FARMINGTON — Students from Mallett School in Farmington learned Thursday about a fire in 1886 that destroyed most of downtown Farmington.

After a scavenger hunt that took them to places involved in the fire, they visited the Farmington Historical Society’s exhibit of photos where society member Taffy Davis greeted them.

The exhibit is set up at 186 Main St., the former Sun Journal office next to Tranten’s, and is open to the public again from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The children shared what they learned. They saw the site where the fire started: A barn located next to the railroad tracks on Pleasant Street. The site is now used as street level parking by the Granary Restaurant.

The building at the site of Merrill Hall on the campus of the University of Maine at Farmington was saved by people forming a bucket brigade, one third-grader quickly said.

The fire began at about 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, 1886, in a barn containing 45 tons of hay. It was over by 1:30 a.m. the next morning
and had destroyed three churches, the post office, three hotels, 42
businesses and 32 dwellings and stables leaving 96 families homeless.
The town’s two newspapers were burned.
Fire equipment from Strong came down to help and some from Lewiston came up on the train, she said.

 The cause of the fire is not certain, Davis said. A spark from a passing train might have started it or it could have been hay combustion, she said.

To recognize the 123rd anniversary of the fire, the Farmington Historical Society enlarged photos from its archives after receiving a $1,600 grant from the Western Mountains Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

Nancy Porter, historical society curator, pulled all the pictures and slides together and created a map showing the burned area and businesses. The display includes photos prior to the fire, after the fire and as the site is seen today.

The children as well as visitor Bertrand Dyer of New Portland were intrigued by a photo of Farmington’s first fire engine. The engine built in 1836 is now on exhibit in the Ford Fire Engine Museum in Dearborn, Mich., Davis said.

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Third-graders at Mallett School and teacher Keith Martin look at photos of Farmington’s first fire engine Thursday at the Farmington Historical Society’s exhibit recognizing the 123 anniversary for the great fire of downtown  Farmington in 1886. Students and the public toured the exhibit set up at 186 Main St. It will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Farmington Historical Society member Taffy Barr questions third-graders from Keith Martin’s class at Mallett School on Thursday after they finished a scavenger hunt that included sites of interest from the 1886 fire in downtown Farmington. The society is exhibiting of photos
recognizing the 123 anniversary of the fire from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday at 186 Main St.

Third-graders from Julia Hennessey’s class at Mallett School surround student Maureen Capehart as they look at items connected to the great fire in downtown Farmington in 1886. A white leather chief’s helmet catches their attention among the Farmington Historical Society’s photo exhibit recognizing the 123 anniversary of the great fire. The exhibit at 186 Main St. will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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