Please join us this Saturday as we dedicate a new Virginia historical highway marker for the Federal Transient Bureau Fire of 1934. The tragic fire on Twelfth Street claimed the lives of 19 homeless men and injured 70 others.
The ceremony to dedicate and unveil the marker will be held at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, March 24, on the 84th anniversary of the fire. Open to the public, the dedication will be hosted at the Lynchburg Visitor Center, on the corner of Twelfth and Church Streets, the site of the Bureau fire.
Speakers at the dedication will include Lynchburg City Council member Sterling Wilder; Ted Delaney, director emeritus of Old City Cemetery; Battalion Chief Robert Lipscomb of the Lynchburg Fire Department; and Jim Hare of the Department of Historic Resources. Chris Evans will perform a dramatic monologue in the role of Frank Wells, a victim of the fire, from last fall’s Candlelight Tours at Old City Cemetery.
The Federal Transient Bureau was opened by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration as part of the New Deal during the Great Depression of the 1930s and housed out-of-work men passing through town, the marker notes.
Intended to hold no more than 100 men, the shelter was occupied by about 190 people the night of the fire, according a March 27, 1934, Lynchburg News article. “The two-story building was overcrowded,” the marker reads, “when an early morning kitchen fire spread rapidly and claimed the lives of at least 19 inhabitants; about 70 others were injured.”
The federal government returned many bodies of those who died to their families although seven of the dead were buried in a Potter’s Field in Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery. Their graves are currently unmarked, and their exact location remains unknown.
The fire brought national attention to Lynchburg and resulted in improved federal guidelines for homeless shelters, according to the marker.
The “Federal Transient Bureau Fire” marker was approved for manufacture and installation in 2017 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which has the authority to designate new historical markers. The manufacturing cost of the sign has been covered by its sponsors: Old City Cemetery and the City of Lynchburg’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism.
All events are sponsored by the Southern Memorial Association.
Please contact us for more information about the Old City Cemetery or any of these events.
SEASONS IN THE CEMETERY
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