Item 22694 - J.H. Hamlen & Son building after fire, Portland, 1901

Item 22694 - J.H. Hamlen & Son building after fire, Portland, 1901
Contributed by Maine Historical Society
Item 22694
J.H. Hamlen & Son building after fire, Portland, 1901
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The offices of J.H. Hamlen & Son, 293 Commercial Street, Portland, were destroyed after a massive fire on November 5, 1901. Hamlen & Son were involved in cooperage manufacturing. The fire is described in the book Barrels & Daring by Patrick C. Dowling, 1977.

"In the early morning hours of November 5, 1901, calamity struck the firm's Portland office. The Milliken-Tomlinson Block on Commercial Street was consumed by fire. The Hamlen offices, on that same block, were utterly destroyed. The citizens of the city turned out in large numbers to view the picturesque ruins of the large brick structure which was razed to the ground, save for the main stairway. Over this still hung the black wooden sign bearing the company's title, the gold lettering bright as ever. Above it, the window casement presented the outline of a cross surmounted by a crown. So much so did the ruins resemble those of a cathedral that may photographers of the day sought to preserve the scene on film." (p. 56-58, Barrels & Daring)

The fire is thought to have been started by a cigarette in a small wooden shed nearby. Firemen fought to save the vault with the company's records since 1846. A few documents were slightly browned by all were intact. Mr. Hamlen lost many valuable curios and furnishings gathered over the years from abroad, and displayed in his offices. Some of the most valuable pieces lost were an African clock made by Moors on the desert, a large lion skin with a finely mounted head purchased by Mr. Hamlen on the desert from a caravan crossing from Timbucktoo, and the signed commission of James H. Hamlen as Allotment Officer, signed by President Lincoln.

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