New York City, NY Ireland Building Collapse, Aug 1895


Sixteen Deaths Were Caused by the Ireland Building Collapse.


Some Sections of the Broken Pillar Looked Like Worm-Eaten Wood -- A Careful Inspection to be Begun To-day.

It was ascertained yesterday noon that there were no more bodies buried in the cellar of the Ireland Building at West Broadway and West Third Street. Every bit of debris had by that time been shovelled over. It had been expected more bodies would be found and three plain coffins were kept on hand. Fifteen bodies have been taken from the ruins and one man died in hospital.
The investigation into the causes of the disaster in not completed, nor will it be for several days, but, as was stated yesterday in The New York Times, the general belief is that the upper floors were so overloaded with building material that the sections of the central iron column gave way beneath its weight and precipitated the wrecked portion of the building into the cellar.
The tremendous pressure suddenly put upon the lower section of the pillar drove it through the iron plate, granite bloack and concrete fountation and five feet into the soil beneath it.
The broken sections of the iron pillar were carefully examined yesterday and the metal was found to be of poor quality. It was so full of blowholes that some pieces looked like worm-eaten wood.
Committees of experts representing the various contractors interested in the construction of the Ireland Building visited the broken foundations of the central pillar. Each expert was anxious to find good ground to exonerate his client from blame, so that every one had a different opinion, except that all agreed that the old well over which a portion of the concrete and granite foundation of the pillar was laid was not to blame for the collapse, because it was filled up under the foundation with concrete. Outside the well, however, the concrete is only one foot thick, and under that is the natural soil. Some said the soil was very poor, being sandy and soft, They said it resembled quicksand. They thought the concrete foundation should have been built deeper. The pillar might not then have sunk.
Others said the soil was fair, and that in constructing the foundation all the building laws had been complied with, and that nothing could have prevented the pillar from being driven deep into the ground. Still other experts said the building walls were badly constructed, but they were contradicted by others, who asserted that the fact that in spite of the terrible wrenching to which they were subjected they did not fall was convincing evidence of their unusual strength.
Said one builder who looked at the wreckage:
"The contract price for the entire building was $60,000, but it should not have been less than $70,000. The consequence was that while the building laws have been technically complied with, everything has been done cheaply. The brick walls are just strong enough, but the iron pillars are of the cheapest kind, and the steel girders are just heavy enough to comply with the specifications. As a matter of fact, they are much too light. The foundations under the pillars are not heavy enough."

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