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March 28, 2011 / Council of State Archivists

NY Marks 100th Anniversary Of 1911 Capitol Fire

Article originally appeared on www.npr.org on March 27, 2011 and was written by The Associated Pess.

The fire started in the Assembly Library and quickly spread down the hall to the nearby New York State Library, finding plenty of fuel among towering shelves jammed with books and cabinets filled with hundreds of thousands of documents, many of them centuries old.

It would be several days before firefighters finally doused the last embers of the state Capitol fire that started in the early morning hours of March 29, 1911. Meanwhile, one man was dead and an untold wealth of New York’s history and heritage — from Dutch colonial records to priceless Iroquois artifacts — had gone up in flames.

The disaster, according to the man who served as the State Library’s director before and after the fire, was unequaled in the history of modern libraries. The fire is estimated to have destroyed about 500,000 books and 300,000 manuscripts; only 7,000 books and 80,000 manuscripts were saved. The blaze also destroyed 8,500 artifacts in the New York State Museum, including irreplaceable Seneca Indian craftworks. [link to full article]

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