On May 20th 1893, a devastating fire swept across a major portion of Saginaw’s residential and business district. Over the course of a few hours, more than 250 buildings were destroyed and hundreds of people lost their homes and possessions. Headlines in the local newspapers hint at the enormity of the tragedy.
In 2010, preliminary archaeological testing revealed traces of the fire. In 2011, the Castle Museum initiated Project 1893 to engage the community in learning more about this important event in our city’s past. Project 1893 entailed inviting the public to visit the site as we excavated a portion of a basement from a house destroyed by the fire. It also included historical research, public presentations and tours and the development of an exhibition about the project. The original exhibit, Unearthing Saginaw’s Great Fire, was on display at the Castle Museum from May 20 – Sept. 29, 2012. In 2013, the museum was proud to receive a prestigious “Leadership in History” award from the American Association for State and Local History for our work on Project 1893. More about Project 1893 can be seen in this previous post.
Now, as we approach the 123rd anniversary of Saginaw’s Great Fire, I am happy to announce that Project 1893 has been incorporated into our permanent archaeological exhibit at the Castle Museum. Once again, visitors to the museum can see artifacts recovered from the museum’s excavation of the remains from the McMaster residence at 1005 S. Jefferson. This exhibit includes photos of the devastation taken in the days following the fire, a map showing the fire’s path, images of the archaeological excavation in progress and additional images of some of the artifacts we found.
So, if you’ve been to the Castle Museum to see our archaeology exhibit, please come again to see the new addition! If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?