Monadnock Moments No. 9: Marlow Fire of 1916
On the morning of August 20, 1916 the town center of Marlow, New Hampshire was devastated by one of the worst fires in the history of Cheshire County. The fire consumed the entire north side of Marlow’s Main Street, completely destroying eight homes and businesses and several other buildings.
The barking of the Harry Lewis family dog awoke that family at 4:30 on the morning of the 20th. The Lewis’ awoke to find the back portion of their home and business, the Marlow Inn, in flames. The fire, which spread rapidly to the east and west of the Inn, raged out of control for four hours. The inferno threatened to jump to the opposite side of Main Street and destroy the entire village. The heat was sufficient to blister the paint on every building opposite the fire and to shatter glass in some windows. Fire fighters and residents worked throughout the night, however, to save the village. Despite heroic efforts to control the blaze, curious visitors to the town the next morning were faced with a scene of utter destruct¬ion. People milled about, furnishings were scattered along the street and the entire north side of Main Street was a wasteland of chimneys and ashes. The Wheeler, Crosby, Britton, and Burnap homes as well as the Marlow Inn, the Ladies Aid Society building, the Granite State Evaporator Company, Ayer’s store, and Dodge’s grain store were all destroyed.
This fire, followed by another sixteen months later, which destroyed the four remaining manufacturing industries in the village, was a severe economic setback to this small town of 450 residents. The value of Marlow’s business interests decreased by nearly 40% between 1916 and 1918 and did not rise above the 1916 level again for several years.