Fires and Floods

Pittsfield Historical Society’s
History of Pittsfield

Fires and Floods Page

This page is dedicated to information about our fires and floods.


Floods are listed below.

FIRES

OVERVIEW OF FIRES
The Town of Pittsfield has experienced several major fires and many minor fires over the years. In the following list, the numbers after the years indicate pages in Sanger Cook’s book .

  • 1881, “the great fire”, West side of Main Street, p. 41, 60, 64.1, 65
    Destroyed the T.S. Dexter & Co. General Store, the Hart building (housing a saloon and candy shop),
  • 1905, (April) West side of Main Street at Park Street, p. 96
    Started in the Dudley Drug Store and severely damaged W.H. Davis’s place, Whitten’s Tobacco Store, and Graves Barber Shop.
  • 1906, Lancey House, 98, 102
    See the Lancey House page.
  • 1911, (January) West side Main Street, 102
    Started in January and destroyed the Connor Block at the corner of Central and Main Sts., T.E. Getchell’s Hardware Store, the Seekins-Bridgton Dry Goods Store, C.H. Berdeen’s Boot and Shoe Store.
  • 1912, (January) West side Main Street, 102, 104.7, 105
    Started on the coldest day of winter and destroyed T.F. Connor, McAllister Bros., W.E. Spear and Eva Day’s.
  • 1914, 105
  • 1926, East side of Main Street, 110
    The Lancey Block, former main house of the Going Hathorn estate, which housed the Post Office.
  • 1927, (December) MCI boys’ dorm, 113
    Completely destroyed by fire during the Christmas vacation.
  • 1929, (December) North Main St.
    Hubbard’s Garage (later home to Valley Graphics and then Pittsfield Pharmacy) destroyed by fire. Rebuilt and re-opened.
  • 1933, Lehr Block, corner of Hunnewell & Main Sts., 121
    Partially destroyed.
  • 1933, West Pittsfield
    Eighteen head of cattle lost when the old Powers homestead burned to the ground.
  • 1933, West side Main Street
    Vickery Block severely damaged including attorney T.A. Anderson,s office, the municipal court room, and the Parks Brothers Insurance office.
  • 1936, Union Hall on Park St., 127
    Union Hall heavily damaged by fire, destroying IOOF and Masonic Halls.
  • 1939, Grove Hill, 127
    Carey Gee’s farm buildings leveled by fire in a mid-winter blaze.
  • 1940, J.R. Cianchette shops on Lower Main Street, 123
  • 1945, Sebasticook Street
    Earl Hodgkins Mill destroyed in February, three women killed.
  • 1961, Newhouse Poultry Farm, 136.8
  • 1965, (October 30) Lancey House, 164
    See the Lancey House page.
  • 1967 (July), Hitching Post Restaurant
    Re-built after fire.
  • 1970 (January 15), Wrights Stables
    Horse barns leveled by fire.
  • 1970 (April 30), West side Main Street
    Two die in fire. Area of current pedestrian walkway and Sebasticook Valley Homecare.
  • 1972 (January 28), Furniture Exchange burns.
    Fire starts 1:00 p.m. on 2nd floor. Built 1892 by John N. Martin
  • 1973 (March 1) Chemical plant fire
    Insides gutted. (Was located where Cianbro Building is now)
  • 1974 (August 29) Fire destroys warehouse of Pittsfield Woolen Yarns Co.
  • 1974 (October 3) Hen house fire, loss of $50,000 at farm of Clyde Barden, a contract grower of hens for DeCosta Egg Farms.
  • 1975 (March 27) Fire at Maine Fence Company.
  • 1985 (November 27) Fire destroys barn on Ell Hill and American Legion post home on Middle St.
  • 1986 (April) Fire at Wood Briar Retirement Center.
  • 1997 (April 24) Riverside Mill burns flat to the ground. It was being used at the time as a warehouse for Dale Penny’s Penny Pincher store.
  • 2005 (March) Somerset Avenue
    Large barn at Varney Chevrolet (purchased from J.K.Wright a few months earlier) burns to the ground.

1881. Aftermath of the 1881 fire. All the buildings on the west side of Main Street, from H. B. Connors on Park street to this Hart house, and including it, were destroyed in the fire of 1881. The fire nearly wiped out the west side of Main Street and much of the business section of Park Street. How the fire started is a moot question — there have been several versions, but the most reasonable seems to be that it started on Park Street from an overheated stove in a building once owned by Going Hathorn. It swept through Vickery’s store and was fanned eastward to make a clean sweep of the business blocks of upper Main to stop just short of A. H. Cornforth’s store. When the last embers had been extinguished, the area presented a bleak, discouraging picture with its charred timbers and its blackened chimneys standing stark and naked like ghostly sentinels.

1906. Aftermath of Lancey House fire on Sunday, October 28, 1906. More at the Lancey House Page.

1911. Aftermath of a fire on Main Street in 1911, across from the Lancey House.
1912. Started on the coldest day of winter and destroyed T.F. Connor, McAllister Bros., W.E. Spear and Eva Day’s on the west side of Main Street.

1965. Lancey House 1965 fire in progress.

Firefighters from Skowhegan arrive at Varney Chevrolet in Pittsfield on Friday to fight a blaze caused by a piece of machinery that had accidentally been left on overnight. photo by Sharon Kiley Mack

2005. March 2005 fire at Varney Chevrolet, just bought from J.K. Wright a few months before. Located at 66 Somerset Ave.


FLOODS

OVERVIEW OF FLOODS
For any town on a major river, floods are a fact of life, and Pittsfield has had several memorable ones. In the following list, the numbers after the years indicate pages in Sanger Cook’s book Pittsfield on the Sebasticook.

  • 1887, 90
  • 1896, 82
  • 1901, 90
  • 1936, (Spring) Water levels reached an all-time high water mark. 120.5, 127
  • 1987, (April)

1887.
Pittsfield’s first major flood.


1896.
In 1896 there was one of the worst floods in history. It rained for 72 hours and the high waters washed out country roads and small bridges. The new bridges survived without serious damage, much to the satisfaction of the contractors.


1901.
In the winter of 1901 the winter snows were so deep that the Sebasticook and Moosehead Railroad was snowed in so badly that help had to be summoned from Portland. In the spring the natural consequence was high water. Although the 1901 flood was almost as severe as the 1887 flood, the damage was much less because of precautions that were taken following that earlier overflow.


1936.

Aftermath of the flood, view from North Main Street, between the bridges. The red bridges to the island had to be blown up to relieve danger of an ice jam. The road through the flats south of the village was impassable and there was three feet of water over the road leading to Burnham. The water height of that flood was not equaled again until 1987.

Is it fording the stream or ford the streaming? A car tries to drive on a flooded road.
The flood around the mills.
Sandbagging the river.
Sandbags breached.

1987.

In the Flood of 1987, the downtown Pittsfield was cut off from traffic because of the rising waters, and an entire residential district was flooded.

Aerial view of the flood of April 1987, from the 1994 Historical Society Calendar. At the lower center is the intersection of Park St. and Hartland Ave.; Harland Ave is at 1:00 o’clock and Somerset Ave. is at 10:00 o’clock. Mill Pond is at the lower right.

For more Flood of ’87 photos, visit Betty Packard’s collection of flood photos.


Original Version: 6-Mar-05.

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