Little sign for Molasses Flood.

Molasses Flood Plaque

Field review by the editors.

Boston, Massachusetts

January 15, 1919. A horrible way to go: One minute you're loitering on a North End Boston street at lunchtime, enjoying an unseasonably warm day, and the next you're caught in a 40-ft. high tidal wave of sticky brown molasses. The initial explosion of a molasses storage tank and subsequent deluge killed 21 Bostonians and injured 150, not to mention uncounted horses.

The 50-ft. tall tank held two million + gallons of the stuff. When the tank ruptured (fermentation, structural weakness, some even suggested it was an anarchist's bomb), its 1/2 inch steel plates flew on trajectories that collapsed girders on an adjacent elevated railway. The wall of brown goo, moving ~35 mph, crushed houses and inundated everything in its path.

In 1916, this street flooded with molasses.

Do we even eat molasses any more? If the Hindenburg explosion doomed the zeppelin as a ubiquitous mode of travel, this goopy mess probably soured the public's romance with molasses (it's still an ingredient in rum and, oh yeah, Boston -- baked beans, and maybe more. After we dock the zeppelin we'll do a little more research.).

We had high expectations when visiting the Molasses Flood Monument. While we can't complain too much -- at least someone installed a sign at the site -- it doesn't exactly conjure the moment, January 15, 1919, molasses bearing down on you. The small green sign is set low into a stone wall, unnoticed unless you're looking for it near the Bocce ball court along Commercial Street.

Perhaps Boston would rather forget. The Molasses Flood took months to clean up, and the smell lingered for decades. The residential neighborhood has been renovated since, and we didn't notice any residual stickiness....

Molasses Flood Plaque

North End Puopolo Park

Address:
529 Commercial St., Boston, MA
Directions:
North End Puopolo Park. Along the sidewalk near the bocci ball court, between the two baseball diamonds.
Hours:
Always visible, but no easy parking.
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