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About this collection

The Great Salem Fire of 1914 significantly impacted the city of Salem, Massachusetts.  On June 25, an explosion occurred at the Korn Leather Factory, an unsprinklered factory at 57 Beacon Street.  This section of town, also known as Blubber Hollow, was home to a thriving leather industry, which never recovered after the fire.  The explosion started a fire that spread rapidly and destroyed more than 250 acres of land and 1,376 buildings in the city.  Twenty thousand individuals, many of whom were immigrants, were displaced from their homes and more than ten thousand individuals lost their jobs due to the destruction of many businesses.  Much of the damage occurred in The Point district of the city; the historic district of Salem was saved due to a change in the wind direction.

 

This collection, created to honor the centennial of the fire, displays 150 images that depict the burned district before the fire; the conflagration and how it spread; fire-fighting efforts and images of the Salem Fire Department and its equipment; the ruins and destruction caused by the fire; the plight of the homeless and relief efforts to assist them; and the reconstruction and redevelopment of the city. Improvements in technology provided opportunities to extract details from images that were not readily seen at the time the images were created; the collection includes several detail images.  Captions identifying street names use the names current at the time of the fire.  All images include a negative number.  When possible, the name of the photographer has been identified. 

 

 

 
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