Tag Archives: Accident

A Forgotten 1915 Brooklyn Tragedy: Four Boys Die In An Accident, Shattering Two Families Forever

Two Pairs of Brothers, Together In Life And Death

100th Anniversary Of The Forgotten Brooklyn Explosion That Killed Two Sets Of Young Brothers

While wandering the bucolic grounds of the Evergreens Cemetery on the Brooklyn – Queens border you come across many interesting monuments. There are Triangle shirtwaist fire victims, General Slocum memorials and many historic notables. And then there are the monuments like this one that are inexplicable on first inspection.

Zimmer inscription monument

Zimmer inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two sets of brothers each between 7 and 11-years-old all dying on March 13, 1915 and are buried together. This unique memorial has an angel, with a few fingers and toes missing, head bowed in sorrow, standing between the two columns that are connected at the top by a triangular stone with the Gospel of Luke quotation inscribed across it, “Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me”.

Oil Explosion kills boys March 13 1915 memorial at Evergreens cemeteryMy first thought was that the boys were probably cousins or related in some other way and died in a house fire.

But checking the news accounts from the following days reveals a senseless tragedy of two unrelated families children just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Zimmer boys, Henry age 11 and Herbert age 7, of 186 Warwick Street and the Higgins boys, Alex age 11 and Arthur age 8 of 174 Warwick Street were close friends and neighbors growing up a few doors from each other. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #44

Western Union Telegraph Building 1880

Broadway looking south Western Union Building 1880This view looking south on Broadway was taken from the Old Post Office in 1880 and shows a deserted stretch of the usually traffic clogged thoroughfare.

The building partially seen on the right side is the Astor House Hotel. Adjacent to the Astor with the columns is St. Paul’s Chapel. The tall structure further down Broadway is Trinity Church with its spire rising 281 feet. This was the highest point in New York until the World Building was built in 1890.

The main building dominating the photo at the corner of Broadway and Dey Street is the Western Union Telegraph Building designed by architect George B. Post. At 230 feet, it was one of the tallest commercial buildings in the city when it was built from 1872-1875. To put this tremendous height in perspective, this was four times the height of the average New York building. On top of the building’s flagstaff a time ball was perched which would drop precisely at noon, so everyone in the surrounding financial area could set their watch to the correct time.

The telegraph was still the predominant way to get a message to someone quickly. To send a telegram with the body message being ten words or less from New York to Baltimore or Boston cost 25¢; to Chicago 40¢ and to San Francisco $1.00.

Western Union Building Fire - New York Evening World

Western Union Building Fire – New York Evening World

A Fire Destroys The Building

As the night shift of telegraph operators and workers was letting out at 6:55 a.m. on Friday, July 18, 1890 the Western Union Building caught fire.

The fire broke out on the 6th floor and quickly spread to the upper floors. Firefighters arrived within six minutes of the first alarm being turned in.

The fire was far above the roof lines of the adjacent buildings and the water pressure from street level could not possibly come close to the fire. The firemen strung several hoses together and carried them up  into nearby buildings on to the roofs to fight the flames.

20,000 people watched from the surrounding streets as the firemen placed ladders from the adjacent building at 8 Dey Street to rescue people trapped in the Western Union Building and pour water on to the upper floors. Continue reading

115 Years After New York’s Deadliest Hotel Fire, A Memorial Goes Up For The Unidentified Dead

The Windsor Hotel Fire On St. Patrick’s Day In 1899 Killed 86

Windsor Hotel Fire Memorial  by artist Al Lonrenz photo: Ricky Flores for The Journal News

Windsor Hotel Fire Memorial by artist Al Lonrenz photo: Ricky Flores for The Journal News

It only took 115 years, but finally 31 unidentified dead, who were killed in New York City’s deadliest hotel fire, will be receiving a stone which commemorates their final resting place.

On Thursday, October 9 at 4:00 p.m., a memorial service was held at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y. to officially unveil and dedicate a monument to those who were interred without a marker.

The Windsor Hotel built between 1872 and 1873, stood at 575 Fifth Avenue, between 46th and 47tth Streets and was considered one of New York’s finest hotels.

At a few minutes after 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 17, 1899 with thousands of spectators along Fifth Avenue watching the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a fire broke out at The Windsor Hotel and spread like lightning throughout the entire structure.

Windsor Hotel 5th ave 46th 47th street magic lantern slide B.P collection

The Windsor Hotel

On the 46th Street side of the hotel, John Foy, a waiter at the hotel was passing the parlor located on the second floor. Foy watched a guest light a cigar Continue reading

The Ninth Avenue Elevated Train Crash Of 1905

 In 1905, The Worst Elevated Train Accident In New York’s History Occurred

9th ave elevated railway accident 9 11 1905 postcard photo R Weigel

For as long as you live September 11 will be remembered as the date of  the terrorist attacks on America that brought down the World Trade Center towers. But before 2001,  9/11 marked the anniversary of the worst elevated train disaster in New York’s history. It is a disaster no one wanted to remember and was quickly forgotten except by train and New York history buffs.

The four elevated lines in Manhattan which had a glorious history are long gone, demolished between 1938 and 1955. The elevated lines began service in 1878 and until the subway was built, they provided the quickest and safest routes around New York.

9th Ave 53rd Street junction photo via -  http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com

9th Ave 53rd Street elevated junction
photo via – http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com

But there were always fears among riders that one day an elevated train would jump the tracks.

Those fears came true on September 11, 1905.

Not surprisingly it happened at one of the more dangerous stretches of track along the elevated system.

The Sixth and Ninth Avenue Elevated lines shared their tracks above 53rd Street along Ninth Avenue. At 53rd Street the lines diverged, with the Sixth Avenue el traveling three avenues east along 53rd Street to continue its journey along Sixth Avenue.

At that Ninth Avenue junction, the towerman (also called switchman) was responsible for controlling whether trains traveling downtown would continue straight on the Ninth Avenue line or go along 53rd Street to the Sixth Avenue line.

The passengers aboard a five car “el” train that September 11 morning believed their train was going to continue straight down Ninth Avenue, as that was what the station guards at the previous station at 59th Street had told them.

If the train was proceeding down Sixth Avenue it was supposed to come to a full stop at 54th street and await a signal. The recommended maximum speed if a train was to continue down Ninth Avenue was nine miles per hour.

Diagram of Ninth Avenue El crash

Diagram of Ninth Avenue El crash (click to enlarge)

It was 7:05 in the morning as Paul Kelly, the motorman of the el train approached the intersection at 53rd street without stopping.

Witnesses said Kelly slowed down a bit but the train’s estimated speed was 25 miles per hour. Continue reading

The 1904 General Slocum Disaster Had Survivors That Lived Into The 21st Century

Catherine Connelly & Adella Wotherspoon, General Slocum Survivors, Lived To Ages 109 & 100

The Story of The General Slocum Steamship Disaster

General Slocum Disaster

June 15, 2014 marks the 110th anniversary of what had been New York’s biggest disaster and loss of life until the September 11 attacks occurred. We think it is worth remembering the ill-fated General Slocum steamship fire. Here is the story of the General Slocum and  a brief summary of the lives of the last two survivors of the disaster who amazingly lived into the 21st century.

A Beautiful Day For A Picnic

“Kleindeutchland,” as the area of Little Germany was called on the lower east side, was bounded approximately by the East River and Third Avenue and stretched from Houston Street to about 23rd Street. It was a working class, close-knit community of laborers and business owners. The German families that lived in this neighborhood made Tompkins Square Park their center for congregating and relaxation. But for special occasions they would embark on a trip to get out of the city.

Wednesday, June 15, 1904 was a sunny day and the members of the Sunday School of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at 323 E. 6th Street were looking forward to a day filled with games, music and a large picnic for their 17th annual excursion to bucolic Locust Grove, Long Island.

To get there, the church had chartered a steamship built in 1891, the three decked white paddle-wheeler, General Slocum.

Sudden Disaster

New York Tribune  June 16, 1904 (click to enlarge)

New York Tribune June 16, 1904 (click to enlarge)

The General Slocum was filled with around 1,400 passengers, mostly women and children as the men generally had to work on a weekday. The Slocum headed out from its berth at 3rd Street on the East River at about 9:30 am with a band playing and the passengers joyously celebrating the smooth ride and beautiful weather.

Thirty minutes after setting out, the ship caught fire Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #30

The Strange Tale Of How Obi-Wan Kenobe (Sir Alec Guinness) Eerily And Accurately Told James Dean He Was Going To Die In His New Car

James Dean Ursula Andress 1955 8 29 ph Earl Leaf

James Dean and Ursula Andress attend a benefit, one month before Dean’s death in a auto crash

James Dean is seen here talking to one of his “girlfriends,” the 19-year-old Swiss actress Ursula Andress. This photograph was taken at a benefit for the “Thalian’s Ball” on August 29, 1955 at Ciro’s in Hollywood and shows them in a non-combative mood. The sexually ambiguous Dean may have been set up on dates with Andress by the studio publicity department. Regardless, press accounts at the time refer to Andress and Dean as dating one another.

Even though Andress spoke very little English, their relationship was considered very stormy.  At one time it was reported by a tabloid that Dean was said to be taking German language lessons so that they could “argue in another language.” Andress would go on to fame as Honey Ryder, the first “Bond Girl” in 1962’s Dr. No.

Dean, an avid auto racer, agreed to purchase a new sports car on September 21 1955, a silver Porsche 550 Spyder that he nicknamed “Little Bastard” which was then painted on the car.

Two days later on September 23, Dean was eating at the trendy Villa Capri Restaurant on McCadden Street in Hollywood and spotted actor Alec Guinness trying to get a table without any success. Guinness was exhausted having just arrived from London on a 16 hour flight for his first trip to Hollywood. As Guinness and his companion, screenwriter Thelma Moss exited the restaurant, Dean ran after them to intercede. Continue reading

The World’s First Fatal Plane Crash Could Have Killed The President – 1908

Orville Wright Of Wright Brothers Fame Piloted The First Fatal Airplane Crash

Orville Wright First Fatal Plane Crash

Orville Wright and Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge (right) being attended to after Wright’s airplane crashed at Fort Myer – September 17, 1908

Everyone knows that the Wright Brothers undertook the world’s first successful motorized airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903. What most people do not know is that five years later in 1908, Orville Wright was piloting a plane that crashed causing the first airplane fatality.

What even fewer people know is that the first fatality could easily have been President Theodore Roosevelt.

For several weeks beginning in September 1908, Orville Wright had been conducting test flights with the army at Fort Myer, a military post just outside of Washington D.C..

On September 14, it was reported that President Roosevelt had said he wanted to fly with Orville Wright on one of the upcoming test flights. Wright wisely demurred saying, “I have heard the report that President Roosevelt wants to ascend with me. I’m sorry, I don’t think the President of the United States should take such chances. Of course, flying in the air is as safe as riding in a streetcar, but there are accidents that might happen. Aside from my relatives, such an accident to me would mean nothing, but the Nation would be the sufferer if the President was injured or killed.”

Those who knew President Roosevelt said he would insist on flying with Wright when he returned to Washington D.C. from Oyster Bay, NY the following week. Fate would intervene in the President’s plans to fly with Wright.

Three days later on September 17, 1908 Orville Wright was at the controls flying with pilot Lt. Thomas Selfridge, who was Secretary of the Aerial Experiment Association. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #8 – Dreamland Coney Island Part 2

Coney Island’s Dreamland Amusement Park 1904-1911 – Part 2

Coney Island Dreamland general view

Coney Island- Dreamland midway on a crowded day

Continuing from part one of our postcard journey through Dreamland Amusement Park at Coney Island, we examine the other features of the park.

Coney Island Dreamland The Ballroom InteriorConey Island Dreamland Bathing Beach

At the turn of the century, dancing was possibly the most popular amusement at Coney Island, even more so than bathing at the beach. The Dreamland ballroom reflected this popularity by being the largest ballroom ever built in the United States. Continue reading

The Strange Origin Of Modern Building Fire Laws In Britain

Why Every Employee Must Be Able To Reach A Fire Exit In Under Two And A Half Minutes

Empire Theatre Fire photo Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries

Empire Theatre Fire photo Edinburgh Libraries and Museums and Galleries

The Telegraph just featured an interesting interview with Professor of Fire and Structures at Edinburgh University, Luke Bisby.

Professor Bisby does something I also do as well, which is when I enter a building I have never visited, I check how to get out of the building and where the fire exits are. Of course he looks at other factors that the average person wouldn’t take into account such as what is hanging on the walls and what the carpeting is made of.

Among the topics discussed was: why there are such tough safety rules in place in case of a fire in office worker’s buildings in the U.K.. The answer he provides is fascinating:

It may not be a surprise to learn that there are tight regulations surrounding the positioning and width of fire exits, and their location relative to workers’ desks, in a modern office.

But the basis for the stringent rules, which state that every employee must be able to reach a fire exit within two-and-a-half minutes, and that fire doors must be wide enough for all employees to pass through within the same time frame, is scarcely to be believed.

“This two-and-a-half minutes is the fundamental basis on which the built environment can exist,” Prof Bisby said. “You would presume there must be a good reason for it.

“The reason is that two-and-a-half minutes is, I’m told, the mean length of God Save the Queen. The British national anthem, when played in full, by a concert orchestra.”

The stipulation can be traced back to a fire at Edinburgh’s Empire Palace Theatre in 1911 which broke out during a performance by a French illusionist named The Great Lafayette, he explained. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #32

1915 Subway Explosion Kills Seven, Injures Scores: 7th Avenue Between 24th and 25th Streets

This photograph taken on September 24, 1915 looking east across Seventh Avenue between 25th and 24th Streets shows the extent of a tragedy that took the lives of seven people and injured more than 100.

At about 7:50 a.m. on September 22, 1915 during the subway excavation for a new line, an explosion followed by a massive street collapse threw 7th Avenue into a scene of pandemonium and carnage.  A blast of dynamite caused the temporary roadway of wood planking to give way. A trolley loaded with passengers plunged 30 feet into the abyss created by the cave in. A beer truck minus the driver also fell into the excavation.

The reason more people were not killed was because the street undulated for a few seconds before collapsing which allowed precious time for people on the street to scatter to safety.

The motorman of the northbound trolley, John Mayne said, “The car sank just where I stopped it. I had no stop at Twenty-fourth street and there was no warning there. When I was half way to Twenty-fifth street I saw a flagman and set my brakes. As I set the brakes I felt the earth going from under me. The next thing I knew I was being pulled out of hell.”

Fanny Borie, 18,  of Brooklyn was on the trolley, on her way to work when it went down into the hole. “When the car started to sink there were terrible screams, and I think I fainted,” she said. “I remember feeling people tugging at my feet, as I was buried under some timbers. Then I lost consciousness and came to again when I was being carried up a ladder to the street.” Continue reading