Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Great Molasses Flood

One of Boston's quirkiest, but no less tragic, historical events took place on this day 89 years ago. It was around noontime on January 15, 1919, that a huge 50-foot molasses tank in Boston's North End exploded and sent a wave of the thick, sticky liquid through the city streets smashing houses and any structures in its path. In the end, 21 people had died and 150 people were injured. For a great read on this event, get a copy of Dark Tide from Stephen Puleo. (I talked more about the book in an earlier post.)
The only sign of this disaster that you'll find today is a small plaque that marks the location of the tank at 529 Commercial Street. The plaque is inlaid on the wall in front of the bocce courts. (Behind the bocce courts, by the way, is an old statue that used to be on Gallops Island in Boston Harbor honoring graduates the U.S. Maritime Service Radio Training Station.)

The plaque reads: "On January 15, 1919, a molasses tank at 529 Commercial Street exploded under pressure, killing 21 people. A 40-foot wave of molasses buckled the elevated railroad tracks, crushed buildings and inundated the neighborhood. Structural defects in the tank combined with unseasonably warm temperatures contributed to the disaster."

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