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A Great Big City

March 25 in New York History


📝 On This Day 📝

Saturday, March 25, 1911 — 108 years ago

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire kills 146 people, becoming the deadliest industrial accident in the city's history. Located near Washington Square Park in the Asch building, which had been constructed just 10 years prior, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company employed mostly young immigrant women to sew "shirtwaists", which were fancy blouses resembling mens dress shirts. Working in sweatshop-like conditions, the factory workers could not escape when a fire began in a bin of fabric scraps on the 8th floor. The building had insufficient safety infrastructure, with no sprinklers and inadequate fire escapes and elevators for the factory's hundreds of workers. Most disturbingly, the doors to the stairwells could only be opened from the outside and swung inward, which sealed the workers inside. As the fire spread, some were forced to jump from the building or down the elevator shaft to escape the flames. Others fell while attempting to escape down a flimsy rear fire escape that had only been installed to meet the minimum requirements of the city's burgeoning fire code. The fire would stand as the city's deadliest single-day event until the September 11th attacks.

In the wake of the fire, the city improved fire safety requirements, introducing common features we take for granted today, such as exit signs, doors that swing outwards in commercial buildings, and improvements to firefighting equipment that can sufficiently pump large amounts of water up to the highest floors of New York's buildings. Today, the site of the fire is known as the Brown Building, and is part of the NYU campus.

Sunday, March 25, 1990 — 29 years ago

The Happy Land nightclub fire kills 87 in West Farms in the Bronx, becoming the city's deadliest fire since the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Arson was found to be the cause, when a man set a gasoline fire outside the club's only exit, ostensibly targeting his former girlfriend, who worked at the club. Hauntingly, the fire occurred 79 years to the day after the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which was the city's deadliest fire.

The Happy Land club was a gathering place for the Garifuna community in the South Bronx, situated in a small property along Southern Boulevard at East Tremont Avenue. Tragically, the club was operating illegally after being ordered closed due to lack of sprinklers and fire exits. Had these modifications been in place, the subsequent act of arson could have become a mere inconvenience and not a horrific murder scene.

In his anger at being rejected by his girlfriend, Julio Gonzalez returned to the club around 3am, splashed gasoline along the club's only exit, lit the fire, and closed the metal security gate. Noxious gases quickly filled the club and killed 87 people. Gonzalez was convicted of 174 counts of murder. In a twist of fate, the former girlfriend that Gonzalez was targeting was one of the survivors of the fire.

Today, the former Happy Land property is the site of a tax preparation office. A commemorative memorial has been placed in a park across the street, and a mural decorates the block where the fire took place.


⏰ AGBC Rewind ⏰

8 years ago
Progress at Washington Square Park's east-side renovation

3 years ago
March 25 in History: Fire at "Happy Land" Club in the Bronx

3 years ago
Evening Update for Saturday, March 25, 2016


🌎 World History 🌏

Library of Congress  •  New York Times  •  BBC  •  Wikipedia


🌞 Weather Records 🌞

Record High: 79°F in 1963
Record Low: 13°F in 1878


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