1921 - Main Street - 2012.

Position:LOCAL NEWS
 
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COLUMN: THEN AND NOW

WORCESTER - All is quiet along this stretch of Main Street from Federal Square to City Hall, bottom photo.

But on Jan. 19, 1921, top photo, chaos reigned.

Howling winds roared down Worcester's central artery and the mercury hovered around 10 degrees below zero.

At 2:56 a.m., fire alarm box 4 sounded across from City Hall, alerting firefighters to a blaze at the seven-story Knowles Building at Main and Chatham streets.

Sparks from the raging fire would set off 48 other fires.

One of those destroyed the Merrifield Building at north Foster and Union streets. Another caused heavy damage to the R.P. Power Foundry at Albany Street.

Both of those complexes were several blocks from the Knowles Building.

Nobody perished that day, but the fires caused about $2 million in damages, a considerable amount in that era.

It was evident from the onset that firefighters would have difficulty containing the blazes.

For example, when Fire Chief Wesley Avery arrived at the scene, the flames from the Knowles Building were already 100 feet in the air.

The blaze threatened to destroy the entire uptown business district and off-duty firefighters were summoned, some...

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