The Great Salem Fire of 1914

On June 25, 1914 a devastating fire ignited on Boston Street in Blubber Hollow, the leather-manufacturing district of Salem. Over the course of two days, this massive fire destroyed 1,376 buildings and left 18,000 people, almost half of Salem’s population, homeless and many without jobs.  

Great Salem Fire Map

The City of Salem will commemorate the centennial of the Great Salem Fire in June of 2014.  Click here for a listing of all Commemoration events, which will include:

June 20-21: The Great Salem Fire Symposium at Salem State University Learn more

Sunday, June 22:  Antique Fire Apparatus Display
A free display of antique fire apparatus will take place on Derby Wharf throughout the afternoon. In addition to equipment from the period of the Great Fire, the City will also welcome the return of “Seaside 2,” an Amoskeag Steamer built in 1902 that was last in Salem in 1914 to fight the fire. Other antique fire trucks and equipment from the Massachusetts Antique Fire Apparatus Association and a number of private collectors will also be on display.  Noon – 4:00 p.m. Derby Wharf Learn More

Boston Fire Department’s Engine 39 Company’s steamer and hose wagon being loaded into rail cars at Boston’s North Station on the afternoon of June 25, 1914, to be sent to Salem to fight the great fire that devastated the city. (Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library)

Wednesday, June 25: Moment of Silence at 1:37 p.m.
Mayor Driscoll will offer a welcome from the City before a moment of silence will be observed at 1:37 p.m. to mark the time the conflagration began exactly one hundred years prior in the same location. 1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Boston & Bridge Street

Wednesday, June 25: Centennial Ceremony
The official centennial ceremony will commence with a Fire Department Honor Guard. A speaking program will follow including Mayor Driscoll, Salem Fire Department Chief David Cody, Sara Peller – CEO of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, Steve Coan – Massachusetts State Fire Marshal, and Lt. Colonel Tom Stewart of the Massachusetts National Guard. During the ceremony recognitions will be presented to the Boston Fire Commissioner and the Chiefs of the Fire Departments of Beverly, Everett, Gloucester, Lawrence, Lynn, Manchester, Marblehead, Newburyport, Peabody, Reading, Somerville, Swampscott, and Wakefield, all of which responded to the call to come to Salem’s aid during the fire. The ceremony will also include an unveiling and rededication of a memorial plaque first gifted to the City in 1915 on the one-year anniversary of the fire. 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Lafayette Park

Conflagration as Seen from Gallows Hill, Salem, Mass.


Photo postcard of the ruins of St. Joseph's Church after the Great Salem Fire. The photographer was Leland Tilford.

Click here for a printable fact sheet about the Great Salem Fire.

Salem State University has books, pamphlets, and documents on their web site. Click here to review the collection. 

The refurbished Great Salem Fire Commemoration plaque, before and after.