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Home wasn’t ‘Ruined By Blast’ in ’38

January 21, 2016
Westfield Republican

"Peacock-Pitts Home Ruined By Blast - House Moved Several Inches Off Foundation."

This headline "jumped out" from a January 1938 Westfield Republican front page, during research of the microfilmed newspapers at the Patterson Library for a totally different project. A three-column-wide photo "Courtesy Buffalo Evening News" topped the article, showing the "wreckage" in the dining room, which, with the kitchen, received the brunt of the 8:45 a.m. gas explosion's force. Totally damage was estimated at $10,000 - split about equally between the interior and exterior of the "beautiful fully modern home of Mr. and Mrs. William Pitts, located at Union and McClurg Streets."

Miraculously all of the family, the two parents and four children, who were on the ground floor, escaped injury "when the explosion, originated in a well room in the basement, literally tore the walls out, splintered an expensive piano and tore Persian and oriental rugs up and made kindling wood of their expensive furniture." According to the article, doors were torn from hinges, dishes shattered, pictures crashed from the walls and nearly all windows were broken.

The children, Alice (age 15), Thomas and Connie, twins (age 13), and Catherine (age 12), were preparing to leave for school, having just finished breakfast in the kitchen a few minutes before the blast. Mr. and Mrs. Pitts were on the second floor. The article goes on to say, "The house, a handsome 3-story brick veneer building, built by Postmaster E.N. Skinner in 1924, was so badly wrecked that the family will have to vacate and the building will be torn down. The main floor was bulged, the west wall blown out an the south and east walls so badly bulged that they will have to be torn down." (Apparently this was not the case, as the house still stands in 2016, so local builders must have found a way to repair the damage.)

When the firemen responded to the alarm, they found NO flames, and thought that gas seeping into the walls might have caused the explosion. All gas heating and appliances were found to be in working order. "It is believed that the explosion was caused when surface gas accumulated in the deep water well which served the home and that the escaping gas seeped into the basement and was ignited by the automatic gas heater."



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