History ties North Americans, immigrants and settlers,together. City fires are one thread that links us. Since pioneers destroyed virgin forests to provide shelter and heat, by the latter 1800s, wooden sidewalks and buildings covered North American cities.
My father, Hans Pederson, a prolific early 20th century Seattle contractor, built roads, bridges, locks, dams, and buildings. After the devastating Seattle fire of 1889 that destroyed the entire downtown, Pederson joined the entrepreneurs who established reputations by framing the replacement buildings with steel.
Chicago’s 1871 fire left the city in ashes. Replacing the wooden structures moved the city into architectural and commercial prominence that later brought people to the 1893 World’s Fair.
Edwin Drake constructed the nation’s first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Roustabouts and refiners settled in nearby Oil City until a combination flood and fire in 1892 sent the city up in flames.
From Colonial days, Portland, Maine spread upward from the banks of a Casco Bay peninsula. The city gathered to celebrate the end of the Civil War on July 4, 1865 with a fireworks display. A Roman candle ignited a blaze that destroyed the heart the city.
In today’s Portland, Victorian brick buildings line the downtown streets. Last summer I visited the Colonial Tate House adjoining the Portland Art Museum. Its graceful architecture preserves a lifestyle we can experience only because firefighters managed to quench the 4th of July fire before it reached the Tate House.
Has destruction by fire brought forth new life in your town??