Kennebunk, ME Fire, May 1903

LOSS, $100,000.

Almost Entire Business Section of Kennebunk Burned.

Store After Store, With Factories and Houses Wiped Out.

Whole Town in Danger--Origin of Fire a Mystery.

Kennebunk, Me., May 3--The thickly settled portion of this town was threatened with destruction today by $100,000 fire which raged for three hours among the mills and business blocks. The municipal lighting plant, valued at $35,000 and uninsured, two mills, five blocks, seven wooden buildings and two tenements were burned to the ground and the stock of 14 stores are a total loss. The origin of the fire is unknown. It started in the electric lighting station and spreading rapidly consumed the adjoining buildings within a short time. Engines and men from Portland and Biddeford were brought here, but the first was well under control when they arrived, as there was practically no wind and the local firemen had a strong hydrant pressure with which to work. Other than the loss sustained by the town the property losses as a whole are nearly covered by insurance.

The four-story wooden building which contained the electric lighting plant and leather board mill was a mass of flames when the alarm was sounded and before the firemen arrived several buildings on the easterly side of the Mousam river had caught from showers of sparks and were burning briskly. It was apparent the whole town was in imminent danger of a conflagration. With only two hand-tubs and a fairly good hydrant pressure they went bravely at their task and after three hours of heroic work succeeded in holding the fire within a remarkably small territory. About two acres were burned over.

From the lighting station the fire jumped the street to the grist mill below and to the three story Longe block in which the Red Men's hall was located. These were soon in ruins. The bridge between the two mills was only slightly burned and the fire did not cross the Mousam river where there is located the large mills of the Kennebunk Mfg. Co, the Mousam hotel and many residences.

The fire was so hot that it burned the hose and a number of the volunteer firemen and their hands blistered. Merchants along the bridge moved their goods to places of safety.

The origin of the fire is considered mysterious. The blaze was discovered at 12 o'clock by a watchman near the shatling[sic] running between two ells of the electric light building. This was extinguished. Shortly after 2 o'clock another fire was discovered in an entirely different part of the building. It was thought there could have been no connection between the two fires.

The building in which the fire originated, was formerly used as a shoe factory and after being idle a long time was purchased by the town and the lighting plant was established. Part of the building was occupied by the Leatherold Manufacturing Co. Messrs. Goodall, the extensive woolen manufacturers at Stanford, intended to open a branch factory this month. They attended a meeting of the citizens held today, and made a proposition that if the town will erect a $3000 building and establish their lighting plant they will occupy the reminder of the building, purchase it at the end of the year and enlarge it. A special town meeting will be called immediately to take action in the matter.

Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME 3 May 1903