Bowen-Merrill Fire (1890) Historical Marker
Backstory and Context
The Indianapolis Fire Department dates back to 1826 when a group of volunteers established the city's first fire company. The city hired its first paid firefighter in 1859. Although this fire killed more firefighters than any other in the city's history, it was not the deadliest fire in Indianapolis History. That distinction belongs to a fire that happened two years later at the National Surgical Institute.
On January 21, 1892, 19 patients were killed when the Surgical Institute caught fire. Despite the tragedy, the fire could have been far more deadly without the rescue effort, as over 300 people were in the building when the fire started, and of those individuals, 194 were trapped above the fire on the top floor. Brave volunteers joined the firefighters as they rescued patients and staff from the hospital's top floor.
David J. Bodenhamer, Robert G. Barrows, ed. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, Bloomington, the University of Indianapolis Press, 1994, p. 568.
"The Bowen-Merrill Fire," Indianapolis Firefighters Museum Collection, Indianapolis Public Library, accessed 12/28/16, http://digitallibrary.imcpl.org/cdm/bowenmerrillfire/collection/ffm
Image from Indiana Historical Bureau website, http://www.in.gov/history/markers/387.htm