It was a fire of catastrophic proportions. In about 30 hours, 140 acres of downtown Baltimore burned, the fire taking down 1,526 buildings and 2,500 businesses in its fury. The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 was disastrous. But Baltimore would rebound. And within three years, Baltimore's business district would be rebuilt and reborn. It would, in fact, be better than before.
Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the historic Feb. 7, 1904, blaze that claimed 140 city blocks but somehow took only five lives. At the centennial, the city remembers the Great Fire and all that was lost and all that was recovered at programs, exhibits and events all around the area.
The Baltimore City Fire Department remembers the Great Fire with a commemoration ceremony at Hopkins Place and Baltimore Street at 10 a.m. Saturday. Fire equipment will be on display. An alarm will sound, and fire companies will simulate the dispatch to battle the Great Fire. A plaque marking where the fire began at the John E. Hurst Co. will be unveiled. There will be a procession of fire equipment through downtown, past City Hall, the old Fire Department headquarters, the Firefighters Monument at Gay and Lexington streets and onto the Baltimore City Fire Museum, which is at Gay and Orleans streets. Free. Call 410-727-2414 or 410-396-5616.
Visitors to the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St., can see an exhibit, Baltimore Ablaze: The Great Fire of 1904, and learn about the fire, from its onset to the city's rebirth, Sunday through Oct. 31. Docent-led tours will be available at 2 p.m. on the last Sunday of the month. Tours are free with museum admission, which is $8; $6 for students, ages 13-17 and senior citizens; $4 for ages 3-12; free for MHS members. An exhibit opening will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, with guided tours and a cocktail reception. $20; free for MHS members. Call 410-685-3750, Ext. 321 to register for the reception or for more information.
The exhibit Footprints of the Fire: The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, which examines the breadth and depth of the fire through photos and artifacts, is on display now through May 30 at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library, 400 Cathedral St. An opening reception will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Poe Room with remarks from Stephen Heaver, director and curator at the Fire Museum of Maryland, and a lecture on "A Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904" by educator Wayne Schaumburg. Free. Call 410-396-5430.
The "Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 Tour" will be offered 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday, starting at the Fire Museum of Maryland, 1301 York Road, Lutherville. At the museum, visitors will get an overview of the fire, then travel downtown by motor coach to the epicenter of the blaze and learn about the cause and vastness of the fire. The tour will pass by the Baltimore City Fire Museum, where mementos of the Great Fire are housed. Once back at the Fire Museum of Maryland, folks can have light refreshments, see fire-related memorabilia and take part in a question-and-answer forum. $35; $30 for members. Call 410-321-7500.
Author Peter Petersen will offer a lecture and book-signing for his new book, The Great Baltimore Fire: How Baltimore Fought Back, at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St. Lecture is free with admission, which is $8; $6 for students, ages 13-17 and senior citizens; $4 for ages 3-12; free for MHS members. Call 410-685-3750, Ext. 321.
A four-part lecture series on the technological and social aspects of the fire is to be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 28, March 27, April 24 and Oct. 16 at the Fire Museum of Maryland, 1301 York Road, Lutherville. $10 a lecture; $35 for all four. Call 410-321-7500 to register.
A family festival related to the Baltimore Ablaze exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St., will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 25. Visitors will hear stories about the fire, climb aboard trucks from the Baltimore City Fire Department, learn safety tips and take part in interactive activities. $7; $6 for MHS members. Call 410-685-3750, Ext. 321 to register.
Walking tours of the burnt district monthly from April through October will trace the path of the fire and pass buildings that survived. Tours are scheduled at 10 a.m. April 18, May 16, June 20, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18 and Oct. 16. Tours, developed by educator Wayne Schaumburg, are presented by the Maryland Historical Society. The cost is $10. Call 410-685-3750, Ext. 321 to register.
For more family events, see Page 41.