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A century ago, fires destroyed many historic properties

Many landmarks in Gloucester and Mathews burned to the ground during the 12 months of 1921. Fire leveled the Gloucester Auditorium. It burned a large part of Mathews Court House. It destroyed historic homes.

The fiery destruction of 1921 stands out in chronicles of a century ago, although big fires at that time were by no means unusual.

One common factor also stands out. Neither Gloucester nor Mathews had much, if any, firefighting equipment; certainly nothing strong enough to combat a big fire, save neighboring properties, and attack a fire in an organized manner.

In fact, not until a generation later did volunteer firefighting companies appear in our counties. Those first lasting departments began to get organized in 1946.


Here are notes on some of the largest fires of 1921:

The Shelter, from the Gloucester Gazette of Feb. 3, 1921: “Another historic old Gloucester mansion was destroyed by fire when ‘The Shelter’ burned to the ground early last Thursday m...

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