelson to Collingwood free of charge, and in Takaka and Nelson relief funds were established.

This story was first published in the Nelson Provincial Museum e-newsletter, 1ssue 27, May 2011

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  • There is no evidence for claims of a significant fire in Collingwood in 1859. The lack of evidence for an 1859 fire is the subject of a section of my article "Collingwood Fires, 1857 to 2004" in the Nelson Historical Society Journal (v.6 no.6, 2008, p. 32-39). (The journal can be accessed from The Prow home page in digital format.) . Ed. Thank you. This has been amended and your article referenced.

    Posted by Penny Griffith, ()

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