Visual Newspaper

The Burning of Durland’s Riding Academy
R: Edwin S. Porter. K: James Blair Smith. Edison Manufacturing Co. 1902

“On a February afternoon in 1902, a blaze of suspicious origin enveloped Durland’s Riding Academy, a condemned equestrian center adjacent to Central Park on Columbus Circle. Men in top hats watched and horse-drawn carriages drove by as firemen hosed off the burning building. The scene was captured by Thomas Edison’s film production company (…). It may not be the first architectural disaster film shot in New York, but it is surely among the earliest.”
Mark Lamster
Design Observer

“(…)firefighters were popular figures at the time, and we’ve seen them in a number of films, but this is the earliest example so far of them actually fighting a fire. It’s pretty much newsreel footage, nothing seems to have been faked, and the camera shows us what it can of the situation. We’ve moved into an era when Edison camera operators are comfortable with pans, and do them without much planning or preparation, to get as broad a view of the scene as possible. Durland’s Riding Academy was in Manhattan, where the Edison Studios were now headquartered, and the camera was mobile enough to get to the scene in time to get footage of the fire in progress. No doubt this fire was still in the news when this movie was being shown, and people were excited to be able to “see” the news as well as read about it.”
Century Film Project

Cleveland Fire Department
K: Billy Bitzer. P: Biograph Company. USA 1903