1877 - DESTRUCTION BY FIRE. MARBLEHEAD, MASS., DEVASTATED.
TEN ACRES OF BUSINESS AND DWELLING HOUSES SWEPT AWAY IN A FEW HOURS -ALL BUT THREE OF THE SHOE FACTORIES OF THE TOWN, THE PUBLIC HALL AND ARMORY, A CHURCH, AND OVER 70 SHOPS AND DWELLINGS DESTROYED - OVER HALF A MILLION DOLLARS LOSS, WITH HALF OF IT INSURED.
Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.
BOSTON, June 25. - Worse than the great fire of 1870 was to Chicago, or that of 1872 to Boston, or the last destruction at St. John, was the conflagration that swept through the historic town of Marblehead this morning, when the relative size and wealth of the place is taken into consideration. The worst feature of this severe trail to the towns people of this thriving and industrious place, is that little doubt remains that it was an incendiary's torch that started the disastrous fire. Ten acres of the business portion of this town were laid waste in a few brief hours, embracing all but three of their shoe factories, the chief industry of the place, their public hall and armory, one church, and dwelling-houses and stores enough to bring the number of buildings destroyed up to 76. This section comprised the whole business centre. As the passenger to the rocky promontory lands from the cars a few rods from where the railroad station stood, he looks across the desert waste to the side of a gentle elevation, just above which stands the new Abbot Hall, a prominent feature in the barren landscape; just below, in front, stands the granite Soldiers' and Sailors' monument, marking nearly the limit of the fire, at the junction of Essex, Pleasant, and Spring streets. "Tis Chicago over again," said a gentleman who had been on the scene of that calamity, "even the granite has cracked, crumbled, and yielded, and hardly a charred timber remains to show that their had been a fire, are heaps of hot bricks and mortar. Iron and machinery, are all cast into the cellars in one confused mass. The streets are almost clear of rubbish, but the old cellars are filled with debris. The Sutton Light Infantry is on guard duty, by order of the Selectmen, and they, with a force of constables, will protect the heaps of goods piled together in the pastures adjacent to the town, and the partially destroyed dwellings.
The business interests of the little town receive in this calamity a tremendously severe blow, and the chances are that some of the shoe factories will never rise from their ashes. To realize the extent of the calamity, it must be remembered that Marblehead is a small town, with only a limited amount of business, and a history as ancient as that of the Commonwealth to sustain it. When you take 76 houses, chiefly business places, from its centre, you leave only a sparsely settled or inhabited section. You take the very life out of the place. One thousand people who depend on the uncertainties of daily labor are to-day thrown out of employment, and with the dullness of business and the closeness of margins on manufactures, there is little encouragement for rebuilding. A look through the town this afternoon shows a sad picture. Nothing but smoke and smut, ruins of buildings, heaps of brick and mortar, iron, and lead, twisted into every conceivable shape, portions of walls standing like tall specters in the desolation that surrounds them. Women and children, whose means of subsistence has been swept off, wander through the streets; thieves skulk around corners to evade the eyes of the watchful soldier and policeman, and all classes of citizens gloomily contemplate the desolation.
The total loss is $500,000, as near as can be figured out, on which there is about one-half insurance.
The fire broke out at 1:30 A. M. in a stable in the rear of the Marblehead Hotel. It is reported that on Sunday night at 10 o'clock there was a dog and cock fight going on in this stable, and the belief is very general among the citizens that the persons engaged in this drunken row set fire to the stable by accident or intentionally. The facts are being investigated, and it is the purpose of the town officials to get at the truth. There was a slight south-westerly breeze, which at once carried the flames in the direction of the heart of the business section of the town. The factories and dwelling houses were all frame buildings, as dry as tinder, and so compactly placed that one could not be burned without its neighbors. The shoe factories were especially inflammable. They were slightly built, with few partitions, with no plastering between the walls and with no fire defenses of any kind. Few fires have ever swept over more space in quicker time. The flames were like the grasshoppers in Egypt. They licked up everything before them. When morning came the flames were stayed. Only a few charred timbers here and there showed where 30 shoe factories and 42 dwelling-houses had stood in the light of a full moon at midnight. The destruction was immediate and terrible. Many persons had barely time to escape with their lives, and where the fire first began hardly any property was saved.
The New York Times
New York, New York
June 26, 1877
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