The Great Fire of 1963 was disastrous for New York community; the ensuing blows continued the devastation

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  • Published: 02/28/2023 12:00 AM

PHOTOS: With the strong smell of smoke in the air, Charlotte Griggs walked briskly with her father up Clay Pit Road on April 20, 1963. As they got closer, the smell of burning wood and smoke made it hard to breathe. What the pair saw next stopped them in their tracks, and brought tears to their eyes. “It was complete devastation. So many houses were gone,” said Griggs of the destruction caused by a fierce blaze that has been dubbed “The Great Fire of 1963.” Flames ripped through expansive brush that was abundant on the South Shore at the time and destroyed more than 100 homes. Many of those homes were part of Sandy Ground, the oldest free Black settlement in the nation still inhabited by descendants of the original setters.


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