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Students Map Impact of Great Bangor Fire of 1911 

Catherine Pegram

Some students at Bangor High School are helping piece together one of the most pivotal points in the city’s history – the Great Fire of 1911. The fire wiped out nearly half of downtown, destroying more than 250 buildings. But what the students in Margaret Chernosky’s geography class are learning is much more personal. They’re in the middle of major mapping project – learning about each of the 75 families left homeless by the Great Bangor Fire of 1911.Teacher Margaret Chernosky says, “No one has looked at the fire from this point of view yet, no one, no historian. So we’re doing what we call geographical historical research.”The students are cross-referencing a pre-fire map of the city with the 1910 census. With that information they can pinpoint exactly who lived in each house or apartment that burned. Chernosky says, “It’s almost like we’re visiting each family, going house by house, learning who they were, why are they here and what their employment was like, trying to paint a picture of this community before the fire.”This spring marks the 100th anniversary of the city’s most devastating fire. Sophomore Ben Dorr says the project is helping put it in perspective.”I didn’t understand how big the fire was. We know it wiped out a lot of Bangor but like we found a map and different houses and different parts and stuff. It was like huge.”Chernosky says what she hopes the students also learn is that people just like them were affected by the fire – and it’s more than just a chapter in the city’s history.”i find that when they look at this material, they start to relate to the people. So if you can make the people come alive, for awhile, then they’re interested.”Sophomore Ally Vanidestine says, “Bangor is obviously a really nice city with a lot of good people and it’s cool to learn about the history and what it went through and rebuilding it and reconstructing it.”The mapping project will go on public display this spring as part of the city’s commemoration of the fire.Next week, TV5 will be taking a look back at the Great Bangor Fire of 1911, too, and a look ahead to how it shaped the city’s future. Tune in for our special reports, starting Wednesday, on TV5 News at 6.