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.

The 1911 Bangor Fire

Posted April 29, 2011, at 11:46 a.m.

The Great Bangor Fire of April 30, 1911, turned a pleasant Sunday afternoon into Dante’s Inferno for the Queen City’s 25,000 residents. Possibly ignited by smokers at J. Frank Green’s hay shed on lower Broad Street, flames jumped the Kenduskeag Stream onto Exchange Street and raged for eight hours before burning out around midnight.

“Bangor Swept by Furious Fire” reported the Bangor Daily News, which blamed Maine’s worst 20th century urban disaster on drought and wind. Lost landmarks included six churches and a synagogue, the post office and customs house, the library and historical society collections, Norumbega Hall, the high school and private dwellings.

A figure of $3,168,080 eventually was decided on, with 60 percent of the loss covered by insurance. But no amount of money could restore the lost heirlooms, public documents and landmarks.

Two men died in the fire, which burned so brightly that one could read the finest newsprint by its light after gas and electric lights failed. “There was a continual crashing of walls, chimneys and roofs,” stated the Bangor Daily Commercial. “Exchange and State Streets were roaring furnaces filled with seething flames and clouds of dense smoke.”

Onlookers streamed into downtown to survey the damage. Brick and wooden ruins bordered Pickering Square, with other losses on Exchange, State, Park, Harlow, and Central streets. Broadway’s mall and sweeping park helped halt the inferno. So did an insurance wall on Franklin Street that was credited with saving City Hall and all of Main Street.

Silver linings in the storm clouds included the fact that the fire struck on a Sunday, minimizing mass evacuations, and in springtime, allowing planners to use the year’s warmest months. By 1912, public buildings, along with homes, had risen phoenix-like, proof that the former lumbering capital had beaten the odds.

Mayor Charles W. Mullen’s prediction had come true. “Bangor is undaunted,” he told a local newspaper. “Bangor will come back.”

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