In Baltimore, Maryland, a small fire in the business district is wind-whipped into an uncontrollable conflagration that engulfs a large portion of the city by evening. The fire is believed to have been started by a discarded cigarette in the basement of the Hurst Building. When the blaze finally burned down after 31 hours, an 80-block area of the downtown area, stretching from the waterfront to Mount Vernon on Charles Street, had been destroyed. More than 1,500 buildings were completely leveled, and some 1,000 severely damaged, bringing property loss from the disaster to an estimated $100 million. Miraculously, official reports said no homes or lives were lost—although some reports did say one African American man perished—and Baltimore’s domed City Hall, built in 1867, was preserved.
The Great Baltimore Fire was the most destructive fire in the United States since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed most of the city and caused an estimated $200 million in property damage.