hen the city of Conroe was less than 10 years old, a devastating fire broke out and destroyed most of the town. However, city leaders did not let the destruction keep the city from prospering.
More than half of the infrastructure in Conroe in the early 1900s was built with wood because it was readily available and a cheaper alternative to brick, said Larry Foerster, Montgomery County Historical Commission chairman. As the city grew, the wooden businesses and residences became crowded along Simonton Street and Chambers Street—which later became North Main Street.
In December 1910, Conroe City Council began to discuss the establishment of a fire ordinance to protect the city. However, on Feb. 21, 1911, at 1:30 a.m., a fire broke out at Capital Drug Store on Chambers Street, Foerster said.
An immediate alarm was sent out to the fire department and city residents as the fire began to grow. When the fire department arrived at the drug store, the water hose was immediately set up, but due to a lack of water pressure, firefighters could not put the fire out, he said.
As wind from the north began to blow, the flames spread to the south and a scene of terror washed over the city of Conroe, Foerster said. Residents tried to salvage their belongings and business inventories before the entire block was eventually engulfed in flames.
“It caused a tremendous economic loss to the major businesses in downtown Conroe,” he said. “Most stores had no insurance so they did not have the opportunity to be reimbursed for the losses.”
The fire caused $150,000 in damage and included the loss of 65 restaurants, stores, offices and family homes. Foerster said no casualties were suffered during the fire. Within a short time, however, citizens were clearing away the rubble.
Coincidentally, the council had a regulatory meeting scheduled for the day following the fire where members continued discussing a fire ordinance, and on Feb. 23, 1911, Conroe’s first fire ordinance was put into place.
The decree required all buildings be built with a fireproof cladding material, such as tin, sheet iron, zinc and other noncombustible materials. Shortly after, the council amended the ordinance to require that buildings be built with brick or stone, Foerster said.
“It changed the entire appearance of the downtown area,” Foerster said.
One of the first businesses to reopen was a restaurant called The Phoenix, he said. Within a few days of the fire, the couple who owned the restaurant was back in business using tents built on wood floors.
“It showed the resilience of the people of Conroe during that time and how they could bounce back from such a disaster,” Foerster said.