Boston, MA Pickwick Club Collapse, July 1925

Ruins Of the Club






Boston, Mass., July 4. -- Rescuers were working frantically late today in a search for bodies in the wreckage of the Pickwick Club, a Chinatown resort which collapsed early today in the midst of a gay holiday party. An all night search is in prospect. No accurate number of the dead was ascertained.
Three bodies have been taken from the ruins, while others can be seen but are unable to be reached by firemen and police. Eighteen were taken to hospitals alive. There were more than 100 dancers on the floor when the collapse came.

Boston, Mass., July 4. -- Seventy-five persons were killed and at least fifty hurt when the building housing the Pickwick Club at No. 12 Bench street, collapsed early today, according to police estimates. Many were buried in the ruins.
The club, one of Boston's so-called "night clubs," was on the second floor. The 150 people who were at the tables and on the dancing floor, enjoying a night before the fourth celebration, were buried under the wreckage.
Without warning the fifth floor of the building collapsed, carrying with it the fourth and third floors. The tons of stone, plaster and bricks crashed through to the second floor on the 150 merry makers.
With a roar that was heard for blocks, the second and third floors were carried down into the basement with their cargo of dead and dying.
A few couples escaped by a stairway on the Washington street end when they heard the warning roar of falling debris and felt the trembling of the structure.
Two hours after the collapse 12 bodies had been recovered.
Many of the dead are women.
A canvase of hospitals showed ten patients from the building collapse.
A big force of firemen and police were at work sawing away timbers and shoveling away mortar and glass in a frantic effort to reach any that might be entombed.
As the rumble of the falling building shook the city hundreds of persons rushed to the scene, but were helpless to aid the imprisoned and suffering victims.
Police and firemen were rushed to the scene and a crew of building wreckers was brought up.
All Ambulances Called.
All ambulances in the city and many from the suburbs hurried to the fallen night club building. Extra doctors were called to duty at the hospitals.
Many of the injured were treated at the scene.
Despite frantic efforts by rescuers many of the imprisoned cannot be reached until afternoon.
The first body recovered was that of a woman known to the frequenters of the night club as "ANNA." Her body was found on the easterly side of the building. She was about 40 years old.
The cause of the collapse has not been determined.
Building operations on a garage on a lot adjoining the fallen structure have been under way and it was thought that perhaps this weakened the Pickwick Club building.
Merriment was at his neight when the dance floors began to crack. Then came the crash.
The lights went out and shrieking men and women fought with each other in a mad rush for the exits.
Stairway Gone.
The first to arrive at the stairways found that the stair case had been carried away by the collapse. The crash was so great that many fell in a heap through the big gap that had been the stairway.
Great clouds of dust from falling mortar and bricks filled the eyes and throats of the men and women who were in the debris in a tangled mass.
The front wall of the building remained standing and this locked the victims from a ready means of egress to the street. It also hampered the work of the rescuers, who worked in constant danger of falling walls. The building wreckers gave the front wall their first attention upon their arrivals. Props were put up to keep the walls from falling.
Fearing that the jar of trains in the Washington street tunnel would bring down the wall, the Boston elevated sealed up the tunnel and all trains were stopped.
"Dancing was going at a furious pace and everybody was having a lively time when without warning the plastering began to crumble," said ROCCO CARPARTO, professional singer known as "TEDDY" WILLIAMS. CARPARTO, who was near the piano at the time barely escaped with his life.
This is what the singer saw:
Singer Describes Scene.
"Just as the plastering began to come down over our heads there was a rumble. Next was a sound like a muffled explosion. Then the beams began to fall. The whole building seemed to topple."
"Just how it happened I don't know and I guess nobody does. I made a jump for the stairway. But the stairway had dropped and I tumbled down."
"My leg was twisted and thought it was broken, but I managed to get out of the way before the mass of struggling men and women came falling down to the spot where I had landed."
"As I stumbled out of the ruins of the building I could hear the screams of the men and women behind me. I will carry that sound in my heart to the end of my days. I tried to go back and help out but my leg crumpled under me."
"There must have been between 100 and 200 men and women in the Pickwick club."
"Most all of them were eating and dancing."
"Some of them jumped from the windows but I guess a majority made a dash for the stairway. I don't think more than fifty got out alive."
Patrolman FRANK B. CALLAHAN who was on duty in front of the night club estimated there were 125 persons in the building at the time of the accident.
Only 25 Escape.
"I think less than 25 of them got out alive," said CALLAHAN.
"The club was crowded," said MISS BLANCHE KENT of Worcester. "All were eating and dancing and some were setting off little fire crackers to make the girls jump. After the first rumble and the cracking of the plaster over our heads the two side walls fell into the room. Then the lights went out. The screams were awful. I fell with the stairway but I guess I wasn't very badly hurt."
Another girl victim at City hospital who refused to give her name said:
"The place was crowded with merry makers. At first pieces of plaster began to fall. Then it seemed, as the lights went out, that the whole building began to fall at once. I fell to the floor in the crush and the Lord knows how I ever got out. There were screams and groans all around but I remember crawling to a window, where somebody took me down to the street."
Locked in the ruins the rescuers found a man suffering great agony from a triple fracture of the leg. DR. MICHAEL McGARTHY of the Boston City hospital staff disregarding warning as to the tottering walls above him, crawled into the debris and gave the sufferer a hypodermic injection. The physician attempted to perform an operation on the leg and to amputate a finger of the hand but there was no room to do the work. The treatments given by the physician aided the man greatly. Later the man was rescued.

Kingsport Times Tennessee 1925-07-05