Crown Hill Fire – 1930

The above image is one of my favorites from our Historical Photos collection.  It depicts the May 4, 1930 Crown Hill Fire.  This photo is also published in “The Nashua Experience: History in the Making” along with the following information about the Crown Hill Fire:

… many Nashuans were suddenly made homeless by a fire which started on the Sunday afternoon of May 4, 1930.  The blaze began in a trestle of the Boston and Main Railroad, where it spanned the Nashua River off Temple Street.  A high wind from the northwest carried embers to the roof of a factory building.  Soon the fire spread across Temple Street, down Spruce and across East Hollis Street to the Crown Hill residential area.  Within hours flames swept from one building to the next, as frantic residents helped battle the blaze with bucket brigades, shovels of dirt, and even blankets.  Fire apparatus came from surrounding towns and as far away as Boston to battle the conflagration.  As the day and evening wore on, almost four hundred homes were destroyed.  The area was reduced to a wasteland of ashes with only a few chimneys and skeletons of trees left standing.  The total loss was set at well over two million dollars.  Most of the homeowners, having little or no insurance, were devastated by the catastrophe.  The National Red Cross aided at the scene while temporary shelter was set up in the National Guard Armory.  Most victims salvaged only a few belongings and moved in with friends and relatives.  Meanwhile, a local committee organized by the Mayor began raising a relief fund which soon totaled about eighty thousand dollars, to provide financial help.

Civic groups such as the Good Cheer Society helped the many homeless people.  An untold number helped directly with clearing the ashes and debris, and relocating and sheltering hundreds.  The local relief effort demonstrated once again the fortitude and generosity of the community in helping one another overcome sudden calamity.

We also have this photo as part of a small collection of Historical Photos available on our website! – You can look at pictures from the Crown Hill Fire, the fire that knocked out the Main Street Bridge in 1925, a fire in 1947, a fire from 1872, etc.  Oh, but it’s not all destruction, we also have a picture of the Indian Head Coffee House which used to be where the First Congregationalist Church now is.  There’s a picture of the Old City Hall.  The old Power Station is there (that’s the building that is now Margarita’s).  A picture of the aftermath of the hurricane of 1938 (ok, so there are a few more pictures of destruction… ) – you can have a look at the online photos here.

3 Responses to “Crown Hill Fire – 1930”

  1. Len Guerette says:

    2/19/11 – For now, I have three comments:

    First, I believe that the ‘1947’ picture of the fire on Main Street is years later! I recall getting off of the city bus (by Priscilla’s) around 1964?? when I began heading north up Main Street for a dentist’s appointment. How shocked I was to see smoke beginning to rush out of the former church that was housing Nashua Hardware (prior to that, it housed the Park St. Theater). So, I was one of the first people to see this fire’s beginning! I’m sure records of the fire that hit Nashua Hardware will better pinpoint the exact date. Nashua Hardware moved in after the Park St. Theater closed (late 1950s or so)….. The Bargain Outlet met a similar fire/fate.

    And, as for the photo of the Centennial sign, I believe the man in the center (wearing dark coat) is our former mayor Lester Burnham! (Close friend of my family.) When Nashua turned 150 in 2003, I was quite sad to NOT see much in the way of a big celebration. So very little showed up during my searches on the internet (here in Florida). My memories of the big “birthday” for Nashua in 1953 are so vivid to this day! My family had a great view of the parade on Main St. from the roof/porch over my Uncle Al’s ‘Amherst St. Market’!

    More old-Nashua photos would be welcomed on this site! Thank you – Len-G.

  2. Len Guerette says:

    As for the Crown Hill Fire:

    My father’s family was residing in the former rectory for Infant Jesus Church (Allds St.) in May, 1930 when the Crown Hill Fire broke out. My father was only 11, and he and many others were on the 3rd floor of the church’s school/church/hall watching a play. Shortly after the fire broke out on the train trestle off of Temple Street, a nun at the window of the hall told people a bad fire was beginning to head their way (very windy, hot day), and to calmly leave the building! Little did they know that all of the church buildings and whole neighborhood would be destroyed. The “Great Depression” was so young then (having started October of 1929), and this destruction was so bitterly cruel. Countless people lost everything, including their money, because banks had failed – and they kept their money and valuables in their homes. Because my father was part of a large family, his father later walked up to Arlington Street and convinced the owner of that supermarket to sell the store to him so he’d have income for his family! (Later, my grandfather hired lots out-of-work men to help LOWER that building about 3 feet so customers would have better access to the store!!) For decades, many of my family members had variety/supermarket stores in Nashua. Most still standing today…

    And, again, more photos of old Nashua would be appreciated! Len-G