On January 10, 1970, a light in a storefront display case ignited flames that engulfed a community.
About one-third of the Plymouth Meeting Mall was destroyed.
The photo above shows the fire fight underway on that cold, bitter winter day. Black smoke could be seen for miles as the fire fed on shoes, clothing, and other retail goods. Notice much of the ground is covered in white. That was both snow and ice. Water can be seen being sprayed on the fire from at least two hoses. This photograph, provided as a courtesy by The Intelligencer, shows the Plymouth Meeting Mall before the high-rise office building was built. The Strawbridge and Clothier Department Store (now the site of the recently closed Macy’s Department Store) can be seen in the foreground. The Lit Brothers Department Store (now the site of the Boscov’s Department Store) is at the top of the photo. In the middle – to the left – was the F. W. Woolworth Store.
Three fire fighters are seen here reviewing the devastation in the interior of the Plymouth Meeting Mall. This scene is in front of the Lit Brothers Department Store. Notice some of the leaves on the trees are unburned. The debris covers a fountain that earlier that day had sprayed water to welcome customers.
The inside of a shoe store after the fire at the Plymouth Meeting Mall. While the walls and the ceilings were destroyed, many of the shoes remained in their place on racks.
Three fire fighters are seen here surveying the damage at the Plymouth Meeting Mall. The fire fighters are walking among debris on the lower level of the shopping center. Note that the second floor has actually buckled from the heat of the fire. The roof has been destroyed and is now resting on the lower level.
This photograph is a close-up of the three fire fighters surveying the scene of destruction. Two of the fire fighters are from the Plymouth Fire Company. The identity of the fire company of the third fire fighter here is uncertain. Notice the steel and metal that were burned in the fire and the size of those items in relationship to the size of the men.
Mr. J. Howard Foster, Fire Chief of the Harmonville Fire Company, is seen here (gentleman seated) talking with three other men; the identities of these three other men is not known. Chief Foster led the fire fighting efforts among, according to news reports at the time, at least 12 area fire companies.
Lights and display cases were among the items destroyed in the fire at the Plymouth Meeting Mall. Portions of the second floor can be seen on the ground level of the shopping center.
The roof is completely gone in this section of the Plymouth Meeting Mall. The LITS sign is actually on the exterior of the Mall. The remnants of that roof now rest on top of the large fountain in front of the Lit Brothers Department Store. A bench, a couple lamp posts, and some of the trees inside the Mall remain in place and appear undamaged.
In Part Three, we’ll view the words of the children – now adults in their 50’s and 60’s – who remember the Plymouth Meeting Mall Fire in 1970.
The top photo is provided as a courtesy by The Intelligencer. The other photos are courtesy of the Plymouth Meeting Mall.
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© 2018 Richard McDonough