It was 150 years ago that the Collar City was devastated by a massive fire. It destroyed hundreds of properties and took a number of lives. Our Erin Connolly has more on how the local historical society is remembering the tragedy.
TROY, N.Y. -- So this is what Troy looked like before the Great Fire of 1862. But after, just utter devastation. The fire happened on May 10th when a spark from a train engine ignited a covered wooden bridge. Strong winds drove the fire into the city. Within six hours, more than 600 buildings were destroyed and at least eight people were killed.
Stacy Pomeroy Draper, the RCHS curator, said, ''It wasn't like a building would catch fire and then the building next to it would catch fire. Because of the wind, buildings three blocks away would start to catch fire so it was a firestorm very quickly.''
To commemorate the 150th anniversary, the Rensselaer County Historical Society has opened an exhibit about Troy's Great Fire. It's designed for people to remember that fateful day and show how a city can rebuild after being faced with adversity.
Draper said, ''We'd like them to think about the continuity of history. There are similarities in this experience from what we deal with today and there are some differences, too. But that’s what makes the connection between the past and present which is what we're about here at the historical society.''
This map shows the vast area affected by the fire. Various pictures as well as first hand written accounts of the fire are featured throughout the exhibit. Newspaper clippings adorn the walls and there are plenty of artifacts of firefighting equipment. The steam powered fire engines used were top notch for the time, but still pale in comparison to the tools used by current firefighters.
Troy's Fire Chief Tom Garrett said, ''Today we have self contained breathing apparatus. Those guys were in the smoke right in the thick of it. God knows what they went through.''
But important changes were made as a result of the fire. Fire limits and building codes were established in the city. All wood buildings were replaced by brick, a material considerably more fire resistant. Just another example of how knowing about our past can help us in the present and future.
The exhibit is located at the Rensselaer County Historical Society's location on Second Street in Troy. It will be open through August 18th.