The Bar Harbor Fire Department's finest on display just two years before a stubborn fire hit the Hamor Block, just over 100 yards away. The department's quick response resulted in the building being saved. PHOTO COURTESY OF BH HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Historical records: Hamor Block fire

By Deborah Dyer, director, Bar Harbor Historical Society

From the March 1917 Bar Harbor Times

Bar Harbor has just missed having one of the biggest and worse fires in the history of the town when about 10:30 a fire was discovered in the Hamor Block at the corner of Main Street and Albert Meadow, opposite the Village Green.

The blaze apparently started in the northern end of the basement and spread rapidly throughout the building. When discovered, the entire building was a mass of smoke, which was pouring forth from every floor.

Apparently the fire caught from a pile of packing material in the basement of the Allen Store. The building is an old structure, without fire stops, and the smoke and flames went rapidly up between the partitions. It is supposed that rats or mice nibbling matches may have started the blaze.

It wasn’t a spectacular fire by any means. Volumes of dense brown smoke poured forth from the upper floors, but in only a few instances did the flames break out, chiefly on the northern side.

One or two narrow escapes from suffocation in the thick smoke occurred in the first fire, and one woman had to be assisted down the fire escape on the southern side, her retreat being cut off by the stairway.

The firemen were at once at the scene of action and a big crowd quickly gathered. It took nearly all the resources of the department, but the pressure was good, and this was augmented by the use of the steamer. A number of lines of hose were at once gotten to work and a flood of water was poured through the building.

The Hamor Block in Bar Harbor, across from the clock on the Village Green, was damaged in a smoky fire in 1917. In addition to shops and apartments, the building also housed the local International Order of Red Men fraternity hall. PHOTO COURTESY OF BH HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The first floor is occupied by J. Milton Allen, importer of china and crockery, the Fennelly Store, now used as Republican headquarters, and a vacant store. On the basement floor are the Allen Store and packing room, and the millinery store of Mrs. A.L. Stafford. The law offices of Charles H. Wood are on the second floor, while the top floor is occupied by the Cherokee tribe, I.O.R.M., and Opeechee Council, D. of P. The rest of the building is for the most part used for lodging rooms.

The top floor for many years was occupied by the Odd Fellows, who moved out a little over a year ago, the Red Men taking the hall after their departure.

A large crew set at once to saving the law library, papers and furniture from the Wood offices, and removed nearly everything except the larger articles without damage. Another crew removed the movable paraphernalia from the lodge rooms, while a number of the tenants succeeded in removing their effects from the other floors. No attempt was made to remove the Allen goods or those from the Stafford store, as these after the first of it, were not considered in any great danger.

It was a sizable job apparently, when the firemen first arrived on the scene and many doubted whether it would be possible to save the structure, or the adjoining ones.

Great clouds of smoke were pouring out of the building and it was apparently on fire from top to bottom. After a few minutes work, however, it became evident that the blaze had not gotten as much headway as was first thought and the firemen began to get it under control. About 12:30 the all out signal was given, but some time before that it was realized that the fire was subdued.

The principal damage was from smoke and water and the worst of it was in the northern end. A good part of the damage was covered by insurance, although more or less damage to the effects of lodgers was not covered. A big plate glass window in the Allen Store was smashed and a good deal of repairing to the interior of the entire block will be necessary. The rooms on the southern end escaped with little damage.

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