Plans under way to remember 1916 Augusta fire

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 3:08 PM
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 2:10 AM
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On a gusty night in March 1916, an unattended iron in a tailor shop sparked a fire that swept through downtown Augusta and consumed 25 blocks of residential and commercial buildings.

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The Confederate monument on Broad Street is seen in March 1916 during a fire that consumed 25 blocks of downtown Augusta.  FILE/STAFF
The Confederate monument on Broad Street is seen in March 1916 during a fire that consumed 25 blocks of downtown Augusta.

This week, a group began discussing ways to commemorate the centennial of one of the city’s most devastating events.

“We all agreed without exception that March of 2016 will be here before we know it, and it’s never too soon to get started,” former Augusta mayor Bob Young said.

The fire started in the Dyer building at Eighth and Broad streets and quickly spread through downtown to East Boundary. Fire engine companies from Waynesboro, Atlanta, Macon, Aiken, Charleston, Greenville and Columbia came to assist, but ill-fitting couplers rendered their hoses useless.

What had been the business district and more affluent section of town was reduced to a forest of chimneys and charred rubble. About 3,000 people were left homeless and damages totaled more than $10 million. No one was killed.

Young and representatives from Historic Augusta, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department met Tuesday to begin discussing ideas to commemorate the disaster’s centennial.

A few preliminary ideas include a display or parade of fire equipment, a walking tour of areas destroyed by the fire and placement of a historical marker near the fire’s origin.

Young said he hopes more groups with interest in the event will add more ideas. The group will meet again after Masters Week to continue discussion and to start forming a game plan. He said he hopes over the next couple of years that residents will find mementos from the homes or buildings that were destroyed. Though it’s doubtful few remain who witnessed that night, he hopes people will share stories that have been passed down from parents or grandparents who were there and that the committee will be able to come up with a way to capture and share them.

“It certainly wouldn’t be something to have a celebration, but certainly some sort of commemoration might be appropriate,” Young said.

Anyone with ideas they’d like to contribute or who is interested in planning events related to the memorial can e-mail Young at


Anyone interested in planning events for the centennial of the March 1916 fire in downtown Augusta can e-mail Bob Young at

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oneofthesane 01/23/13 - 04:43 pm
I say, have everyone do the

I say, have everyone do the tour thing walking with an iron in hand. Just to remember the significance of such a commemoration.

SFCRET85 01/24/13 - 01:28 am
Weenie roast at the Wipping

Weenie roast at the Wipping Post?

soapy_725 01/24/13 - 10:33 am
There was also a flood that year.

Remember the Fire. Remember the flood. Remember the 1970 Riots. Remember a vibrant downtown Augusta Business District. Remember a productive and disciplined Richmond County Public School System. Remember when you violated a law and were punished. Remember when you could drive in Augusta without going through a ghetto. Remember a dream of judgement based on character. Remember when the Miller and Imperial theaters paid for themselves with patrons. Remember when the government did have a hand in every human endeavor.

Jake 01/24/13 - 10:43 am

........a re-enactment?

BillPhillips 01/25/13 - 09:28 pm
My mother was 10 years old and remembered the fire

My mother, Mary Heath, was 10 years old and living at 323 Ellis St when the fire started. Her father, R. A. Heath, a merchant, was downtown helping fight the fire. Firemen eventually informed my grandmother and her four children that they would have to abandon their home. My grandmother grabbed a few valuables and locked her home walking away with her four children.

We still have the keys she used. Everything else was lost. The family returned and built a handsome new home which still stands at 323 Ellis St. My mother lived to be 100 and never quit talking about "the fire." I have her entire account of the event which she wrote down in her 90's.

Bill Phillips
Durham, North Carolina

Proud Augustan
Proud Augustan 04/07/13 - 10:21 pm
Augusta Firefighters Day

Maybe we should make that day Augusta Firefighters Day, and hold a big event down at the Augusta Commons. They could have a stage set up and open the day with a speech by the mayor and fire chief and ring a memorial bell for the remembrance. Then have a community event where they could possibly have different areas set up. A booth with old photos and artifacts from the museum set up, and maybe get old fire trucks from the decades for people to get in and take photos with. Have 2 ladder trucks hang a American flag down from the ladders. Holding a cookout and invite local restaurants serve food, and make this an event to reflect on the past, but also thank our firefighters and see how the fire department works.

tom31510 07/15/13 - 09:19 pm
BBQ Cook-off

I'm relatively new to the area but in south GA BBQ competitions draw a lot of competitors as well as enthusiasts. Does anything attract more people than good BBQ. What about a display of old photographs on display in the lobby of the main library? And a float commemorating the even in all the parades until the actual celebration. There could be weekly articles in the Augusta Chronicle &/or Metro Spirit. Have articles about the old firehouses. Encourage old firetrucks from all over the CSRA to drive together in local parades. And anytime you get school kids involved in anything the adults follow suit. High school art students could replicate Augusta's old firehouses in different mediums.

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