Monday, October 17, 2022

Maynard's Historic Fires

There are more than a handful of historic fires that changed Maynard, or at least the architecture of Maynard. These can be roughly divided into businesses and schools. All are well documented in the collection of the Maynard Historical Society, including many photographs.

The paper mill fire was reputed to be arson. At the gunpowder mill, fires caused explosions and explosions caused fires so frequently that the company had its own fire-fighting equipment. A compilation of various records show 24 explosions and 29 fatalities. The wool mill fire of 1920 meant the end of original wooden buildings from 1846.

DATE       WHAT BURNED              BUILT AFTER                THERE NOW

1835-1940 Gunpowder mill                gunpowder mill              Stop & Shop; car dealers

5/14/1894  Paper mill                          ?????                              Tedeschi's/Dunkin Donuts [7-11]

11/26/12    Music Hall                        Tutto's Bowling Alley    recently torn down buildings

9/20/16      Nason St. School               Roosevelt School           Maynard Public Library

2/11/17      Naylor Block                     one-story storefronts      Gallery Seven, Serendipity

1/25/18      Trolley building                rebuilt                             office building

2/1/19        Bent Ice House                 another ice house           that one burned in 1950

8/17/20      Wool mill                          more mill buildings        Mill & Main buildings

1/29/21      Maynard Hotel                  Memorial Park               Memorial Park

7/14/34      Riverside Block                same building, fixed      Gruber Bros Furniture [gone]

1/30/36      Riverside CO-OP              brick building                 Knights of Columbus [KoC left]

12/17/52    Woodrow Wilson School  Town hall and library     Town hall and police station

3/13/55      Fraternal Order Eagles      two story building          Masciarelli Jewelry [gone]

7/29/65      Amory Maynard's house   apartment building         apartment building

Not listed above, but Booth's Bowling Alley burned in July 6, 1906. Suspicions at the time were that a pet monkey, which had the run of the place at night and knew how to strike matches, was responsible for the fire (the monkey suffered burns, but survived). 

Naylor Block, corner of Nassan and Main, the morning after the
February 11, 1917 fire (courtesy Maynard Historical Society)
After the trolley's building and rolling stock went up in flames the brick building was rebuilt and replacement cars purchased, but the line was already in financial decline. Trolley service ended with a last run on January 16, 1923. Today, the building houses offices. The back of the parking lot provides access to the Assabet River downstream of the Ben Smith Dam. Upstream of the dam, the Bent Ice House burned in February 1919. A replacement was built on the same foundation. That one burned in November 1950. 

Amory Maynard's mansion is the only private dwelling listed here. It was built on the hill south of the mill in 1873, went up in flames in an early morning fire on July 29, 1965. The Maynard family was long-gone from town and the building divided into apartments. His son's former house still stands at 5-7 Dartmouth Street. It, too, was divided into apartments, but still provides semblance to Amory's even larger mansion. Both were capped with a Mansard roof. Copying this style became quite the vogue for well-to-do Maynard residents. See south end of Maple Street for examples.

In the modern era, the two-story building on Main Street that housed Salsalito's Restaurant and T.C. Lando's Sub & Pizzeria was consumed by flames in 1998, NAPA Auto Parts ditto in 2001, and Gruber Bros. Furniture suffered a smoky fire a handful of years ago.    

To paraphrase Robert Frost, someone there is that doesn't love a school. Often a student. This is not to believe that school fires do not happen by accident. But history records five school fires (two in the table plus Nason Street School in 1879, Emerson-Fowler School in 1977 and Maynard High School in 1992) - and no record of any major church fires.

This write-up was not published in the Beacon-Villager 

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