GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2011-02 > 1297451832
From: Ruth Barton <>
Subject: [GENMASSACHUSETTS] Boston Fire 1889
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2011 14:17:12 -0500
I came across this article and thought it may be of some interest here. Ruth
The Vermont Tribune, Ludlow, Friday, December 6, 1889
Another Big Fire 12/6/1889
Boston Suffers to the Extent of $7,000,000 to $10,000,000, Thanksgiving Day.
Boston's most disastrous visitation since 1872 came upon that city
Thanksgiving day, resulting in the loss of some 20 buildings in the
business heart of the city, and several pieces of fire apparatus. So far
as known, but four lives were lost, all of these being firemen; several
were severely and perhaps fatally injured. The losses are variously
estimated at from $7,000,000 to $10,000,000.
At 8:15 o'clock fire was discovered in the five-story brown-stone building
on the southeast corner of Bedford and Kingston streets, owned by Fred AMES
and occupied by Brown, Durrell & Co., the largest wholesale dry goods house
in the city, and so rapidly did the flames spread that by noon the fire had
spread between tow and three squares in each direction, obliterating over
60 of the finest warehouses in Boston. Estimated loss fully $7,000,000 and
may exceed $10,000,000. All this section is occupied by supposed fireproof
buildings, but cardboard could not have burned more quickly.
For five hours the flames raged fiercely, and it was 1 o'clock before
confidence was felt that it would spread no further.
The flames broke out in the vicinity of the elevator shaft of the AMES'
building near the bottom, from some unexplained cause, and rushing up the
sides of the well soon communicated with every floor of the building.
Letter Carrier 62 of the central post office first noticed the smoke making
its way through the crevices of the windows, and notified patrolman C. B.
MAXWELL of station 2, who promptly rang in an alarm from box 52. The
department were speedily on the ground, but the fire had gained such a
foothold that a second alarm was sent in. It was soon evident that nothing
could save the structure. At 8:45 the flames had spread to the Shoe and
Leather Exchange building, another large, granite building on Bedford
street, adjoining Brown, Durrell & Co.'s. At this time a general alarm,
the first in many years, was sent out, summoning all the apparatus in the
city to the scene. The thick and high walls of the AMES building were
valuable allies of the firemen in checking the spread of the conflagration
in a southerly direction; but under the influence of the brisk and rising
wind, the flames swept in great waves across Bedford street to the corner,
thence westward across Kingston and along Bedford to Chauncy, where it was
finally stopped in the warerooms of Farley, Harvey & Co. is the big Allen
On the south side of Bedford street the blaze swept across from the
enormous bonfire to which Brown, Durrell and Co.'s was by this time reduced
to the great sandstone structure, occupied by Taylor Bros. and also owned
by F. L. AMES. Nothing could be done to save it, and it was completely
obliterated, nothing but the bare and blackened wall remaining standing.
The huge Nevins building in its rear, at the corner of Rowe place and
Chauncy street, next fell a victim to the fierce flames, and was reduced to
a tottering shell, whose weight the crumbling foundations can with
difficulty sustain. From this coign of vantage the fire spread, despite
the utmost endeavors of scores of engines, hundreds of men and thousands of
gallons of water to check its progress, northward to the corner of Chauncy
and Bedford streets, also destroying entirely one side of Rowe place. A
considerable section of the northwest and southwest corners of Kingston and
Bedford streets was reduced to ashes. From its original starting place the
fire made but slight progress in an easterly direction, taking but one
building beyond Columbia street.
The sudden shifting of the wind from a southeasterly direction to a
westerly, which occurred about noon, was a most providential occurrence.
Before that time the fire was steadily advancing in the teeth of the most
strenuous opposition in the direction of R. H. WHITE's store and adjacent
buildings on Washington street. If this building had once kindled (and
nothing but a few slight building, not half so substantial as several which
had been wiped out, and the narrow Harrison avenue extension intervened),
the flames would inevitably have crossed Washington street to the Boston
Theatre, and very likely have burned their way through to the Common. But
happily it was diverted to the solid buildings across Chauncy street, near
to Bedford, and here at last the firemen obtained control of the situation.
Police Sergeant KIMBALL, Patrolman Charley MAYNES and ex Councilman David
F. BARRY courageously rescue seven people--six women and one man--from the
building at the corner of Kingston and Bedford streets. The smoke had
overcome them and they lay prostrate on one of the upper floors. Aware
that the employes had not all escaped from the building, they bravely
entered, groped around in the thickening smoke, and as fast as the
prostrate form were discovered they were carried to a place of safety. the
rapid advance of the fire reached the place just as the last one of the
women was being carried from the building.
While Assistant Chief John REGAN and 14 men were on Kingston street,
holding the spread of the fire in that direction, suddenly the Kingston
street front of the building swung out and fell upon the street to where
they were. Tons upon tons of granite came down all around the firemen,
and, rebounding in the air fully 10 feet fell again among them. Nearly
every one of the 14 was knocked down, but not one of them received a
During the day Mayor HART received numerous offers of financial assistance
from other New England cities all of which were declined with thanks.
The missing firemen are Daniel J. BUCKLEY, Frank P. LOKER, Michael MURNAN
and John BROOKS; all last seen in the Brown, Durrell building.
Among the seriously injured: Michael ATKINSON, policeman, head crushed by
falling granite; John HALEY, hoseman, lacerated by plate glass; Thomas F.
QUIGLEY, inhaled flames, burned; District Engineer BARTLETT, dislocated
right shoulder; Edward FROHAN, fireman, hand nearly cut off; J. DACEY,
fireman, crushed leg; fireman RUSSELL of engine 3, leg broken.
Transcribed by Ruth Barton
|[GENMASSACHUSETTS] Boston Fire 1889 by Ruth Barton <>|