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Location: salem, Massachusetts, United States

Sunday, August 13, 2006

THE GREAT SALEM FIRE OF 1914





We have a NEW EXHIBIT for the month of August--THE GREAT SALEM FIRE of June 25, 1914.

The fire started at the Korn Leather Factory of the corner of Bridge and Boston Streets, in a storehouse filled with flammable chemicals and CELLULOID! They figured the sun coming through the windows created enough heat to cause a series of explosions of the chemicals that set the factory ablaze. Modern fire-suppressing equipment like sprinklers would probably have stopped the fire dead in its tracks, but the Korn Factory had no such fail-safes in place at the time.

The fire burned through Boston and North and South Pine Streets, plus swept up Highland past the High School and threatened the hospital. The bridge stopped the fire from taking the hospital, however. (What bridge? Doesn't exist today!)

The fire would have died out then and there, but the day was so hot and dry and the wind was so strong that embers blew all the way to Leach Street and started up there. That was the end of the Point and upper Lafayette and across to Canal and Mill Hill. The Mill Hill Fire Station burned down. St. Joseph's Church burned down.

The fire fighters had to dynamite houses in order to create fire-breaks. Most of these succeeded in stopping the spread of the fire.

Ultimately, the Great Fire burned a crescent-shaped path 1 1/2 miles long by 1/2 mile wide through the heart of Salem. Most of the historic district was spared, but the Commons and Forest River became "tent cities" to house the now homeless and displaced.

Much of the display that I set up highlights stories of people reacting to the devastation and how they came through it.

I think this exhibit is important. We may be taking it "on the road" to the Enterprise Center at Salem State for a longer exhibit. We'll see if anything ELSE comes of it!

My thanks to Nelson Dionne, Jim McAllister, and Gerald Marsella!

Wendy
The ART Corner
264 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970
978-745-9524

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