The Fire of 1872
A fire broke out in the basement of the I. B. Clark’s Dry Goods Store and William Edwards’ Clothing Store. The basement was occupied by L. A. Kingsbury as a meat market and E. Heuber as a barbershop. The fire destroyed the hotel of Goin Bailey, property of William Edwards, I. B. Clark and the “Old Tavern,” then called “Eliot House,” operated by Goin Bailey.
The alarm was given at 1:30 a.m. and by 3 a.m. the destruction was complete. The Post Office and Engine House on the west side of Eliot Street were only two of many buildings badly damaged during the fire. The Merchants block, which housed the Natick Historical Society Museum was a total loss.
The Fire of 1874
On the morning of January 13th, 1874 the town of Natick experienced the most devastating fire in its history. By the time it was brought under control more than thirty structures had been lost and the town center was in ruins.
The fire began in the cellar of F.E. Cummings drug store, located at the southwest corner of Main andSummer streets in what was known as Sherman’s block. When the fire was discovered at 3:00 AM it had already spread to the second floor of the wooden structure. The fire department responded quickly to the blaze but had problems getting their apparatus and hoses in place. Difficulty building a fire in the steam-powered fire engine and bursting hoses prevented the firemen from applying water to the burning building for at least twenty minutes. This delay would prove very costly, allowing the fire to spread to nearby structures.
From Sherman’s block the fire spread in two directions. To the north it engulfed J. B. Walcott’s block, a three-story shoe factory. To the south Clark’s block, a brick building containing several stores and banks, as well as a large concert hall, quickly caught fire. At this point the Natick firemen realized the potential of the fire to spread quickly to other blocks and called for help from other departments. Saxonville, Ashland, Newton, and even Boston sent men and equipment to help battle the flames.
Moving west the blaze swept down Summer Street. A grocer’s shop, a provisions store, the old site of the Methodist church, and even the garage that housed the fire department’s Eagle steam engine were all completely destroyed.
Back on Main Street the fire raged on uncontrolled. North of Walcott’s block two adjoining buildings owned by Peter Hogan quickly were lost to the flames. The fire’s northward advance ended at Union Court, narrowly sparing Leach’s block. It was at this point, however, that the fire took a terrible turn.
Much effort had been made to prevent the blaze from spreading across Main Street but a shift in the wind sent showers of sparks onto the fronts and roofs of Union block and the other buildings on the east side of the street. The entire block bounded by Main St., Central Court (Now Court St.), and Washington St. was eventually ablaze. The Boston Globe’s January 14th issue described the scene as “One of seething flame, the light of which illuminated the sky for a distance of twenty miles around!” Just across the narrow Central Court the graceful brick Congregational Church was slowly destroyed, it’s wooden framework eventually consumed and its walls collapsing one by one.
Six hours later the flames were finally under control but not before virtually every structure between Main and Washington Streets from Railroad Avenue (Now South Avenue) to Central Street was completely destroyed.