Fire of 1880

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Photo of the fire's devastation
Only brick chimneys remained of some buildings

A fire that erupted in the early morning of December 11, 1880 destroyed five blocks of downtown Pensacola, including several government buildings and "nine-tenths" of the city's business district.

The fire originated from Simon Damiani's confectionary shop, whose inhabitants barely escaped the blaze. Mrs. Damiani later died from her burn wounds.

The fire spread quickly by a brisk wind, sweeping down Palafox from Romana to Government Streets. Reaction to the fire was slow, as the only steam-powered fire engine in town was at a machinist's shop being repaired, but eventually citizens formed a bucket brigade. The fire was stopped at the City Hotel near Tarragona Street to the east, and behind the Customs House to the west.

Damages were estimated between $500,000 to over $1 million. Two lives were lost.[1] Over 100 buildings and businesses were razed by the fire, including:

Many of the businesses had just received their Fall stocks. Insurance coverage was initially estimated at $250,000.

The County Clerk, Filomeno de la Rua, rescued the important records from his office at the cost of his own residence, which was also destroyed by the fire.


  • "Fire's Disastrous Work: the Business Part of Pensacola Nearly Destroyed." New York Times, December 12, 1880.
  • "Fire and Disaster." Boston Daily Globe, December 12, 1880.
  1. Hoskins, Frank W. (1928). The History of Methodism in Pensacola, Florida: Its Rise and Progress. Cokesbury Press. p. 79.