The Great Saginaw Fire of 1893
On the afternoon of May 20, 1893 a fire started in an abandoned sawmill on the middle grounds - known today as Ojibway Island, a city park. A strong wind from the southwest quickly spread the fire to the east bank of the river into the residential district. By the time the fire was brought under control along the south side of Hoyt Avenue, more than 257 buildings had been destroyed.
Within the burned area, the only major building to survive was Saint Mary’s Hospital. In the fall of 2010, the Museum’s archaeology team discovered what appears to be the remains of a home that was destroyed in this fire. After digging only a few small test holes, Archaeologist Jeff Sommer and a team of volunteers found portions of a brick foundation, charred wood, melted glass and other artifacts.
“These artifacts, along with historical documents we already have, will help us continue to tell the story of one of Saginaw’s most tragic events," Sommer says.
In the summer and fall of 2011, the team, which included students from Central Michigan University, continued digging at the site. The public was invited to stop by and watch the team at work, and Jeff was available to answer questions from curious bystanders. More artifacts were found and it became evident that the Museum could create an exhibit centered on the artifacts that were found. These items uniquely document the structure and intensity of the fire while providing clues to the people whose lives were dramatically altered by this event.
Project 1893: Artifacts from the Great Saginaw Fire opened on the 119th anniversary of the fire – May 20th, 2012 - in the Museum’s Centennial Hall. All are invited to visit the Castle and learn about this fascinating moment in Saginaw’s history.