John Hornby was a traveling salesman for a button machine shop out of Woonsocket, Rhode Island . Rochester had many garment and button factories back in the day so it makes sense that Mr. Hornsby would be visiting Rochester on business. Unfortunately for him, while walking past the Clemson Hotel at 52 South Avenue , the sidewalk gave out from under his feet, plunging him seven feet into the basement below. But wait, the story gets better…
In all the excitement and commotion of people rushing to the scene to help (or maybe gawk) ANOTHER dude, 18 year old James Kenney, of 73 South Street*, fell in after him!
Both men were badly injured. Poor James seriously injured his spine. They were taken to the Hahnemann Hospital (which would later become Highland Hospital). It’s not completely clear to me if James survived.
But John Hornby apparently did survive, because on June 4, 1903 the Elmira Gazette reported that he hired Attorney Samuel D. Aulls (of Elmira, NY) to represent him in a $25,000 damage suit against the City of Rochester. Hey, it’s only fair.
Even today, sidewalk collapses are not as uncommon as you might think. Here’s a recent one in Springfield MA involving a forklift operator. And in China, leaky pipes have been blamed for several frightening collapses this year. One young girl fell through a sidewalk into a 20-foot deep pit and survived. And not one , but two pedestrians—on two separate occasions—were unexpectedly dropped into scalding water and burned! Holy crap.
All of this leads me to an important question… Which would be a worse way to die? Being dropped into a pit of boiling water? Or being crushed by a falling anvil? Let the debate begin…
*UPDATE: An earlier version of this post had James Kenney’s address as 73 South Ave. It was actually South STREET. South Street became what is today known as St. Mary’s Place (one block east of South Ave). Thanks Bob! You’ve officially become that guy.
Tags: accident, China, James Kenny, John Hornby, old photos, old photos of Rochester, Rochester, Rochester history, Rochester NY, Saint Paul Street, sidewalk accident, sidewalks, South Avenue, this date in Rochester history, Woonsocket RI
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