Maine Historical Society



A Past Exhibit

Images of Destruction: Remembering the Great Portland Fire of 1866

Exhibition on view June 30 through October 30, 2016
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. Lecture Hall and Showcase Gallery

G. Frederick Morse painting of Portland fire, 1866

George Frederick Morse painting of the Portland fire 1866

On July 4, 1866, fireworks caused a fire in a Portland boatyard near the corner of Maple and Commercial Streets that quickly overtook much of the city. The fire spread from Fore Street to the slopes of Munjoy Hill, leaving 10,000 people homeless, destroying 1,800 buildings, causing 12 million dollars in damage, and claiming four lives. Through the poignant imagery of the fire's destruction, this exhibit showed the dramatic impact of the fire on the development of the city. Photographs of the fire's aftermath, memorial paintings, maps, and commemorative newspapers shown with objects that survived the fire brought the visitor back to this pivotal time in Portland's urban history. State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. curated the exhibit on the sesquicentennial anniversary of the great event.