By 1866 Portlanders could look back on nearly a century of astonishing progress. Their port had grown from a frontier mast landing into a serious cultural and economic rival of Boston. Fast becoming Canada’s winter rail-head, “the Forest City” ranked fourth in imports and fifth in exports among American cities. Rich, proud, vital, and confident, Portlanders seemed to march in lock-step with national events.
But then the Great Fire of 1866 devastated the city. In less than 24 hours, the heart of a great American port city was laid in ruins, including the store operated by Henry Bailey. The grim statistics of 10 million dollars in property loss and 12,000 people left homeless translated into the worst urban fire in America to that date.
A newly rebuilt Exchange Street as it looked after the Great Fire of 1866