MAINE 200 — Early 20th century Bangor suffered from the same national growing pains of modernity as many urban spaces.
Water supplies were strained, diseases such as typhoid fever spread quickly through increasingly dense residential areas, and the wooden city was a firestorm waiting to happen.
On April 30, 1911, the tinderbox of a city caught fire. Starting in a hay shed on Broad Street, flames quickly jumped to the opposite shore and began a path of destruction through the downtown. Hundreds of buildings were leveled, indiscriminately leaving one house intact while its neighbors burned to the ground.
Spectators watched as church spires crashed down, and nearly 70,000 books in the Bangor Public Library turned to ash. Two lives were lost during the blaze; one man killed by a collapsing building and another firefighter unable to escape a falling chimney. The aftermath of the blaze left a scorched city, with most of the multi-million dollar damage uninsured, and hundreds homeless.
While a devastating loss, the fire effectively forced city planners into redesigning parts of the “Queen City of Maine” and quickly resurrecting the downtown into the landscape familiar to Mainers today.
(Vintage Photo Credit: Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of VintageMaineImages.com, Item No. 29279)