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    Question a question

    anybody tell me what a first in crew would be facing if they came across a "collier's mansion condition"? Read this in a Firehouse story, and have not heard it before, and can find no refernce to it anywhere. Got any ideas???

    CobraFD

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    A Colliers Mansion is a Dwelling (Private Dwelling, Apartment etc.) That is filled with filth, Trash and General Refuse. It is common to find hermits and Junk Collectors with these conditions in thier places of residence.
    The term was coined after two brothers who came from a wealthy family in Harlem (Harlem was a wealthy neighborhood in the Late 1880s to early 1900s) Inherited the Brownstone from their parents. They were recluces. One of the Brothers was blind and the other cared for him. Only leaving at night the brother would leave to gather only essentials and return home.
    Well Since both of the Colliers Brothers were very suspicious of the outside world the one who left created booby traps in the pathways created by reams of papers and Trash.
    This is where my memory gets fuzzy.. but the one could see died in the house somewhere and the blind one started to wander around the house. Well he fell into one of the booby traps and starved to death while stuck in the pile of trash.
    The firemen had to access the second floor via ladders to make entry because there was so much trash inside.
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    what a first in crew would be facing if they came across a "collier's mansion condition"?
    1. A entry door that only opens about 12 inches.
    2. A heavy fire-load and very limited aisle space to move.
    3. Combustibles stacked to near ceiling level.
    4. Maze-like conditions.
    5. Severe collapse potential, (limited or complete)
    6. Lines being buried by falling debris.
    7. Severely delayed searches.
    8. Lots of Roaches

    The history:
    On March 21, 1947, the 122nd Street police station in New York City received a call from a man claiming that there was a dead body at 2078 Fifth Street Avenue.

    The police knew the house, a decaying three-story brownstone in a run-down part of Harlem, and its inhabitants, Langley and Homer Collyer, two eccentric recluses.

    No one could recall having seen Homer for years. There were even rumors that his dead body was in the house. Langley was seen only when he went out on furtive sorties, usually after midnight. He earned himself the nickname of "the ghostly man." The day after the call, patrolman William Barker broke into the second-floor bedroom. What he found there took his breath away.

    The room was filled from floor to ceiling with objects of every shape, size and kind. It took him several hours to cross the few feet to where the dead body of Homer lay, shrouded in an ancient check bathrobe. The autopsy revealed that Homer had not eaten for several days and had died of a heart attack. There was no sign of Langley, and the authorities immediately began to search for him. It took 3 weeks to shift through the estimated 136 tons of junk with which the house was filled. The bizarre collection of objects included 14 grand pianos, two organs, and a clavichord; human medical specimens preserved in a glass jars; the chassis of a Model-T Ford; a library of thousands of medical and engineering books; an armory of weapons; the top of a carriage; 6 U.S. flags and one Union Jack; a primitive X-Ray machine; and 34 bank deposit books with the balance totaling $3,007.18.

    Gradually the story of the Hermits of Harlem unfolded, and the presence of some of the contents of the house began to be explained. Homer Lusk Collyer and Langley Collyer were born in 1881 and 1885 respectively. Their father, Dr. Herman L. Collyer, was an eminent gynecologist and their mother, Susie Gage Frost Collyer, a well-born lady noted for her musical abilities. The family set up home at 2078 Fifth Avenue in then-fashionable Harlem. But around 1909 Herman left. When he died in 1923, all the furniture, medical equipment, and books that he had collected over the years were taken back to Fifth Avenue and crammed into his wife's house. Langley had been trained as an engineer; Homer became a lawyer. Both were eccentric in innocuous ways - increasingly so when left to fend for themselves after their mother's death in 1929. Langley apparently never had a job, but was always tinkering with inventions, such as one for vacuuming the insides of pianos, and attempting to make the Model-T engine run via electricity. In the 1930's Homer became blind, crippled with rheumatism, and progressively paralyzed. Langley devoted the rest of his life to caring for him.

    Distrustful of doctors, but with access to his father's extensive medical library, Langley devised odd "cures" for his brother's illness, subjecting him to regimes as a diet of 100 oranges a week, black bread, and peanut butter. The house was already cluttered with the content of two large homes, but Langley stuffed it with yet more objects picked up on his nightly excursions. After all windows were boarded up, and the gas, electricity, and water cut off, one small oil stove served all their cooking and heating needs; Langley collected water from a standpipe four blocks away. On more that one occasion thieves tried to break in to steal the fortune that was rumored to be kept in the house. Langley responded by building booby traps, intricate systems of trip wires and ropes that would bring tons of rubbish crashing down on any unwary burglar.

    A honeycomb network of tunnels carved out in the mountains of junk enabled Langley to grope his way to where Homer sat. As the world's newspapers revealed the secrets of 2078 Fifth Avenue, there was a final, grisly twist. On April 8, Artie Matthews, one of the workmen commissioned to clear the place, raised a pile of newspapers, tin boxes and other debris near a spot where Homer has been found.

    His horrified gaze fell first on a foot, then the remains of a body. It had been gnawed by rats, but there was no doubt that it was Langley Collyer. Langley had died some time before his brother, suffocated under the garbage that had cascaded down upon him when, he had sprung one of his own burglar traps.

    Homer's death was now easily explained. Blind and paralyzed, and totally dependent on Langley, he had died of starvation and shock. The house was gradually emptied and its more valuable contents sold at auction. But despite the Collyer brothers lifelong hoarding, the 150 items raised only $1,800. The house too has now gone.

    Condemned as a health and fire hazard, number 2078 Fifth Avenue was razed to the ground.

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    Thanks to you two E40FDNYL35 and E229Lt, I knew I would hear from someone who could shed some light on this. I was close in my guess just by the word origin for collier, but had no idea there was such a definitive background to the condition. Strive to learn something new each day, and today you have help fill that idea. Thanks again.

    Stay safe

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    Artie and Ray...that was fascinating....

    Unfortunately, "collyer mansions" still exist to this very day. I have had the misfortune of running across of few of them here in Marlborough. One was a small cape, the woman's fascination was the evening news and newspapers. She would videotape the news on the local stations, the networks and the cable networks and had stacks and stacks of VHS tapes all over the house...the same with newspapers..the Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, the MetroWest Daily News and all the local weekly papers. While the home had a high fire load, she kept the house clean, by what we could see on the paths through the rooms of the house.

    The other was absolutely disgusting. Much like the Collyer home, the resident, a recluse in his mid 60's rarely ventured out in daylight hours and would collect just about anything people put out with the trash. In one room, there were a pile of plastic bags of used cat litter...but he did not own a cat! Apparently, the plumbing broke down and he resorted to using a litter box for his bodily eliminations. He called 911 after falling and breaking his hip. There was so much filth, roaches, rodent droppings and the non functional plumbing and such that the Board of Health and Building Departments condemned the home due to sanitation reasons on the spot. The man died of complications of the fracture, the rubbish was removed, the home was gutted (it was structurally sound), renovated and sold.

    People who live like this make the job a tad more interesting....
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 07-23-2003 at 11:57 PM.
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    That was truly an amazing story. Good job E40 & 229LT You learn something everyday.
    IAFF

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    Default "collier's mansion condition"

    Thanks for the info. I read that article too and was wodering what they were referring to. I guess it's not PC to just call it a Sh*t Hole!

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    Had one of these marvelous places with a dead guy in his room piled to the ceiling with x rated films. Always remember, body substance isolation.

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    We had an elderly resident who was also a "frequent flyer" that lived in similar conditions. I only had the "pleasure"(?) of being inside the door on two occasions, but that was enough. By the strictest of definitions, he did not quite meet the standard that was set out the Collyer's, but it would have been a nightmare to do fire suppression ops inside in any case.

    This person has since moved on into Victoria city, so we no longer have to deal with him, or his residence.

    Thank you to E40 and 229LT for enlightening us on the term. Tanker and I were wondering what it was too. Hopefully we in this area won't ever have to deal with such a situation.
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    It still happens and it happens everywhere ...... Calgary has had a number of "cat lady" type dwellings in the news the past few years.

    Date: Fri Aug 8 10:28:03 2003
    Subject: House Fire - Lakeview
    From: John Conley

    CITYBEAT - CITY OF CALGARY PRESS RELEASE

    Shortly before 07:30 this morning, fire crews were alerted to smoke coming from a bungalow at 6219 Lloyd Cres. SW. On arrival, fire crews found smoke showing and attempted to gain access to the home. Forcible entry was through the front window of the house due to the large amount of debris piled inside preventing the front door from being able to swing open.

    Crews had great difficulty finding the seat of the fire due to the collectibles and debris that filled the home. In places, firefighters were crawling over materials piled six feet high in most of the basement.

    Although very few flames were visible from the exterior of the house, the fire had progressed through the basement, on the main floor, through the walls, and into the ceiling. Confronted with the immense fire load within the house, Incident Command directed the fire to be attacked by defensive mode. All firefighters were called from the home and an exterior attack was initiated. Tactical operations
    were focused on filling the home with water and foam to cool and smother the fire.

    No one was home at the time of the fire and no injuries reported thus far. 25 firefighters were on scene to gain control of the fire. Smoke was extensive throughout the community. Some neighbours reported smelling smoke earlier in the night but attributed the odour to the forest fire situation. Inspectors suspect that the fire was smouldering for most of the night and will be continuing their
    investigation once the fire is completely under control. EMS and CPS were also on scene to assist at the incident.

    Excavating equipment will be brought in later today to demolish the house.


    -30-


    Public Contact Information:

    Deb Bergeson
    Relief Public Information Officer
    Calgary Fire
    ph: 287-4257

    Public Email Contact:

    jconley@gov.calgary.ab.ca
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    Artie and E40, thank you for the fascinating read. I have heard the term before but did not know the story behind it. There is always something to learn here. Thanks guys!

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