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Federal Street Fire, 1858

On May 2, 1858, a huge fire took place at 133-139 Federal Street in downtown Boston. The fire started at 137 Federal Street, a large five story granite structure. The building was occupied by the Douglas Axe Company in the lower stories, and Byram & Binley, a bindery company, in the higher stories. Four persons were tragically killed when a wall collapsed onto an adjoining boarding house. An article in the May 5, 1858 New York Times describes the conflagration:

"About 11 A.M., on Sunday, an officer of the Second Police District discovered flames issuing from the book–bindery and printing office of Byram & Binley, (formerly Sanborn, Bazin & Ellsworth,) from an upper-room, known as the 'Girls' room,' No. 137 Federal street. This building and the one adjoining were five stories in height, new, and with a substantial front of granite. They cover Nos. 133, 135, 137 and 139. The alarm was immediately given, and the firemen were soon upon the spot; but the fire in the meantime had made so much progress, spreading with considerable rapidity, and owing to the height of the location, it had made great headway before the efforts to subdue the flames had the slightest influence. The fire communicated by the roof to the adjoining warehouse of Messrs. Grant, Warren & Co., large paper dealers, Nos. 133 and 135, and though separated by a brick wall, the fire descended from story to story, as the floors fell in, and completely gutted the building. The total loss of properly by this fire is estimated at nearly two hundred thousand dollars.

By this conflagration, the lives of two firemen, John W. Tuttle and Francis J. Cutting, members of Tremont Engine Company No. 12, were lost and several other persons were seriously injured. Tuttle and Cutting were hosemen, and were standing on the roof of the boarding house, when a large portion of the brick side wall of the large store fell in and they were buried in the ruins. They had been cautioned by some not to stand on this roof, but it is said they were ordered to go there by some superior officer. Their bodies have been recovered, for they are so much burned that identification is scarcely possible. Tuttle was thirty-two years of age, and leaves a wife, but no children. Cutting was four years younger and leaves a wife and one child. The remains of the unfortunate men were followed to the grave on Monday by an immense concourse of citizens."

Patrick Reardon and a Mrs. Moran were also reportedly killed, presumably in the boarding house.

Firefighters Tuttle and Cutting were the first persons interred at the Fireman's Lot at Forest Hills Cemetery. There is a large memorial and 249 grave sites.  Nearly 140 firefighters have been buried there, of which 13 or so were killed in the line of duty.

Historical Location:

133-139 Federal Street 
Boston, MA 02110

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