View of the city after the Fire of March 23, 1876
View of the city after the Fire of March 23, 1876

As much as I love the history of our wonderful Amelia Island I find it amazing that you never hear too much about the great fire that occured on the night of March 23, 1876 in the downtown business district.  I have only been able to find just one or two photographs of the fire, but thought I would share the only one I have with you.

It seems that a fire broke out in the downtown area on the night of the 23rd. and spread so rapidly that it caused much damage before finally being stopped.  The following is an entry of the day and what happened;

Biographical note:
Contemporary account: “On the night of the 23rd… fire broke out in a carpenter’s shop located in the business center of the place… and spread so rapidly that the citizens were unable to check its progress until nearly forty buildings had been destroyed. These covered nearly the entire business portion of the city… The buildings burned… included the post office… the city offices… the probate and county clerk’s offices… the office and store-house of the Charleston Steamship Company and the [Fernandina] Observer printing office… the depot and wharves were saved by the opportune assistance of a steam tug.” — D. Webster Dixon to the St. Albans Messenger, March 30, 1876.

Of course many cities experienced destructive fires before the installation of water supplies and organized fire departments with the proper equipment.  Today it is unheard of for a fire of this magnitude to break out and not be brought under control in short order.  We all know about the great fire in Jacksonville that almost destroyed the entire downtown area, but few people seem to know about the fire we had right here in Fernandina Beach.  If you have any pictures of this fire, please let me know, perhaps we could do some trading.

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