BANGOR'S GREAT FIRE OF 1911


Starting Point

J. Frank Green's hay shed at the start of the Bangor Fire. Fire fighters and citizens help with the hoses. Soon, the fire would be out of control.




Kenduskeag View

The 1911 Fire burns in 3 places as seen from the Kenduskeag. It started near the burning structure on the left and quicky jumped the stream, propelled by gusty winds.



State Street Bridge

Pedestrians walk over the State Street bridge in what remains of downtown Bangor. The debris of Bangor Savings Bank is on the right, with the burned out Customs House on the left.



Bangor Savings Bank

An unidentified man stands in front of the building housing Bangor Savings Bank, the Bangor Historical Society and the Bangor Public Library near the Kenduskeag Stream on State Street.




Cleanup

After the fire, the job of cleanup and reconstruction was immense. This man walks along State Street, the ruins of Bangor Savings Bank and the Morse Oliver building behind him.



Universalist Church Before

The Universalist Church on Park Street hill, before the fire. Center Park is in the foreground.




Universalist Church Ruins

The ruins of the Universalist Church on Park Street hill after the 1911 Fire. The church was later rebuilt from the surviving shell, but without its two steeples.



Graham Block Before

The Graham Block on the corner of Central and Harlow streets, before the fire.




Graham Block Ruins

The remains of the Graham Block, with the Universalist Church beyond.




Graham Block Rebuilt

The new Graham Building under construction on the corner of Harlow and Central streets.



Clean up on Exchange St.

Clean up along Exchange Street. The remains of the Morse Oliver building stands at the right, while the fire's stopping point, the Nichols Block, is on the left. The tower of Union Station is seen at the end of the street.



Morse Oliver Building

The Morse Oliver Building, on the corner of State and Exchange streets. At the time of the 1911 Fire it was Bangor's tallest building at seven stories.



Pedestrians

Pedestrians, including a military cadet from the University of Maine, view the damage.



First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church and Parsonage, at the corner of Broadway and State streets, before the fire.




Rebuilt All Souls

The rebuilt All Souls Congregational Church at the corner of Broadway and State streets.



Broadway

Families survey the destruction along Broadway, one of many neighborhoods destroyed by the fire.



Broadway and State

Surveying the losses in the vicinity of Broadway and State streets.



Customs House and Post Office Before

Bangor's Customs House and Post Office, before the fire. Located on an island in the Kenduskeag Stream, and across the street from Bangor Savings Bank, its position was at the heart of the fire downtown.




Tarratine Club Survives

The ruins of the fire, including views of State, Harlow and Park strrets. The Customs House is in the foregound (left) with the Universalist Church beyond. The surviving Tarratine Club can be seen on Park Street hill to the right of the church.



Norumbega Before

Norumbega Hall, on an island in the middle of the Kenduskeag Stream, before the fire. By 1911 this grand building was being used as a furniture store and storage but in its prime it accomodated crowds of thousands for memorable gatherings. A park exists on the site today, part of a post-fire planned firebreak.



Franklin St. Bridge

Children pose on the Franklin Street bridge over the Kenduskeag Stream. Behind them are the ruins of the Graham Block (left) and the Customs House (right).




Franklin St.

Pedestrians along Franklin Street and the Franklin Street bridge.

Interactive map of the Great Bangor Fire and its effect. Roll over each location to see photos of affected buildings.

Destruction

Posted April 29, 2011, at 11:48 a.m.

On Monday, May 1, Bangor residents woke up to a city transformed. In an eight-hour window, fire had claimed 100 businesses, 267 dwellings, six churches, a synagogue, the high school, post office and customs house, the library, historical society, and Norumbega Hall. And that was just the beginning of the losses reported in newspapers over the coming weeks.

“It burnt across the city/ And the flames spread in the air,/ And it burnt upon to Central Park/ And it burnt across the park there,” wrote John F. Young in a 10-cent poem titled “The Great Bangor Fire.” In carefully measured verse, he listed lost landmarks such as the seven-story Morse-Oliver block at State and Exchange streets, the Graham block on Central Street, and the Sterns block on Exchange Street.

Also destroyed were smaller treasures such as Rice and Tyler music store, East Side Pharmacy, H.L. Mayo’s stable, and Benoit Clothing store. Friendships were forged in those businesses and now they had been reduced to ashes, their futures uncertain.

Three banks were lost, including Bangor Savings Bank opposite State Street bridge. Also destroyed in rooms upstairs were the collections of the city library and historical society. There were stories of librarians tossing books out into the stream, and a photo of an armed U.S. marshal protecting an exposed vault speaks volumes.

Perhaps the greatest loss was the seven houses of worship. People who had attended services in those buildings on Sunday morning were horrified to see them burn by midnight. The 8 p.m. burning of the First Parish spire at State Street and Broadway was visible for many miles, as was the glow from Third Congregational, First Universalist, First Baptist, Advent Christian, St. John’s Episcopal, and Jewish synagogue.

Charities offered assistance to those burned out of mansions and working-class quarters on French Street, Broadway, and neighboring streets. In desperation, some had hauled their possessions into the middle of Broadway and up to Broadway Park in hopes of sparing them from the flames.

“Beds, chairs, tables … people had brought them there to save them,” recalled 91-year-old eyewitness Harold F. Moon in 1976. “It seemed like a safe place. It was some sight.”

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