The Great Fire of 1916 broke out on March 22nd at 6:20 p.m. in Kelly's Dry Goods Store, located in the Dyer Building at the northwest corner of Broad Street and Jackson (Eighth) Street. Whipped along by high winds, the flames rapidly spread to other buildings on Broad and adjacent streets. The fire jumped from block to block as it moved east, entirely skipping the 600 block of Broad Street, but devastating nearly everything from Fifth Street to East Boundary along Reynolds, Broad, Ellis, and the north side of Greene Streets. The disaster totally destroyed twenty-six blocks, ruining 138 businesses and 526 homes, leaving more than 3,000 homeless, and causing losses totaling more than $10,000,000. Miraculously no one was killed.
The Great Fire was called Georgia's worst natural disaster. It demolished one of Augusta's finest residential neighborhoods, destroying not only buildings, but also the canopy of trees which grew along the main streets. Many of the families who lost their homes forsook the downtown area and moved to "the Hill." The courageous townspeople rebuilt and restored the burned buildings and replanted the trees, but the fire forever changed the face of Augusta.