Silver Bay in 1908 — Auditorium fire

Fire destroyed the one-year-old auditorium at Silver Bay Association on July 1, 1908, a day before the opening of the annual Young Women’s Christian Association conference.

“The fire started in the rear end of the building and was discovered about ten o’clock,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported. “The resort has a good fire department with a good supply of water from the reservoir on the hill back of the hotel, and in a few moments all hands were on deck.”

But it would not distract from the inspirational momentum that today still permeates Silver Bay, a YMCA retreat and conference center on Lake George.

Henrietta Silcott, a delegate of the Indoor-Outdoor YWCA Club of Washington, D.C., felt a sense of calling to humanitarian work in the Appalachians when she listened to R.M. Cring of the Presbyterian Home Missions board speak at the 1908 conference.

“She felt this was a work she could do,” the Evening Star of Washington, D.C. reported on Sept. 16, 1908.

In the fall, Silcott enrolled at Asheville Normal Collegiate Institute in North Carolina, a school that specialized in educating humanitarian workers to assist the Appalachian region.

“Some persons here (in Washington) interested in her secured for her the Church of the Covenant scholarship for the above school, and last night she left to take up her selected work.”

Silcott and 16 others from the Washington delegation were among about 250 overnight guests evacuated from the Inn, next to the auditorium, when the fire broke out.

“Clerks and bellboys were sent hurrying through the halls to arouse those who were asleep,” the New York Tribune reported. “The glare of the flames flashed through the windows, and many feared that the hotel was on fire.”

The fire did not damage the Inn.

Supporters of Silver Bay immediately made unsolicited contributions to rebuild the auditorium, using the same construction plan.

One contributor gave $5,000 — the equivalent of $140,280 in 2020 dollars.

Silcott and her colleagues from Washington contributed “a sum of money” for rebuilding.

A three-year-old girl traveling with the delegation presented the collection to Silver Bay officials. who were confident that contributions and insurance payments would be sufficient to immediately rebuild.

Decades later The Post-Star of Glens Falls would tell how the bell was salvaged from the burned auditorium and re-used in the new structure.

Some said the bell had a better tone after it was tempered by fire.

“More than one sermon has been inspired by the bell in the tower, tested and found to have a tone superior to that before the fire.”

Sources: Ticonderoga Sentinel July 2, 9, 1908; The Morning Star, Glens Falls, July 10, 1908; New York Tribune July 2, 1908; The Evening Star, Washington, D.C. July 18, 29, Sept. 16, 1908; The Post-Star Aug. 18, 1970

Click here to read my most recent previous Silver Bay history post.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY