The Bracewell Building after the flood – 422 Central Ave
The Bracewell Block after the March, 1896 flood: “Dover’s Black Day”
The record-breaking rainfall of March 1 & 2, 1896 ravaged downtown Dover. The Central Avenue Bridge was swept away by torrents of rushing water and ice floes, and several stores and offices in the Bracewell Building were destroyed as well.
Merchants occupying the southern portion of this building included Fred Foss’s stationery store, Roberts Bros. Boots & Shoes, the Misses Flynn millinery shop, Drew & Boomer photography studio, and the law offices of William Roberts. Combined, their losses totaled over $23,000. Building owner, Col. John Bracewell, estimated structural damage of at least $20,000 more.
The bridge began to sink at 4PM on March 2 when immense ice cakes from upstream continually hit its piers. At 4:55, two spans, 30’wide, went down. Not five minutes before, the bridge was filled with people resolved to see in spite of the danger. They were removed by the City Marshall just in time.
The Bracewell Block caved in at exactly 8PM with “crashing glass, snapping of timber, and a cloud of plaster and lime.” Debris flowed swiftly over the dam. Electric poles then fell into the streets with live wires sparking. Lots of merchandise and equipment from these Dover businesses were found in Portsmouth the next day: “everything from lead pencils to fine bonnets to brogans.”
For more information about Dover’s Black Day, Click Here.