GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2011-02 > 1297518947
From: Abigail Lumsden <>
Subject: Re: [GENMASSACHUSETTS] "Great Fires" of the late 1800's
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 08:55:47 -0500
For people interested in social history I would also recommend the
book Dark Tide, the story of Boston's great molasses flood.
I’m Puritan to the bone, down to
the marrow and then some:
if I’m not sorry I worry,
if I can’t worry I count.
On Feb 12, 2011, at 8:03 AM, Ms Betty Fredericks wrote:
> Hi Ruth,
> Thank you for reminding us of that bad fire in Boston. I think I
> thought about it about a year ago, and looked to see if the bad fire
> in Chicago was about the same time. That fire was over 15 years
> Oh, I just looked up the Boston fire, and see there was a bad fire
> in Boston in 1872, a year after the bad fire in Chicago.
> There's a paragraph on that page which is interesting. Especially
> the mention of a "Horse Flu" disabling the horse-drawn fire trucks:
> Many factors contributed to Boston's Great Fire:
> Boston's building regulations were not enforced. There was no
> authority to stop faulty construction practices.
> Buildings were often insured at full value or above value. Over-
> insurance meant owners had no incentive to build fire-safe
> buildings. Insurance-related arson was common.
> Flammable wooden French Mansard roofs were common on most buildings.
> The fire was able to spread quickly from roof to roof, and flames
> even leapt across the narrow streets onto other buildings. Flying
> embers and cinders started fires on even more roofs.
> Fire alarm boxes in Boston were locked to prevent false alarms,
> therefore delaying the Boston Fire Department by twenty minutes.
> Merchants were not taxed for inventory in their attics, therefore
> offering incentive to stuff their wood attics with flammable goods
> such as wool, textiles, and paper stocks.
> Most of downtown had old water pipes with low water pressure.
> Fire hydrant couplings were not standardized.
> The number of fire hydrants and cisterns was insufficient for a
> commercial district.
> A horse flu epizootic that spread across North America that year had
> immobilized Boston's fire department horses. As a result, all of the
> fire equipment had to be pulled to the fire by teams of volunteers
> on foot. This is often cited as the leading cause of this fire
> growing out of control, but the city commission investigating the
> fire found that fire crews' response times were delayed by only a
> matter of minutes.
> Looters and bystanders interfered with fire fighting efforts.
> Steam engine pumpers were not able to draw enough water to reach the
> wooden roofs of tall downtown buildings.
> Gas supply lines connected to street lamps and used for lighting in
> buildings could not be shut off promptly. Gas lines exploded and fed
> the flames.
> Betty (near Lowell, MA)
> I think you just said that the bad fire in 1889 happened during
> December. I've mentioned my grandmother's story many times in the
> past, and she was reportedly born on Feb. 1, 1889. And, her older
> adoptive parents told her that she was "a foundling" on the steps of
> a church in Boston that night or day.
> Happy Birthday, Grammy Kerr. If I'm figuring correctly this
> morning, she would have just turned 122 yrs. old. (She passed in
> 1967 just before my first marriage.)
> (As I've mentioned before, my "educated guess" is that her Adoptive
> parents were her maternal grandparents. I believe their married
> daughter in CT had an "unwanted pregnancy" outside of her
> marriage. My grandmother was with them probably from Age 1 to Age
> 10, and they told her many lies during those years. When they died
> when she was 10, she spent from Age 10 to Age 20 living in Downtown
> Boston in 2 "homes." (Tremont St. and Chardon St.)
> (Long, complicated story which is a good subject for a book ! I've
> mentioned most of the details on the MA and CT Lists for many years.)
> Looking for earth-friendly autos?
> Browse Top Cars by "Green Rating" at Yahoo! Autos' Green Center.
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|Re: [GENMASSACHUSETTS] "Great Fires" of the late 1800's by Abigail Lumsden <>|