Bowen-Merrill Fire, 1890
This historical marker is located near the site of the former Bowen-Merrill Bookstore which caught fire on March 17, 1890. Twenty firefighters battling the blaze fell from the building's roof when the building's walls and roof collapsed. Twelve of those men were killed by the accident and a thirteenth firefighter perished as a result of his injuries. The fire was the deadliest in the history of the Indianapolis Fire Department. As word of the tragedy spread, residents of the city established annuities for each of the nine widows and twenty-two orphans. The state of Indiana responded to the tragedy by creating the first statewide pension fund the following year.
Backstory and Context
On January 21, 1892, 19 patients were killed when the Surgical Institute caught fire. Despite the tragedy, that fire could have been far more deadly as over 300 people were in the building when the fire started, and 194 of those individuals 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.
"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