Wicked Good Guide to Bizarro Boston /

Disasters

Compiled by Adam Gaffin

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Yecch - The Great Molasses Flood

Commercial Street

If you had to choose how to die, drowning in molasses would probably not rank high on your list. On Jan. 15, 1919, 21 people, a dozen horses and at least one cat had no choice. A 58-foot-high, 90-foot-wide cast-iron tank holding 2.2 million gallons of molasses burst, sending a tsunami of the viscous liquid down Commercial at 35 m.p.h., destroying houses, commercial buildings and a part of the elevated railroad.

The ramparts
Stand here and imagine a
molasses tsunami.

Today, only a small plaque at the entrance to Puopolo Park commemorates the disaster. But climb up the terrace (which looks like a stone medieval rampart), look out over Commercial Street toward the harbor and imagine a three-story wall of molasses flowing past.

More info:

Dark Tide - Steven Puleo's book is the definitive work on the disaster and places it in its social and political context - in which the Powers that Be of the day were only too willing to blame anarchists instead of shoddy construction.

The Molasses Flood of January 15, 1919 - A very detailed account from Yankee Magazine, 1/65.

The Great Boston Molasses Disaster - Still more.

The plaque
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