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.

Fighting The Fire

Posted April 29, 2011, at 11:53 a.m.

All the training in the world could not have prepared Bangor firefighters for the April 30, 1911 disaster. A “perfect storm” of events that included a relentless southerly wind and a serious spring drought tested the men’s endurance.

At first, the ringing of Box 24 on lower Broad Street around 4 p.m. seemed a minor matter. Nuisance fires were commonplace in that warren of warehouses and storage barns, and J. Frank Green’s three-story hay shed at 176 Broad St. had seen several fires since 1908. But there was something different about this call, as Green’s shed erupted into a seething caldron, reportedly ignited by idlers smoking.

“Hundreds thronged to view the spectacle of the blazing building,” wrote Michael J. Callinan in his “A True Story of the Fire,” “little dreaming that from this small bulding a conflagration, covering an area of over sixty acres, would result.”

Chief William Mason summoned every fire apparatus from the city’s seven fire stations. As horses pulled steamers and fire wagons down Broad Street, flames were spotted across the stream on Exchange Street as the telephone exchange ignited. Thus began a race against time as fire crews chased one hot spot after another. Adding to their misery was the loss of Central Fire Station on Harlow Street and Hose 1 near State and Exchange streets.

Mayor Charles Mullen telegraphed Portland, Waterville, Lewiston and Augusta, all of which sent fire companies by special trains. When the smoke cleared, the disaster had claimed two lives. John Scribner, a 70-year-old shoemaker, died as the walls of the seven-story Morse-Oliver building collapsed. And 41-year-old volunteer firefighter George Abbott perished later that night when a chimney collapsed on Penobscot Street. Both men were from Brewer.

“Every (fire)man worked as though he was saving his own home from destruction…,” wrote Callinan. “The destruction of a larger number of restaurants made it practically impossible for the men to get food but they worked none the less valiantly. …”

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