For two days in November, 1872, a massive fire swept through Boston, leaving the downtown in ruins and the population traumatized. Coming barely a year after the infamous Chicago Fire, Boston’s inferno turned out to be one of the most expensive fires per acre in US history.
Yet today few are aware of how close Boston came to total destruction.
The conflagration began at about 7:20 pm on Saturday, November 9, 1872 in the basement of a warehouse on Summer Street, andd wasn’t contained until 12 hours later, after it had consumed about 65 acres of Boston’s downtown, including at least 776 buildings and much of the financial district. The fire caused an estimated $73.5 million in damage (about $1.453 billion in 2020 dollars). At least 30 people died, including 12 firefighters.
In The Great Boston Fire (Globe Pequot, 2022) Boston author Stephanie Schorow recounts the fire’s history from the foolish decisions that precipitated it to the heroics of firefighters who fought it. Illustrated with period artwork and photographs and published just before the fire’s 150th anniversary, The Great Boston Fire captures the drama of a life-and-death battle in the heart of the city.
The Massachusetts Historical Society will host two event commemorating the fire: “The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno That Nearly Incinerated the City,” with Stephanie Schorow on Thursday, November 10, 2022, and “Inferno: The Great Boston Fire of 1872,” with Anthony Sammarco on Saturday, November 12.
These are hybrids event that are free for MHS Members. $10 per person fee (in person). No charge for virtual attendees or Card to Culture participants (EBT, WIC, and ConnectorCare).
The in-person reception on November 10th starts at 5:30 pm and the program will begin at 6 pm. Register to attend online. Register to attend in person.
The November 12th event will run from 2 to 3 pm. An in-person reception starts at 1:30 pm and the program will begin at 2 pm. Register to attend online. Register to attend in person.
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