On Friday July 13, NHA will offer a commemorative tour of “The Great Fire” of 1846 on the 172nd anniversary of this historic event. An NHA interpreter will provide an informative tour of the path of the fire aboard a 1945 fire truck loaned for this event by The Nantucket Hotel. The tour will depart from the Whaling Museum at 13 Broad Street and will run approximately six times throughout the day, starting at 10:30am with a break from tours between 12pm-2pm.
The tour is 20 minutes long.
*Children must be accompanied by an adult.
“The Great Fire” of 1846:
On July 13, 1846, 172 years ago, Nantucket experienced a night of terror, a Great Fire which destroyed most of the downtown area between Main Street and Broad Street. We will drive that route which today in the Nantucket Hotel’s 1945 Pumper, a much more efficient fire-fighting vehicle than what was available in the town in 1846.
As a community, Nantucket had always recognized the dangers of fire. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Nantucket’s economy depended on the whaling business. Throughout downtown, particularly along the waterfront, there were large stores of whale oil and candles, which were highly flammable. The fear of fire was so great that in the 1830’s smoking in the streets was prohibited and was punishable by a fine of $2.
Nantucket bought its first engine in 1750 for 18 pounds (about $90). In the following decades the town purchased fire buckets, ladders, and at least two additional engines. They also established and Office of Fire Warden in 1765, and in 1787 added a watchman stationed in the church tower to keep an eye out for fire. Despite these efforts of preparedness, Nantucket was not spared from the tragedy of a large scale fire.