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  • The great Federal Street Rainbow fire of February 1910 in full colour.

Last Updated on October 13, 2021

The great Federal Street Rainbow fire of February 1910 in full colour.

Many Rainbow residents aren't aware that this event took place. After all, it was way back in 1910.

Those that have a reasonable idea, may be a little confused about where the fire actually was, and the damage that had been done. 


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Click on any image below to see it in full size.  

Image 1 - The morning after. 

There was no real idea of the magnitude or value of the damage. The town was in shock for many days, wondering what it really meant to the town and the people living there.

Image 2 - A second image taken from almost the same spot on the same day.

At the top middle of this photo you will see the Rainbow Manufacturing Co. premises in Railway Street. See the sign "Machinery Timber & Iron Yards".  There are four spires. Three are in a group making a triangle and another is further up Railway Street above the main entry to the store. I may do a new page on the "RMC". This is the location of Ron Ismay's business today.

The Argus Melbourne, Vic.

FIRE AT RAINBOW. 4-February 1910

RAINBOW, Saturday. A sensational fire, with disastrous effects, broke out in the premises of A. G. Cust and Co. at half past 10 o'clock last night, and damage estimated at £15,000 was done.

The fire was noticed in the drapery department, but before anything could be done the flames had gained complete mastery of the building, which was razed to the ground in a remarkably short space of time. The office owned and occupied by Mr W.K. Dart was swept before the flames, and Messrs Macdonald and Merrit's fancy goods shop and dwelling were also completely burned. On the eastern side of Cust's building the shops occupied by Messrs Kendall. chemist; W.E. Hill tailor; and the Rainbow Argus office shared the same fate.

Very little of the contents of the buildings were rescued, and what was carried out of the buildings was practically destroyed in transit.

The insurances are:
A. G. Cust, stock and buildings, £6,500 (Royal Company)
W.K. Dart buildings, £443 (Yorkshire Company)
F.S. Kendall £250 (Royal Company)
Rainbow Argus stock and plant,£225 (Royal Company)
W. E. Hill, £60 (Royal Company).

Image 3 - Taken from near the Commonwealth Hotel

This photo is taken from near the Commonwealth Hotel in Federal St, and at the back of the wagon, you can see the Saddlers on the corner of Federal and King St.

It shows firstly the Coffee Palace on the corner of Railway and Federal St, then the Cust buildings, which comprise The Argus, Kendall the Chemist, Cust and Co, Butter factory Lane, and then the Dart buildings which includes McDonald and Merritt.

Image 4 - Top floor of the National Bank.

Taken from the top floor of the National Bank, before the Cust & Dart building's fire in Feb 1910. Shows the older timber buildings between Butter Factory Lane, and Railway St.

Dart buildings were between Butter Factory Lane and the Post Office.

Both completely rebuilt in brick and Cust's buildings sold to Alfred Stevenson in June 1910.

Image 5 - Cust's new 1910 buildings

This is a section of Cust's new 1910 buildings, that were later sold to Stevenson.

Image 6 - Stevenson buildings

And the Stevenson buildings now labelled correctly, in June 1910.

Image 7 - Early Dart buildings.

This the best photo I can find of very early Dart buildings. They are between Butter Factory Lane and the Post Office. Can be seen at the top right of this image. These buildings haven't changed at all since being built in 1910.

Check out the top of the Dart buildings. The shape of the stone work above the top set of windows. Now check the number of the windows from left to right. 2, 4, 4, 3.
Same windows. Same buildings.

Image 8 - The Mecca area May 2021.

This shows the buildings to the left and right of Butter Factory Lane. Which is pretty much all of what was burnt to the ground in February 1910.

Image 9 - Three photos taken at night.

This is a set of images on the State Library of Victoria Website. I don't have a good copy of this item. It shows three photos taken at night, but I have only two of the three in my possession.

Image 10 - Cust's timber buildings on fire that night.

Image 11 - Facade and verandah sections.

Cust's buildings comparison images to show the facade and verandah sections of the site before and during the fire.

Image 12 - The Dart timber buildings on fire the same night.

This photo could well be the moment the fire jumped Butter Factory Lane, and ignited the verandah of the first Dart building, which just happened to be K.W. Dart's office.

Image 13 - The facade and text on the verandah sections.

The Dart buildings comparison images to show the facade and text on the verandah sections of the site before and during the fire.

Image 14 - The facade. more enhanced photo of image 12

Just got a decent photo of image 12. You can see the structure of the building in this one..

There are many reports of various fires in the Rainbow pioneering days.

The big problem was, it is in the days of candles, gas or kerosene-oil lamps, and all of these early buildings were built with timber. After the big fire of Feb-1910, all of the buildings were replaced with brick or stone buildings.

Try and imagine working in a store that had no side or ceiling windows on a gloomy winters day, and the only natural light you had was your store front window. Yes, it would be a little dark towards the rear of the shop, and require some sort of artificial light because there was no town electricity supply.

Sounds like a disaster just waiting to happen. I remember my Grand Parents using kerosene lamps during the evenings at their home.

It was  a blessing when Dawson's started up their 32VDC town supply that not only supplied the businesses and shops, but also the street lights up until 11:00 PM I think it was.

There are many, but here are just some of these early fire reports:

Rainbow Wednesday 8-Nov-1923

SEVERAL SHOPS BURNT. Bank Building Saved.

Here is yet another report of a major Rainbow fire in Federal St. I keep searching and the reports keep coming. You would need to log these fires in the correct date order, and spend a lot time time attempting to put it all together.

In this report, I have very little idea where the businesses mentioned were located in 1923. I do have more pictures of premises not yet featured, so I hope these may throw further light on the subject.

My best guess is that these buildings were between King and Taverner St, possibly on the North side of the street. Most of the other side of King St (to Railway st) has been covered in detail.

Late edit:
Perhaps it means from Frew's corner (King St) to the Commonwealth bank, which is a brick building. All of these could have been weatherboard. Wonder if the bank has a built date on it.

Rainbow Wednesday 8-Nov-1923

SEVERAL SHOPS BURNT. Bank Building Saved.

A disastrous fire occurred in the business portion of the town this morning resulting in the total destruction of a block of weatherboard buildings, and nearly the whole of the contents. The fire broke out in premises occupied by Mr Matthew Walsh fruiterer and confectioner, and the stock in this shop was totally destroyed, including the books Mr Walsh estimates his loss at £1000 

The stock was insured for £500 and the furniture and sleep out for £150. The property of Mr B Gregson, hairdresser, was uninsured but most of his effects were saved Mr W I Hill, tailor and boot and shoe store proprietor estimates his loss at £300 His stock of boots and shoes was insured for £300, his furniture for £100, and his tailoring stock for £100.

Only the energetic work of the fire brigade, assisted by residents, prevented the fire from extending to the Bank of Victoria building, which is divided from Mr Hills shop by a right of way 12ft in width. The bank staff took the precaution of removing the book, other valuables, and the furniture by the back door

All the buildings destroyed were owned by Mr Aubrey Murphy and were insured for £900 Mr Walsh and his family escaped with only a few articles of clothing.

A subscription list opened by the Fathers Association and the Returned Soldiers' Association yielded more than £150

Rainbow Fire 12-Dec-1925 Stables on Fire.

Federal St. Was West butchers on West lane, where the current butcher is. I can only assume the stables ran through to the Commonwealth stables. What you will find even today, is more than half the block of land empty. I mean the blocks between Federal St and Strauss Lane, and the portion at the back of the shops and pubs. Why? Because these were the parking lots of the customers in the days of horse, carts, and bullock teams.

Rainbow Other fire reports.

There are many other reports of fires in Rainbow during these early years. Here are just some of them.

Santa on fire. Rainbow 21 December 1909

Rainbow Argus Saturday 3 January 1914 was the Taverner St fire report.

In a FaceBook Private Group? Then you won't have a share button.

Please share this story with your family and friends so that they can read about the Rainbow Township, its history,  and what it has to offer tourists. 

Thank you very much, Don...

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Last Updated on October 13, 2021

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