Anniversary of Great Portland Fire to be marked July 4

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PORTLAND — The 150th anniversary of the Great Portland Fire will be commemorated at 4:15 p.m. July 4 in Monument Square.

The fire, which most people at the time believed was caused by a firecracker, began July 4, 1866. The blaze left an estimated 10,000 residents homeless and destroyed about a third of the city’s peninsula, including City Hall and much of what is now the Old Port. 

The commemoration will be led by Herb Adams, a historian and former state representative, and will include remarks from Bob Greene, a descendant of William Wilberforce Ruby. Ruby was the first to sound the alarm, and led the effort to save the Abyssinian Meeting House on Newbury Street.

Also participating will be Portland Fire Department chaplain John Brennan and historian Michael Daicy.

At 4:41 p.m. the start of the fire will be observed with the ringing of the First Parish Church bells. The church was spared in the fire, and the bells were the last to toll to spread the alarm.

— David Harry