May 3, 1903: Nearly all of Kennebunk’s business district is wiped out in a three-hour fire of unknown origin that starts in the town’s four-story, wooden, electric lighting station.

The loss includes the lighting station, two mills, five business blocks, two tenement buildings and seven other wooden buildings. The burned buildings cover an area of about 2 acres. The merchandise and equipment of 14 stores are destroyed.

Firefighters and fire equipment from Biddeford and Portland arrive to render assistance, but the Kennebunk fire squad has the blaze under control by the time they arrive. Unlike many other major fires of the period, this one occurs when there is no wind to spread the flames further, and the local firefighters have enough water pressure to apply full force to their efforts.

The town of Kennebunk suffers the greatest financial loss with the destruction of the power station, valued at $35,000, which would be about $1.01 million in 2019.

The fire does not cross to the other side of the Mousam River, where the Kennebunk Manufacturing Co.’s large mills, the Mousam Hotel and several residents are located.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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