Home > Disasters

Brattle Square Fire, 1845

Brattle Square was located just west of where Boston City Hall now stands. Brattle Street had at one time connected Scollay Square to Dock Square, and was eliminated when Government Center was constructed. The Brattle Street Church stood at a tiny crossroads in between the two larger squares. A huge fire took place in 1845 just north of the famous church, and caused the tragic death of two Charlestown Firefighters.

"An event long remembered by Firemen of Boston and vicinity, on account of the painful and disastrous consequences attending it, occurred on the night of August 15, 1845, in the burning of the extensive stable building connected with the City Tavern on Brattle Street.

The fire was an act of an incendiary, and was set by an arsonist in a stall from which one of the tavern guests had just taken out a horse to lead him to water. A hostler and another person who discovered it attempted to smother it with their hands, but it soon got above their reach, and in a few moments the whole building was in flames. There was a large number of horses in the stable, principally attached to the different line of stages which put up at the City Tavern, but they were all safely removed from the building.

The Fire Department quickly assembled, and the bright light of the fire having been seen for many miles, various out-of-town engine companies soon arrived to the assistance of their Boston brethren. A portion of the Charlestown companies were stationed in front of the fire in Brattle Square, and as they were engaged in running out the hose, the brick wall at the gable end of the stable fell, burying beneath the ruins two of the Charlestown Firemen: Mr. William Roulstone, of Franklin Engine Company No. 7, and Mr. Emerson G. Thompson, third Foreman of Howard Company No. 3. They were immediately extricated from the ruins, but life was extinct; they must have been killed instantly.

Several other persons were seriously injured, two were taken into houses nearby, and received prompt assistance from Doctors Bigelow, Channing, and others. The Firemen killed were both young men, and engaged soon to be married. Mr. Roulstone was a sail maker by trade, and Mr. Thompson a carpenter. But for the vigorous exertions of the Engineers Henry Smith and Joshua Jacobs, who saw the great danger from the protruding of the front wall, had warned the crowd, and by force removed several Firemen and bystanders, many more lives may have been lost.

The fire raged furiously, and threatened the destruction of the Brattle Square Church, and other surrounding property; but by the effort of the Fire Department, it was confined to the stable and surrounding sheds. The roof of the church was set on fire several times, and was considerably burnt. The stable was completely destroyed. Besides Charlestown, engines from Cambridge, East Cambridge, Roxbury, Dorchester, Chelsea, and other towns, supported the firefighting effort with great efficiency."

Historical Location:

Brattle Square Fire Site 
South Side of Boston City Hall Plaza 
1 City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201


Copyright © 2020 CelebrateBoston.com