The original Maine State Home painted by Charles Codman in 1836. Thanks to the Maine State Museum (catalogue number 72.19.56) July 4, 1829: The cornerstone of the Maine State Home is laid on Weston’s Hill in Augusta. The 150-by-50-foot building is finished 3 years later on at a last expense
of$ 138,991. The job is dogged by cost overruns and a constant effort on the part of Portland legislators to move Maine’s capital back to Portland.
Searching For Exchange Street from Fore Street. The Customized Home appears nearly undamaged, however the intense fire damaged the structure and it was taken down and replaced with a post office while the Customized House was rebuilt at its present area on Fore Street. Picture by S.W. Sawyer– Photo courtesy of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission It is considered to be the largest city fire in American history up to that date. Portland at the time is a city of about 30,000 people, ranking 4th in imports and 5th in exports among the nation’s seaports. The fire leaves the majority of it in ruins. It is the 3rd time in its history that the community withstands basic devastation.”The 4th of July that year was celebrated with extraordinary fervor, with ringing of bells, shooting of cannon, decor of buildings, public and personal, and a very long procession of military companies, fire department, civic bodies, floats and organizations making an imposing selection,” historian Augustus F. Moulton composes decades later in his history of the city.
The fire, fanned by wind from the south and first reported about 4 p.m., quickly fires up a row of wooden houses on Fore Street. Wind carries cinders to the Brown Sugar Home complex on Maple Street, which is amply supplied with barrel parts and other combustible product. “The conflagration was soon beyond control” after that, Moulton writes.
Many aspects hinder efforts to stop the flames’ advance. The city’s firefighting equipment consists only of a few steam engines and hand tubs, or hand pumpers. Firefighters can’t get to the crisis zone on the Commercial Street side, and flames and smoke on Fore Street make it unsafe to tackle from that direction. Wells and cisterns in the location quickly run dry.
The fire develops a vacuum that absorbs more air, increasing the wind strength and prompting whatever to burn with greater intensity. The draft fills the air with flaming items, which spread out and set new fires, broadening the area of damage. Some individuals try to save their furniture by dragging it into the streets, but it quickly ignites there.
The fire’s heat warps the iron horse automobile tracks ingrained in the streets. Helpless fire teams try to limit the catastrophe by tearing down structures or exploding them with gunpowder to develop fire breaks. The inferno sculpts a wide path diagonally throughout the city from Commercial Street to Back Cove, roughly the very same location burned during the British barrage 91 years previously, at the start of the Revolutionary War.
The fire burns through the night till it lacks material to burn. The next day, from the Portland Observatory on Munjoy Hill, which escaped destruction, the scene looking westward, toward downtown, Moulton writes, is “a wilderness of chimneys, portions of brick walls that had not fallen and blackened remains of shade trees, while westerly, beyond were the green tree-tops, spires and houses of the undestroyed portion.”
The ruins cover about 300 acres. Structures lost to the flames consist of the custom-made house, the post office, the 6-year-old City Hall, 8 churches, 8 hotels, all paper workplaces, and every bank, legal representative’s workplace, wholesale outlet, dry goods retail store and book shop. The fire also destroys half the city’s factories. Structures enduring the fire and still standing today include the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow house on Congress Street and the Abyssinian Satisfying Home on Newbury Street.
Monetary aid gathers from around the nation, much of which still is recovering from the ravages of the four-year Civil War, which ended in 1865. Munjoy Hill, on the eastern end of the downtown peninsula, becomes a camping tent city real estate refugees. Barracks are built rapidly in numerous places for the same purpose.
The net monetary loss is approximated at $6 million– about $106 million in 2019 dollars– or about a quarter of the city’s examined evaluation in 1866. The inability of insurance provider to meet their responsibilities arising from such a big fire hampers reconstruction efforts, however rebuilding commences nearly immediately.
Streets are moved, widened and corrected. Kept in mind Portland designer Francis H. Fassett, treating much of the destroyed city as an unanticipated present of a blank canvas, designs a marvelous new Municipal government and numerous other public and private buildings that radiate more splendour than those they replace.
As a response to the water shortage during the fire, the Portland Water Co. is established in 1867 to bring water to the city from Sebago Lake. With the blasting of rock and laying of pipes complete, the first gravity-fed lake water shows up in the city in the middle of great celebration on July 4, 1870, 4 years to the day after the fire.
July 4, 1896: A fire thought to have actually been started by a firecracker ruins the Augusta Opera House and a number of smaller stores and workplaces on its ground flooring, including a grocery, a bank, a drug store and local government offices.
The Daily Kennebec Journal reports profusely on its front page the next day about the throng of people who filled Augusta’s downtown on the evening of July 3 and about 4th of July fireworks that continued late that night and into the vacation.
Altering the subject unexpectedly eight paragraphs into the story, the author says, “The fire in Opera House block was so abrupt, and so excellent, that it didn’t appear genuine.” Then the story goes back to explaining holiday festivities. A story inside the paper gives more information about the fire and speculates about whether the Opera Home can be restored.
The downtown structure was erected in 1891 to replace the Granite Block, which had stood on the very same website and burned in 1890. The structure later is replaced by the Capitol Theater, which burns in the 1980s and is destroyed. A small community park now occupies the website.
July 4, 1975: Fire breaks out about 10:45 a.m. and levels the storied Poland Spring Home in Poland simply as its owners are planning to offer most of it to a Boston corporation that has actually been leasing it considering that 1972.
The building’s electrical system has actually been turned off for a number of years, so the sprinkler system is not working. Firemens from Poland and 8 other neighborhoods fight unsuccessfully to stop the five-story landmark’s damage, but they prevent the flames from infecting other buildings.
The hotel website was a traveler magnet for primarily rich vacationers given that immigrant Jabez Ricker opened a rooming house in 1827 to make use of the fame and purported curative homes of Poland Spring mineral water. The hotel was integrated in 1876 and broadened later. In its heyday it had 325 guest spaces.
Vacant since 1969, the structure is uninsured. The complex’s sale price is reported to be about $2 million. The sale closure due date was to have actually been Sept. 1.
The last time the building was utilized remained in 1970, when the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and 1,200 of his adherents inhabited the structure for a month.
Joseph Owen is an author, retired paper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be bought at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy usage discount code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be called at:
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On this date in
Maine history: July 3 submitted under: Associated Stories