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Sat Dec 9, 2023, 07:44 AM Dec 2023

On this day, December 9, 1915, the Hopewell Fire occurred.


City commemorates 100th anniversary of great fire

Alex Trihiasatrihias@progress-index.com
Published 1:00 a.m. ET Dec. 9, 2015 | Updated 1:53 p.m. ET Dec. 8, 2015

Scroll down and use the slider to compare these two photos showing the site of the Hopewell fire, then and now. This composite image shows the aftermath of the Hopewell fire of 1915, left, and its present-day view in 2015, both facing North along Hopewell Street at the intersection with East Broadway. Appomattox Regional Library/ Contributed Photo

HOPEWELL — All along Appomattox Street, the town of Hopewell was ablaze. The fire burned fiercely from 1:30 p.m. until about 10 at night, when the flames subdued and the town was left in ruin. The great Hopewell fire of December 9, 1915, caused millions of dollars-worth of destruction and left dozens homeless. It was the day when Hopewell was forced to start from square one and, in July 1916, became the city it is today.


The great Hopewell fire had about $2 to $4 million in damages, which equates to roughly $70.6 million in 2015. Many people were left homeless after dozens of homes were destroyed in the blaze. However, the city was ready to provide relief to the destitute by lighting and heating up local churches for shelters and by City Council’s appropriation of $7,500 to be expended for relief. The Chamber of Commerce also contributed $1,000 to helping those in need. Many others reached out to the city to provide help.

“John Ringling of Ringling Bros. Circus offered [during his offseason] to send his tents, his elephants, his workers to set up a commissary to feed the people,” said {Jean Langford, Assistant Librarian and Archivist for the Ann K. and Preston H. Leake Local History and Genealogy Room at Appomattox Regional Library}. “But DuPont was able to take care of the situation and it wasn’t within 10 days, as soon as they could get building permits, they were rebuilding the city.”

The cause of the fire, according to Langford, is still somewhat unknown. Sabotage was a concern of those who lived in Hopewell at the time because there were prior instances of German sabotage that occurred. However, most people believe the casue was much more accidental. ...“Most people seem to believe that maybe an oil stove got kicked over or an oil lamp,” Langford said. “There was that thought of sabotage, but that was determined to not be true at the time, so a kicked over something. Back then, you do have some electricity, but a lot of people are still using oil stoves or oil lamps.”

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