The Shawano Fire Of April 22, 1890

Published May 10, 2024

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Fire on Main Street in Shawano
April 22, 1890

Imagine having a business in downtown Shawano before the sewer and water infrastructure was implemented in 1904.

With buildings in the city center being constructed of wood, a fire could result in catastrophic consequences as the fire could spread rapidly from one structure to the next. The only defense might be Shawano’s fire department using a pump mounted on a wagon.

On April 22, 1890, a fire broke out in the Jennings Hotel on Main Street at 6am. Built in 1874 and predating the Murdock House, the Jennings Hotel was the premier hotel in Shawano. Each night there could be 50-100 people staying at the hotel.

Our only photo of the hotel is shown below. The hotel was located on the west side of south 100 block of Main Street to the north of the Upham & Russell building which was on the corner of Division and Main Street.  The fire quickly spread out of control and took out five business; the Jennings Hotel, Carroll’s Saloon, Garbrecht’s tailor shop, Mackway & Leffler’s machinery warehouse, and Boehn’s Saloon. Total loss was estimated at $17,000 of which insurance covered $5,000. Newspapers in Green Bay, Oshkosh, Reedsburg, and Madison covered the fire.

The history of the Jennings ended that day as the hotel wasn’t rebuilt but this catastrophe opened an opportunity to build many of the buildings we have on Main Street today in that area of the south 100 block including, the Schweer’s Hardware Store.