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Thread: Fires of New York City

  1. #16


    BrooklynRider, that is quite a compilation of disasters!


    What's the source of those articles?

  2. #17


    Very cool, thanks for sharing.

    And let's not forget the St. George Hotel fire of May 24, 1995, the equivalent of 18 alarms


    the Greenpoint Terminal Market fire of May 2, 2006, the equivalent of 10 alarms.

  3. #18

    Default October 17, 1966

    Fire at 23rd and Broadway, where the high-rise apartment now stands. 12 firefighters lost their life, making it the largest loss of life in the department until Sept. 11.

    "A fire was reported shortly after 9:30 pm at an art dealer located at 7 East 22nd Street, just off of Broadway, in a four-story brownstone. A NYFD report after the incident showed that the dealer had stored highly flammable lacquer, paint and finished wood frames in the basement. By the time the first firefighters arrived, the intensity of the smoke and heat made it impossible to enter through the 22nd Street side of the building.[2]
    Firefighters attempted to approach the burning building through Wonder Drug, a store located at 6 East 23rd Street in a a five-story, 45x100 commercial building that abutted the burning art dealership. As part of a recent construction project, a common cellar under the two buildings was renovated, removing a load-bearing dividing wall that had supported the floor above. The removal of the wall allowed the art dealer to increase their storage space and move some of their supplies into a space that was now under the drugstore.[2]
    The building at 7 East 22nd Street, had a two-story extension adjoining the rear of the building at 6 East 23rd Street. The cellar of the 22nd Street building extended about 35 feet under the drug store. The drugstore's floor was supported by 3" x 14" wood beams. 3/4" wood planking atop these beams was covered with five inches of concrete finished with terrazzo. The fire underneath the store weakened the wooden beams, while the thickness of the floor prevented firefighters from feeling the extreme heat below.[3]
    A 15 by 35 foot section of the floor collapsed at around 10:40 pm, causing ten firefighters to fall into the burning cellar. Two other firefighters on the first floor were killed in a flashover. In all, twelve firefighters were killed; two chiefs, two lieutenants, and six firefighters plunged into the flaming cellar, while two more firefighters were killed by the blast of flame and heat on the first floor. It took firefighters 14 hours to dig out the rubble and reach their dead comrades. The dead men left behind 12 widows and 32 children.[2]"

    1. <LI id=cite_note-0>^ Duggan, Dennis. "Following in Heroic Footsteps", Newsday, September 15, 2001. Accessed August 7, 2008. "Fernandez was a young firefighter in 1966 at the scene of what until Tuesday had been the worst fire disaster in the department's history when 12 firefighters died at a West 23rd Street fire." <LI id=cite_note-NYT2006-1>^ a b c O'Donnell, Michelle. "Oct. 17, 1966, When 12 Firemen Died", The New York Times, October 17, 2006. Accessed August 7, 2008. <LI id=cite_note-2>^ "The 23rd. Street Fire, October 17, 1966.", New York City Fire Department. Accessed August 7, 2008.
    2. ^ Alden, Robert. "Firemen Bear Their Dead Down 5th Ave. in Silent Grief; Throngs Watch as Firemen Bear Their Dead Down Fifth Ave, in Silent Grief", The New York Times, October 22, 1966. Accessed August 7, 2008.

    Quote Originally Posted by philvia View Post
    there was a pretty big fire at the top of a building just south of madison sq park today. it was one of the ones that are being remodeled....
    What building?

    - bill

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    ...What's the source of those articles?
    I visited the Museum of the City of NY to see the Mannahatta Exhibit and the Henry Hudson Exhibit. These were presented in an elevator lobby. I added in a few of my own as well.

    I thought the forum would enjoy it. We do tend toward the dramatic and predict disaster at every turn. (Okay, every other turn - except in the case of Gene Kaufman or H. Thomas O'Hara. Those are guaranteed disasters.)

  5. #20


    I was involved in restoration after the biggest loss of telephone service in the US until 09/11. On Feb 26th 1975, a fire started in a basement cable vault at the New York Telephone switching center and spread into the building's lower floors. It took two days to put out the fire, What wasn't destroyed by fire was damaged by smoke and water.

    300 blocks were affected, 170 thousand phones. 6 hospitals and 11 firehouses were without telephone service. There were no cell-phones or internet back then.

    While the fire was still raging, the entire Bell System was mobilized. A vacant store across the street was used as an operations center. 4000 workers were brought in from across the country, 2000 at a time within the building in 12 hour shifts. 30 trucking companies and 11 airlines brought in equipment.

    I remember entering the 1st floor and seeing what was left of the main distributing frame (MDF), a 200 foot long floor-to-ceiling rack of shelving packed with wiring and cables. Melted to the floor. The whole thing seemed impossible to restore.

    It was estimated that it would take a year to restore service, but things started happening right away. An MDF was flown in the next day. The 3rd floor of the building was vacant, and used for assembly. The normal time period from order to completion of an MDF was 6 months; it was up and wired in 4 days. What was strange about the restoration was that side-by-side with heavy work - 6000 tons of debris was removed, there was delicate repair work. Bell Labs formulated a cleaning fluid, and Q-tips were used to clean relays. 5 million splices were made.

    Instead of a year, service was restored in 22 days. It was the biggest can-do experience of my working life. A prideful thing.

  6. #21


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    I was involved in restoration....
    I worked the 2nd Avenue district for 16 years. That fire was a common topic of conversation many years later. There were many conspiracy rumors due to the speed that which the equipment arrived.

  7. #22


    What were the motives for an intentional fire?

    Only thing I can think of is the ongoing federal antitrust suit. It would have been risky; the entire building could have gone up. And during that time, the company seemed to avoid publicity. One Saturday when I worked at 32 6th Ave, I (audibly) witnessed a suicide. Female employee jumped out of a window. When I told friends about it that night, they thought I made up the story. It never got on the news, and a few days later, the stained sidewalk was replaced.


  8. #23


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    What were the motives for an intentional fire?

    Only thing I can think of is the ongoing federal antitrust suit. It would have been risky; the entire building could have gone up. And during that time, the company seemed to avoid publicity. One Saturday when I worked at 32 6th Ave, I (audibly) witnessed a suicide. Female employee jumped out of a window. When I told friends about it that night, they thought I made up the story. It never got on the news, and a few days later, the stained sidewalk was replaced.

    No one ever had a good reason. You just reminded me about the stories when you mentioned that the equipment was expedited to the site.

    A former partner of mine, who was working that night, was quite certain that the fire was started inadvertently by a trunk maintenance splicer. Someone must have left a splice open in the cable vault which, over time, can absorb moisture from the air. Eventually, a cable failure gets reported and out come the 630 volt breakdown sets >> poof!

  9. #24
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    100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire Is Complete


    From left, Max Florin, Fannie Rosen, Dora Evans and Josephine Cammarata were among
    the final six unidentified victims of the Triangle Waist Company factory fire of 1911,
    which killed 146 and influenced building codes, labor laws and politics in the years that followed.

    In the Cemetery of the Evergreens on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, there is a haunting stone monument to the garment workers who died in the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 but were never identified. It contains the bas-relief figure of a kneeling woman, her head bowed, seemingly mourning not only the deaths, but also the fact that those buried below were so badly charred that relatives could not recognize them.

    Almost a century after the fire, the five women and one man, all buried in coffins under the Evergreens monument, remained unknown to the public at large, though relatives and descendants knew that a loved one had never returned from the burning blouse factory.

    Now those six have been identified, largely through the persistence of a researcher, Michael Hirsch, who became obsessed with learning all he could about the victims after he discovered that one of those killed, Lizzie Adler, a 24-year-old greenhorn from Romania, had lived on his block in the East Village.

    And so, for the first time, at the centennial commemoration of the fire on March 25 outside the building in Greenwich Village where the Triangle Waist Company occupied the eighth, ninth and 10th floors, the names of all 146 dead will finally be read.

    The fire was a wrenching event in New York’s history, one that had a profound influence on building codes, labor laws, politics and the beginning of the New Deal two decades later.

    Among the most anguishing aspects was the memory of the more than 50 young immigrant women and men who were forced to leap from the high floors to escape the inferno. However, many of the 146 victims — 129 women and 17 men — burned to death in the loft building, at Washington Place and Greene Street, and had no telltale jewelry or clothing to help identify them.

    The day the six unidentified victims were buried was the culmination of the city’s outpouring of grief; hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out in a driving rain for a symbolic funeral procession sponsored by labor unions and other organizations, while hundreds of thousands more watched from the sidewalks.

    A century later, names and even circumstances have finally been attached to those “unknowns.”

    “We consider his list to be the best ever produced on the question,” said Curtis Lyons, director of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University, which holds one of the most thorough repositories about the Triangle fire.

    Workers United, the garment workers’ union, and David Von Drehle, who wrote “Triangle: The Fire That Changed America,” a 2003 history of the fire, said they also regarded Mr. Hirsch’s list as the most authoritative.

    Descendants of those who perished, like a great-granddaughter of one 33-year-old victim, Maria Lauletti, were heartened by the news, though no one interviewed had yet made a decision whether to exhume bodies from the Evergreens cemetery and attempt a DNA match.

    “It means that there’s recognition that she actually died in the fire,” said Mary Ann Lauletti Hacker, 57, of Fountain Hills, Ariz. “To me, that’s a finality. She positively can be part of the record of those who died.”

    No New York City agencies and no newspapers at the time produced a complete list of the dead, Mr. Hirsch said. The most thorough list — 140 names — was compiled by Mr. Von Drehle when he wrote his book, and that was largely based on names plucked from accounts in four contemporary newspapers.

    The obscurity of their names is evidence of the times, when lives were lived quietly and people were forced by economic and familial circumstances to swiftly move on from tragedies — with no Facebook or reality television cameras to record their every step and thought.

    Mr. Hirsch, 50, an amateur genealogist and historian who was hired as a co-producer of the coming HBO documentary “Triangle: Remembering the Fire,” undertook an exhaustive search lasting more than four years. He returned to the microfilms of mainstream daily newspapers overlooked by researchers before him and to ethnic publications that he asked to have translated, like the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward and Il Giornale Italiano. He estimates that he consulted 32 different newspapers.

    He looked for articles about people who, in the weeks after the fire, claimed that their relatives were still missing. He then matched what he discovered with census records, death and burial certificates, marriage licenses, and reports kept by unions and charities about funeral and “relief” payments made to the families of the dead. Lastly, he sought out the descendants of three of the unidentified to confirm that the names he found were still mourned as Triangle victims.

    “I’m passionate about the history of this neighborhood,” Mr. Hirsch said of the combined Lower East Side and East Village, where most of the workers had lived. “From my window, I can see the stairs that Lizzie Adler had probably walked down to go to the factory the day of the fire.”

    Typical of his illuminating morsels was an article in the Forward asking if anyone had seen Max Florin, a 23-year-old immigrant from Russia and one of the six unidentified victims. “We believe that he survived the fire, but from great fear and being upset he went mad and is wandering the streets,” the article said, in Mr. Hirsch’s rough paraphrasing. “He is of average height and was wearing a black suit.”

    Mr. Hirsch began his quest modestly by trying to confirm existing lists. He found that they contained misspelled names, names of those who had actually survived and of those who had not worked at the factory. He was not surprised, given the bureaucratic fumbling and hurried journalism that often follows tumultuous disasters.

    He also learned that a name of one identified victim had been omitted. He found an article bypassed by earlier compilers in The New York Times from March 31, 1911, about someone named Jacob Dashefsky, who had come forward six days after the fire to say that his sister Bessie, 25, a Russian immigrant, had not returned home. Her body was identified through dental records and barely missed being buried at the funeral for the unidentified on April 5, 1911. That finding convinced him that there were others who had been omitted for similar reasons.

    Mr. Hirsch visited the graves of each of the known victims, who had been buried in 16 cemeteries, to further ensure a comprehensive list. At Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, he came across what he called “my Rosetta Stone.”

    He was looking for the monument for Isabella Tortorelli, 17, but instead found a family monument whose Italian inscription spoke of “due sorelle” — two sisters — who perished in the fire. Mr. Hirsch had never seen the name of Isabella’s older sister, Maria Giuseppa Lauletti, on any list before. He checked with the Calvary office and was told that her body was not in the grave.

    He located her granddaughter, Mrs. Hacker, in Arizona, who told him that the family had never been able to single out Ms. Lauletti’s body among the unidentified bodies, suggesting that she was probably buried at Evergreens. She also informed him that Ms. Lauletti had been an immigrant from Sicily and the mother of five children, four of whom were put in an orphanage after the fire.

    On his own, Mr. Hirsch found a 1912 report by the Red Cross that sought to protect the anonymity of the families receiving cash payments but whose details matched that of Ms. Lauletti. It also revealed that the mother of “Number 85,” as Ms. Lauletti had been identified, was “almost crazed with grief” and “did nothing but moan and weep for weeks.”

  10. #25
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    NYU Marks 100 Years Since Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

    "The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: One Hundred Years Later" exhibit will run through May 19.

    By Gabriela Resto-Montero

    In 1911, the building at 29 Washington Place was a sweatshop as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
    Today, it is New York University's Brown Science Building.

    slide show

    GREENWICH VILLAGE — New York University has launched an exhibit charting the impact of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 garment workers died, in honor of the blaze's centennial anniversary.

    The show, "The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: One Hundred Years Later," will run through May 19 at NYU Open House at 528 LaGuardia Place.

    The exhibit, just blocks away from where the fire happened at what is now the University's Brown Building of Science on Washington Place, looks at the catastrophe of March 25, 1911 in the context of the American labor movement.

    One of the catastrophe's most iconic photographs on display shows a policeman looking up at the burning building with the bodies of garment workers who leapt to their deaths from the eight and ninth floors lying at his feet.

    Following the fire, where survivors said management had locked the door to the ninth floor, New York State led formal investigations and indicted factory owners on manslaughter charges, but they were later acquitted.

    A group of six victims who were charred beyond recognition were buried together at the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn and have finally been identified, the New York Times reported.

    Michael Hirsh, an amateur genealogist from the East Village, positively identified Max Florin, Fannie Rosen, Dora Evans, Josephine Cammarata, Maria Lauletti and Concetta Prestifilippo as the six unknown victims.

    For the first time since the fire, all of the victims names will be read at a commemorative ceremony in front of the building where they perished, on March 25.

    Two Exhibitions Honor Centennial of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

    Babcock Galleries and Grey Art Gallery are also commemorating the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire with shows this month. [DNAinfo/ Jordan Heller]

  11. #26


    NJ I know, but it seems the best place to post this.


    Our Towns

    In Newark, Wresting a Fatal Factory Fire From Oblivion


    Published: February 23, 2011

    Matt Rainey for The New York Times
    Guy Sterling on the site of the Wolf Muslin Undergarment Company fire in Newark. Mr. Sterling spent a year researching the 1910 fire and documenting the dead.

    A photo in McClure’s magazine in April 1911 showing the aftermath of the factory fire in Newark that killed 26 women and girls.

    A century later, the images still hold their horror.

    You can see the flames licking the old brick factory building and the panicked workers trapped in the inferno, some incinerated where they worked, most leaping to their deaths on the concrete below. You can imagine the terror and the chaos, the much-too-late search for answers that followed, the empty aftermath of too many lives that never should have been lost.

    Yes, that describes the Triangle Waist Company fire, whose 100th anniversary is being commemorated next month and which left 146 victims — 129 women and 17 men — dead in the infamous sweatshop disaster in Greenwich Village on March 25, 1911.

    But if you walk two blocks from the Broad Street railroad station in Newark, past the halal meat market, the mountain of rubble that was once the old Westinghouse factory, past Carlos Tire, you can pull open the chain link fence and enter a vacant lot where someone with a sense of history or an inadvertent instinct for irony has left graffiti reading “Forgotten” on a brick wall. This is the site where, four months before the Triangle fire, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 1910, another sweatshop burst into flames, killing more than two dozen women and girls.

    History, like life, has its own perverse winner-take-all quality: the biggest moments are remembered; the others often fade away. But Newark’s sweatshop fire has its own lessons, its own stories and, it turns out, its own stubborn character, insisting that attention, however belatedly, be paid.

    The fire in Newark broke out at the Wolf Muslin Undergarment Company, on the fourth floor of an industrial building dating to the Civil War, after a container of gasoline was knocked over at the lamp company on the floor below. Most of the victims jumped to their deaths, some gruesomely impaled on a spiked metal fence. The death toll may never be certain, but a dogged, ad hoc investigation by Guy Sterling, a former reporter for The Star-Ledger of Newark, puts the number at 26. The youngest victim, at 16, was Mildred Wolters. The oldest, 59, was Catharine E. Weber. Three were sisters: Minnie, Tillie and Dora Gottlieb, ages 19, 21 and 29, who were buried under a single tombstone.

    The fire made national news. More than 100,000 people flocked to the scene the next day. But the blaze did not change the world. There was some effort at improving worker safety in New Jersey, but nothing monumental. A hurried coroner’s jury a month later deemed the fire the result of human error, ruling: “They died from misadventure and accident.”

    There was an observance at the site the next year, and then private remembrances, but the Newark fire became a footnote in history, sometimes mentioned in connection with the Triangle fire, but mostly forgotten, even in Newark. There is no marker at the site or any memorial in the city.

    Richard Greenwald, dean of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and the author of “The Triangle Fire, the Protocols of Peace and Industrial Democracy in Progressive Era New York,” said that while the Triangle fire finally moved people to action, the Newark one was a reminder how commonplace workplace death and injury were at the time — limbs torn off in railroad accidents, fires in jammed factories, gashes, burns, death. Twenty-six dead in Newark couldn’t quite galvanize a movement for change the way 146 dead in New York finally did. It’s easy to look back and shake our heads at all those blind eyes the way people in the future — climate change, anyone? — will surely look back at us and wonder in the same way.

    It’s also a reminder of the capriciousness of memory. Newark’s fire would probably have remained only dimly remembered had not Mr. Sterling, 62, who lives nearby, decided to wrest it from oblivion.

    “These were women of all nationalities, all ages, women who were someone’s mother, sister, aunt, daughter,” he said. “I felt we owed it to be sure they weren’t forgotten.”

    He spent a year researching the fire, documenting the dead, identifying 25 of the 26 graves and visiting 22. On the 100th anniversary, Mr. Sterling organized a memorial ceremony. And he helped design a 3-foot-by-2-foot bronze plaque, with the names of the victims, to be placed at the site upon completion of the construction of a church there.

    It won’t bring anyone back. It won’t make up for the failure of one calamity to prevent a similar one four months later. But if it adds a posthumous sliver of dignity to those who died, a richer hue to the historic record — better a century late than never.


  12. #27


    Television Review

    Two Remembrances of One Deadly Day in 1911


    Published: February 27, 2011

    As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.

    Brown Brothers
    Women at their sewing machines at the Triangle factory in Greenwich Village, where a fire on March 25, 1911, killed 146 people, many of whom jumped to their deaths.


    The fire scene.

    HBO can only hope that unions are still in the news when its documentary, “Triangle: Remembering the Fire,” is shown, more appropriately, on March 21, four days before the anniversary.

    The two documentaries cover a lot of the same ground — and use a lot of the same archival photographs — in telling the horrifying story of the fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory that killed 146 people in a matter of minutes. Most of them were women or girls, and most died after jumping from the eighth and ninth floors of the building that housed the factory.

    The narrators, Michael Murphy (PBS) and Tovah Feldshuh (HBO), supply the sad, heroic and outrageous details of the disaster: the exit door kept locked to prevent theft; the ladders that reached only the sixth floor; the elevator operator who kept returning, through the flames, to the ninth floor, until his car was halted by the weight of the bodies that had fallen into the shaft and onto its roof.

    But it’s the images of corpses stacked on the Greenwich Village sidewalks where they fell, as a crowd of thousands helplessly watched, that get to you, as dreadful now as they were a century ago, when they inspired a wave of workplace reform in New York State. The parallel to 9/11 is inescapable; it’s made explicit in the HBO film, in the observations of a fireman who was at the World Trade Center and whose grandfather was on the sidewalk outside the Triangle factory.

    Where the two films vary significantly is in tone. The title “Remembering the Fire” is a clue to the HBO film’s intentions: It focuses more closely on the fire itself, and many of its interviewees are descendants of fire victims or of others who played a role. (A great-aunt of Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, died in the fire.) It’s the more emotional and impressionistic of the films, and its narrative is more fancy, moving back and forth between the fire and events in the larger world.

    “Triangle Fire,” a presentation of “American Experience” on PBS, takes a more straightforward, strictly chronological approach and spends much more time on the progress of the labor movement in organizing garment workers, a tumultuous process that actually took place several years before the fire. This allows for the inclusion of piquant facts like the hiring of prostitutes to assault female pickets.

    Where HBO uses family members’ reminiscences, PBS uses the accounts of women who survived the fire, culled from newspapers, oral histories and trial testimony and read in voice-over. That approach, more reserved and less sentimental than HBO’s, is more moving over all, and the tick-tock narrative also has an advantage, as it builds inexorably toward the fire.

    Either film, or both, could spur you to want to learn more about the history of unions, garment workers and an earlier, rougher New York City. If so, a pilgrimage might be in order: the Asch Building, home of the Triangle factory, still stands at Greene Street and Washington Place, now owned by New York University and called the Brown Building of Science.

    Triangle Fire
    On PBS stations on Monday night (check local listings).
    Produced by Apograph Productions Inc. for “American Experience.” Directed and produced by Jamila Wignot; written by Mark Zwonitzer; edited by David Espar; Sierra Pettengill, associate producer; Deborah Clancy Porfido, production manager; Kyle Kibbe, recreations cinematographer; Gregory Andracke, interviews cinematographer; music by Joel Goodman; Mark Samels, executive producer for “American Experience”; narrated by Michael Murphy.

    Remembering the Fire
    HBO, March 21 at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.
    Directed by Daphne Pinkerson; produced by Ms. Pinkerson and Marc Levin; written by Michael Hirsch, Richard Lowe and Ms. Pinkerson; Nancy Abraham, senior producer for HBO; Sheila Nevins, executive producer for HBO; narrated by Tovah Feldshuh.

    A version of this review appeared in print on February 28, 2011, on page C3 of the New York edition.

  13. #28
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    Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later


    In the arts and academia, on television and on a Greenwich Village street, the 146 victims of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire will be remembered over the next few weeks in an outpouring of events marking the centennial of the workplace tragedy.

    The events, which started last month — roughly 100 in New York City and another 100 elsewhere in the nation — seem on a scale unmatched in New York since the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 or the Statue of Liberty’s 100th birthday party in 1986. And those were celebrations. This commemoration will have a more mournful, reflective tone.

    “It’s amazing, the passion that has come out for this,” said Sherry Kane, a spokesman for Workers United, the union that today represents garment workers. “I think it speaks to people because it’s about immigrant issues, women’s issues, workers’ issues, so it’s all these communities and it feels very important to them.”

    The lineup of events planned around the anniversary on March 25 include documentary films, art exhibits, plays, dance recitals, a requiem, a soliloquy, a slide show, an oratorio and lectures and panel discussions.

    Ruth Sergel, founder of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, which is coordinating the events, said she thought the ardent interest derived from a “zeitgeist where people are deeply discontented with the way things are.”

    “When you look at the history and you see people dropping their petty differences and coming together for positive change in the wake of the fire, we want to replicate that,” she said.

    The climax of the commemorations will be a March 25 memorial service outside the building on Washington Place and Greene Street in Greenwich Village where the Triangle shirtwaist factory was situated. The building, which was fireproof — though its contents were not — still stands; it is now New York University’s Brown Building of Science.

    The ceremony will begin with a procession of people holding bamboo poles draped with the blouses that were part of the shirtwaist style, each emblazoned with the name of one victim. Speakers will include the United States secretary of labor, Hilda L. Solis; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; the actor Danny Glover; and Suzanne Pred Bass, the grandniece of Rosie Weiner, a young woman killed in the blaze.

    As there has been in years past, victims’ names will be read by descendants and schoolchildren, with each name punctuated by the tolling of a fire bell. Firefighters will raise a ladder to the sixth floor of the building to demonstrate that rescuers in those years were not able to reach those trapped on the eighth and ninth floors.

    Some other highlights:

    HBO’s documentary “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” will be shown March 21 and for several nights afterward. A PBS documentary on Triangle was shown on Feb. 28 on the series “American Experience” and is viewable online.

    In its March 25 issue, The Forward will publish translations of articles that its Yiddish-only predecessor ran in the days after the fire, as well as editorials by its fabled editor at the time, Abraham Cahan.

    Between March 23 and March 27, the composer Elizabeth Swados will join with the writer Cecilia Rubino and the poet Paula Finn to stage a dramatic oratorio about the fire at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square South, a few blocks from the fire site.

    On Saturday at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation, the Manhattan Choral Ensemble were to perform Maurice Duruflé’s “Requiem” for organ and strings and new works that were created by the composers George Andoniadis, Victoria Bond, Ricardo Llorca and Martha Sullivan around Jonathan Fink’s poems about the fire.

    Universities are seizing upon the anniversary as a teaching moment. New York University’s Grey Art Gallery has been exhibiting historic and contemporary photographs, artifacts, art and books that document the calamity, a show that will run through July 9, except for the period between March 27 and April 11. City University’s Graduate Center will hold an all-day scholarly conference on March 24 evaluating the historical significance and legacy of the fire.

    And Cornell University’s Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, a leading repository about the fire, has beefed up its Web site with new information about each of the victims as well as eyewitness accounts, transcripts and photographs.

    There will also be Triangle-related events in San Francisco, Washington, Minneapolis and other cities. In Chester, Pa., in a work titled “Soliloquy for a Seamstress,” LuLu LoLo, a performance artist, will portray a young seamstress who unfolds her dreams and dissatisfaction to her younger sister moments before both perish in the fire.

  14. #29


    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynRider View Post
    1911: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

    The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the largest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York, causing the death of 146 garment workers who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. It was the worst workplace disaster in New York City until September 11, 2001. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for safer and better working conditions for sweatshop workers in that industry. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was located inside the Asch Building, now known as the Brown Building of Science. It has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.

    On the afternoon of March 25, 1911, a fire began on the eighth floor, possibly sparked by a lit match or a cigarette or because of faulty electrical wiring. A New York Times article also theorized that the fire may have been started by the engines running the sewing machines in the building. To this day, no one knows whether it was accidental or intentional. Most of the workers who were alerted on the tenth and eighth floors were able to evacuate. However, the warning about the fire did not reach the ninth floor in time.

    The ninth floor had only two doors leading out. One stairwell was already filling with smoke and flames by the time the seamstresses realized the building was on fire. The other door had been locked.

    The single exterior fire escape, a flimsy and poorly anchored iron structure, soon twisted and collapsed under the weight of people trying to escape (the exterior fire escape may have already been broken). The elevator also stopped working, cutting off that means of escape, partly because the panicked workers tried to save themselves by jumping down the shaft onto the roof of the elevator.

    Much to the horror of the large crowd of bystanders gathered on the street, sixty-two of the women who died did so after realizing there was no other way to avoid the flames except to break the windows and jump to the pavement nine floors below.

    Socialist Louis Waldman, later a New York state assemblyman, described the grim scene in his memoirs published in 1944:

    "One Saturday afternoon in March of that year — March 25, to be precise — I was sitting at one of the reading tables in the old Astor Library... It was a raw, unpleasant day and the comfortable reading room seemed a delightful place to spend the remaining few hours until the library closed. I was deeply engrossed in my book when I became aware of fire engines racing past the building. By this time I was sufficiently Americanized to be fascinated by the sound of fire engines. Along with several others in the library, I ran out to see what was happening, and followed crowds of people to the scene of the fire.

    "A few blocks away, the Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street was ablaze. When we arrived at the scene, the police had thrown up a cordon around the area and the firemen were helplessly fighting the blaze. The eighth, ninth, and tenth stories of the building were now an enormous roaring cornice of flames.

    "Word had spread through the East Side, by some magic of terror, that the plant of the Triangle Waist Company was on fire and that several hundred workers were trapped. Horrified and helpless, the crowds — I among them — looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies.

    "The emotions of the crowd were indescribable. Women were hysterical, scores fainted; men wept as, in paroxysms of frenzy, they hurled themselves against the police lines."

    Others pried open the elevator doors and tumbled down the shaft. Of the jumpers, a single survivor was found close to drowning in water collecting in the elevator shaft. The fallen bodies and falling victims made it difficult for the fire department to reach the building.

    The remainder waited until smoke and fire overcame them. The fire department arrived quickly but was unable to stop the flames, as there were no ladders available that could reach beyond the sixth floor. The ultimate death toll was 148, including 141 who died at the scene and seven survivors who later died at hospitals.
    HBO & their subchannels will be airing the documentary "Triangle: Remembering the Fire" for the rest of this week. Historians, decendants of those who died, survived, as well as decendants of the owners of the company are interviewed. One scene showed the building permit (?), which showed 300 sewing machines (!) on the 9th floor, where most, if not all the deaths came from. Building codes at the time required any building over 150' high to have metal studs, beams, etc., and concrete floors. The Asch Building is, I believe, 138' high. 45 mins.

    In an American history book I have, one passage described the scene at one of the piers where the dead were laid out for identification. Some people were so overcome with anguish when they found their loved one, they tried to hurl themselves off the pier, so policemen were stationed in certain spots to prevent them from jumping. I'm very surprised no one took those guys out. They knew damn well that back door was locked, but a juror said that they could never prove that the owners knew.
    What's worse, they were paid by their insurance company & went back into business.
    Last edited by mariab; March 23rd, 2011 at 02:04 PM.

  15. #30
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Remembering the Triangle Fire

    Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition launches memorial competition.

    by Adrienne Andi Sosinco, Joel Sosinsky, Karen A. Frank

    Adrienne Andi Sosinco is a co-author of The New York City Triangle Factory Fire and member of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition. Joel Sosinsky is co-author of The New York City Triangle Factory Fire and member of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition. Karen A. Franck, professor of architecture at NJ Institute of Technology, is writing a book about memorials.

    The fire at the Triangle Waist Company on March 25, 1911. COURTESY KHEEL CENTER, CORNELL UNIVERSITY

    For the unknowing passerby, the 10-story loft building at the corner of Waverly and Greene streets is unlikely to stand out. But for others, it is a place of pilgrimage. Just over 100 years ago, on March 25, 1911, 129 mostly very young women and 17 men died inside and around this building in the worst workplace disaster in New York City prior to September 11, 2001. The building survived, but on that day in 1911 146 employees of the Triangle Waist Company did not. After many years of commemorative ceremonies, this tragic but world-changing event deserves a memorial. On March 23, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition is announcing the details of a two-stage international design competition for a vertical, urban memorial at the site.

    When architect John Woolley designed the tan brick and terra-cotta building known as the Asch Building (now the New York University Brown Building of Science) in 1901, he incorporated the latest design features and structural amenities, including fireproofing technology to protect the structure and keep fire insurance rates low. As the New York City Landmarks Commission documented in 2003, when the Asch Building opened, it was both fashionable in its neo-Renaissance style and modern, providing passenger and freight elevators, steam heat, sanitary plumbing, and electric lighting. Because it would be 135 feet tall, the building was allowed to have wood floors and wood window frames and trim instead of the metal trim and window frames and the stone or concrete floors required for buildings over 150 feet tall. The plans called for two staircases and a fire escape descending to a skylight in an interior courtyard. After reviewing the plans, the Buildings Department objected to the planned fire escape, noting that it should not simply lead to a skylight. Woolley agreed to correct the plans and requested an exemption for an additional staircase, arguing that the floors were open, the two stairs were far apart, and the fire escape functioned as a third stair. Fatefully, the exemption was granted.

    Triangle workers never had a fire drill. No sprinkler system was required or installed. Most likely the fire was started by a match or cigarette carelessly tossed into a bin of scraps on the eighth floor, and it quickly spread. Buckets of water were not sufficient to douse it; the hose had rotted and the water valve had rusted shut. Nonetheless, most workers on the eighth floor escaped via the elevators and the only accessible stairwell, as the other stairwell was locked. On the tenth floor, the owners, their children, and employees escaped to the next roof with help from NYU students from a neighboring building. However, lacking early notice of the eighth-floor fire, more than 250 workers on the ninth floor had to find their way through smoke and flames, around a maze of worktables, chairs, machines, and baskets. A barrel of machine oil exploded in the only available stairwell. The only means of escape were two small (4’9” x 5’9”) passenger elevators and the 17-inch-wide fire escape, closed off with iron shutters. Heroic elevator operators saved many lives; some workers tried to grab the elevator cables or jumped onto the top of the elevator cars, until the elevators stopped working altogether. After prying open the shutters, terrified workers crowded onto the fire escape, which buckled and collapsed, dropping them onto the second floor skylight and impaling some on the iron fence enclosing it. Over 50 workers died as they sought escape through the windows, jumping toward the fire ladder that extended only to the sixth floor, crashing through fire nets, and landing on the street.

    The building today on Washington Place and Greene streets. Courtesy Mike Glenn
    Vehement citizen outrage followed the Triangle fire. Blame cast a wide net: the Triangle’s owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, who were indicted for manslaughter then acquitted; the Buildings Department, which was accused of graft and corruption for permitting occupancy of the building even though it was deficient; and capitalism itself. Reforms quickly followed. The fire department improved training, creating a Fire College. The city’s establishment of the Fire Prevention Bureau in 1912 reflected a growing understanding of the importance of preventing fires by educating people and promoting safety codes. As the Landmarks Commission’s 2003 report notes, almost immediately after the fire, Joseph Asch ensured that some of the defects contributing to the loss of life in his building were corrected. The Washington Place staircase was made accessible to the roof, a new fire escape was added, the iron shutters were removed from the courtyard windows, two large water tanks were constructed on the roof, and a sprinkler system was installed.

    Responding to continued demands and political pressure, the New York State legislature established the Factory Investigating Commission led by Senator Robert Wagner and Assembly leader Al Smith. The commission’s 59 public hearings, with testimony from 472 witnesses, resulted in 36 new laws, including stringent requirements for fire escapes, exits, and fireproof partitions, fire alarms, and fire drills in factory buildings. These laws set standards for proper ventilation, lighting, elevator operation, and sanitation in the workplace; required employers to safeguard workers from industrial accidents; and introduced special regulations to protect women and children in the workplace. In order to ensure compliance with the laws, the New York State Department of Labor was reorganized and the number of inspectors was doubled and given greater powers. In 1915–16 New York City’s Building Code was revised, limiting the occupancy of buildings according to the means of emergency egress available. The revised building code also increased protection for workers and required that older buildings used as factories had to be retrofitted to meet the new safety standards. The Buildings Department was given greater power to inspect premises, order repairs, and impose fines. These New York City and New York State regulations, the most advanced and comprehensive in the country, served as models for other state and local ordinances and for New Deal federal legislation.

    An editorial cartoon, Circa 1911.
    The Triangle Fire has been commemorated each March 25 publicly for at least 50 years, and privately for much longer. The International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (and its successor, Workers United) marks each anniversary by inviting dignitaries to make legislative proclamations. As a New York City Fire Department truck raises its ladder only to the sixth floor, a fire officer rings a bell and school children read each victim’s name, laying a flower in front of the three plaques on the corner that mark the building’s national historic and landmark designations. On the centennial last March, at exactly 4:45 p.m. (the time the fire broke out), houses of worship and individuals rang bells throughout the United States. This year, the commemorative ceremony will take place at noon, Friday, March 23, and bells will ring on Sunday, March 25.

    Fire safety conditions in the Asch Building were certainly better than in many factory buildings of that era. But, as Frances Perkins, member of the Factory Investigating Commission and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, so aptly described, the overarching intent of building and fire codes in 1911 was to protect buildings not their occupants. Many of the workplace protections we take for granted today—sprinkler systems, exit signs, ample means of egress—are the direct and indirect legacies of the Triangle Fire. Over 100 years later it is time to recognize, through design, the sacrifice of these men and women—a sacrifice that forced society to recognize that people, not only buildings, deserve to be protected. For information about the Triangle Fire Memorial competition, go to

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