Anniversary of Great Salem Fire June 25

Late by several days due to inattention, but let’s note here June 25 was the 103rd anniversary of the Great Salem Fire of 1914. The fire began with the explosion of the Korn leather tanning factory at 57 Boston St in the Blubber Hollow region of the Gallows Hill Neighborhood, just underneath the now famous Proctor’s Ledge, the spot where 19 innocents were hung for accusations of witchcraft through the summer of 1692.

Great Fire 1914 start

The 1914 fire soon after it started

In this photo, taken from the vantage point on a tannery on Goodhue St shortly after the fire began, the flames have already spread east along Boston St., pushed along by a stiff wind. Soon the flames would jump across Boston St, taking out the factories and houses in the middle of the photo. Hours later the conflagration would only subside when it reached Salem harbor, after taking out about a third of Salem, razing 1376 buildings and leaving 18,000 homeless. The tanneries in the right foreground were untouched, protected by the stiff wind pushing flames in the other direction. In the photo the position of Proctor’s Ledge is already obscured by heavy smoke.

The site of the Korn Leather Factory in the 21st century is occupied by a Walgreen’s Pharmacy, seemingly oblivious to its central position in local history, a monument dedicated to the Great Fire in one corner of the parking lot, and a new monument dedicated to those executed in 1692 catty-cornered across the lot.