New York, NY Chinese Restaurant Fire & Panic, Feb 1936



Stampede to Exits and
Two Men Leap From


Men and Women in Holy Name
Party of 100 Are Trampled
and Burned in Rush


Whole Building at 59th Street
Swept — Two Summoned
for Inquiry Today

Four persons lost their lives and
at least thirty-eight were hurt, many
seriously, last night in a fire that
swept the three-story building at
735 Lexington Avenue, at the southeast
corner of Fifty-ninth Street,
causing a stampede among 150 persons
in Lum's Chinese Restaurant
on the second floor.
About 100 of the men and women
in the restaurant when the fire
started at 9:20 P. M. were attending
a dinner given by the Holy
Name Society of the Roman Catholic
Church of Our Lady of Peace,
229 East Sixty-second Street.
The fire spread with great speed
from the ground floor to the restaurant,
which occupied all of the sec ond
floor, then up through the
vacant third floor to the roof.
Many of those who escaped owed
their lives to the heroism of policemen,
firemen, priests and other
Fire Marshal Thomas Brophy estimated
the property damage at
The dead were killed by inhaling
smoke and flame and not by external
burns, according to Police Inspector
Louis Dittman.
Harry Ma-Ting-Chu, 35, of 3805
Crescent Street, Astoria, Queens,
manager of the restaurant.
Martin S. Stettner, 29, 3156 Perry
Avenue, the Bronx.
John J. Gardella, 38, of 4909 101st
Street, Corona, Queens.
An unidentified woman, about 5
feet 5 inches tall, weighing about
115 pounds; black dress with
black leather belt with silver
buckle; black caracul coat, Russeks
Ma-Ting-Chu reached the street
safely but dashed back into the
restaurant to get the receipts from
the cash register and the safe. His
body was found on the floor near
the cash register. The money was
in his pockets.
The injured received emergency
treatment at the Sterling Furniture
Company, 142 East Fifty-ninth
Street, then they were distributed
to various hospitals as follows:
twenty-five to New York, three to
Bellevue, three to City Hospital,
on Welfare Island, two to Lenox
Hill. Two of them, a woman and a
man, were not expected to live.

Two Summonses Issued

Shortly after the blaze was
brought under control at 10:45
P. M. by firemen summoned on
two alarms, officials of the Fire
Marshal's office issued subpoenas
to Lum Fang, a Chinese described
as head of the restaurant, and Harry
Riker, a real estate agent who
manages the building. The two
were ordered to appear at 11 A. M.
today before a Fire Department
board of inquiry in the Municipal
Building. Police officials also ordered
an investigation.
Officials of the Fire Department
were unable to determine the cause
of the fire, which was first seen in
a display window of the National
Shirt Shop, a haberdashery store
underneath the restaurant.
In the store at the time were the
manager, Julius Sanker, of 80 Bryant
Place, the Bronx, and two employes,
Harry Simon of 2,313 Healy
Avenue, Far Rockaway, and Gordon
McCabe of 55 Locust Avenue,
New Rochelle, N. Y. They told the
authorities that, upon returning
from the cellar with merchandise
to be displayed in the window, they
heard a sputtering sound and saw
sparks coming from the ceiling of
the display window. Simon ran to
the street to turn in a fire alarm,
while the two others tried to put
out the sparks with pails of water.
They were unsuccessful and fled to
the street.

Feb. 13, 1936 edition of The New York Times