Rare Film of 1908 Collinwood School Fire

Submitted by CPL Fine Arts on Thu, 02/28/2008 - 11:11.

The worst school fire in U.S. history occurred on March 4, 1908, when Collinwood’s Lake View School was destroyed in an uncontrollable inferno. Known as the Collinwood School Fire, this disaster shocked the world with its death toll of 172 children and three adults. In preparing an exhibit to commemorate the centennial of the disaster, Cleveland Public Library uncovered a rare silent film of the fire scene and public funeral. These short films are being shown here for the first time in a century. Also included is a short film of the Cleveland Fire Department displaying its equipment in 1900. Cleveland Fire Department provided back-up assistance to the Collinwood Fire Department at the time of the fire and would have used equipment similar to what is seen in this film.

The Collinwood School Fire film was shot as the fire smoldered by twenty-three-year-old William Hubern Bullock, a moving picture operator at the American Amusement Company (716 Superior Avenue, N.E.), who had rushed to the scene of the fire on a streetcar with his motion picture equipment. A week later he was showing the film in the American Theatre until Cleveland Police Chief Fred Kohler, responding to public indignation, "invited" him to cease and desist. The film was discovered in the archives of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division of the Library of Congress in 2008. It is believed that recently discovered footage represents only a portion of what was originally filmed.

William Hubern Bullock was born September 13, 1885, in Patterson, New Jersey, the son of Edith Ayers Bullock and Sam Bullock, both immigrants from England. He died June 23, 1949, at his home at 15610 Pythias Avenue, in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland. He was married to Josephine Bullock (Ca. 1892 - 2 May 1974). They had no children. Bullock was involved in the motion picture business his entire life. He was a projectionist at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland at the time of his death. He was buried at Lake View Cemetery.

The short film of the Cleveland Fire Department displaying its fire equipment was filmed in 1900 at Fire Department Headquarters (located on St. Clair Avenue on the current site of the Justice Center) by pioneering American cameraman G.W. "Billy" Bitzer (1872-1944). Best known as D. W. Griffith’s cameraman, Bitzer worked for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company from its founding in the 1890s and later filmed Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, one of the most influential and controversial films in the history of American cinema. This film was also discovered in the archives of the Library of Congress.

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Thank You!

 I have often passed the memorial inside the Euclid Gate Of Lakeview to those who perished in that fire. I have heard the story of the tragedy too, from my mother.

Thanks, again..............