East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

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East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby modorney » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:10 am

I seem to remember a fire burning down many blocks of east Cambridge. Either late fifties or sixties? Quite a few rail-served industries were involved, but I am not sure if it affected any transit (either Red line at Kendall or Green line at Lechmere. I tried googling "cambridge fire", etc., with no results. Any history buffs here, who know Cambridge? How was rail (freight and passenger) affected?

I can see a small lift bridge from the Red line, that allows the power plant to have barge access to the Charles River. Did that canal have any other customers at that time?

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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby Teamdriver » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:56 pm

Dude Here's something , maybe it will help you.


Broad Canal was developed in  (sixty-nine years before the Lechmere
Canal) to serve the port of Cambridge. Nineteenth-century photographs
show wooden structures lining the banks of the canal and wooden vessels
standing high and dry at low tide. The Broad Canal represents one of the
last vestiges of the river’s industrial past and is an excellent site for interpreting
the history of the river.

http://www.mass.gov/dcr/projects/CR%20B ... dCanal.pdf
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby Aerie » Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:45 pm

I don't recall any great fires of this sort in Cambridge. Are you sure you're not thinking of the fire that destroyed large sections of Chelsea?
http://www.celebrateboston.com/disaster ... e-1973.htm
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby jr145 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:16 pm

Chelsea needs another one of those.
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby edbear » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:48 pm

I believe it was about 1971; can't remember the exact year. An outfit called Reclamation Systems had an 'in' with the B & M pre-bankruptcy management. Reclamation purchased a site from the B & M in East Cambridge and built a trash compacting station. Trash haulers would bring trash from industries, maybe some cities and towns too, and it would be compacted into bales and dumped in large depressions in the land. The 'in' with the B & M got Reclamation a disposal site at the Billerica Shops Dump. The haul would have been by rail. However, there were municipal hurdles that Reclamation could not overcome, so they were dumping the bales in Carver hauled over the road. Reclamation was not the financial gold mine as it was originally touted. People weren't as environmentally conscious about disposal 40 yrs. ago as they are today, so it is conjecture that it was one of the bales that ignited by spontaneous combustion and destroyed all the bales on the ground, the Reclamation building and the Prison Point Bridge. And it tied up commuter traffic most of the evening. The fire broke out probably about 5:30. If you were in North Station and listened to announcements, Fitchburg Div. riders were told to make their way to Porter Square. The one or two sets of equipment stranded west of the fire were given orders and clearance and started from Porter that evening. Don't know how the other routes fared.
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby ALAN L. SCHNEIDER » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:56 pm

I was there. In the spring of 1965 on a Sunday night I was studying in the East Campus Dormatory at MIT - a lot of yelling and we all went over to Kendall Square where the US DOT Transportation Research Center is today. We stood on the south side of the canal and watched the light industrial buildings burn on the north side of the canal. Every minute or so a gas cylinder or a metal drum overheated and exploded - better than your most spectacular 4th of July. Fortunately (as far as we later learned) no one was hurt. There was a giant gas holder adjacent to the fire, but it didn't rupture or burn. Perhaps the gas holder threat was why the police forced everyone to leave.

The property was going to be condemmed for the NASA Space Flight Center; Teddy Kennedy won election as Senator when he said that he could do more for Massachusetts, given the fact that his brother was President, hence the NASA Space Flight Center in Cambridge. However, after LBJ became President, the NASA facility went to Houston, and the plans were changed to the DOT R&D Center.

As a part of the R&D Center the canal was filled in; it was said that the canal was built to reduce the cost of shipping coal to the factory buildings, since ships and barges are cheaper than horse drawn wagons and steam railroads.

Before I got to Cambrige in the fall of 1964, there had been a huge fire in Charlestown, near the B&M shops and yards. The story was that there was an old wooden meat packing plant, and there was decades of animal fats soaking the wooden structure, so that when she caught fire, she burrned too fast to save. But as I say that was only a story we freshman were told.

I believe the Prison Point Bridge burned, but I'm not sure. If it did that would have been a big fire since the bridge was wood and a big one.
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby Teamdriver » Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:54 am

I found this , no mention of a fire, but Cambridge Gas company had a yard and gas works on Third street and over to First street,

The Site Through Time http://web.mit.edu/kimsan/www/4.211J/time.html
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby modorney » Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:24 am

> I was there. In the spring of 1965 on a Sunday night

That's the one - one of the companies (Automation Dimensional Equipment - ADE) in the light industrial buildings was totally burnt out. They made a non-contact gaging system used for production measuring of metal sheets, semiconductor wafers, etc. They lost all their inventory and test equipment in the fire, but, surprisingly, made out like bandits from the insurance company settlement. Individual employees had their own personal test equipment, as well as model airplanes (the company hobby - remember "Engineer Day" when you brought your stuff to the company lab on Wednesday afternoon?), and those were reimbursed, too.

A bunch of employees were working that night, and left before the fire spread to their building.

One employee (Crazy Joe) claimed so much personal stuff he made out like a bandit, and, after the company relocated to a wooden slum office building in Watertown, he kept leaving lit cigarettes around (he smoked 4+ packs a day) to burn down that place, too. I joined them seven years later, in 1972, and the fire was part of the company lore. Crazy Joe (an alcoholic and BPD) never succeeded in starting an "accidental" fire, and that building still stands today, nicely remodeled.

thanks for the details, guys!
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Re: East Cambridge Fire - sixties?

Postby StevieC48 » Sun Dec 02, 2012 11:42 am

Here is a quick note one of the great fires of Boston , a Deputy Chief who passed from Biddeford ,ME said the B&M transported their fire apparatus was sent down on flat cars and coaches for the men.
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