New York, NY Marble Floor Collapses in Tenement Bldg, Dec 1908


Dover Street Tenants, in a Panic, Ready to Jump When Firemen and Police Come.


Floor of Mezzanine Landing Gave Way and Tenants Thought It a Fire and Explosion---Two Badly Hurt.

A support sustaining the weight of a quarter ton of marble, the floor of a mezzanine landing on the fourth floor of the six-story tenement at 2, 4, 6, and 8 Dover Street broke at 6 o'clock yesterday afternoon, and the crashing of heavy marble slabs through the floors beneath threw the 200 tenants of the house into a panic.

The warning cries of the policemen and the firemen who arrived on the scene prevented terrorized mothers who had gathered on the fire escapes with their husbands and children jumping to the ground to escape the supposed fire. They were taken down on ladders.

The apertures caused by the breaking of the landings precipitated two persons to the ground floor, injuring them so badly that they had to be removed to the hospital. They were Timothy Collins of 15 Cherry Street, and Mrs. Mary Powers, who lived on the third floor of the tenement.

The building, which adjoins the Fox Building, is part of the estate of the late Richard K. Fox, and it is known as the Fox Flat. It is the largest house on Dover Street, and there are forty families in the house. The structure of the stairway is rather peculiar for a tenement. There is but a single series of flights of stairs for the whole building, and the six floors are broken into half flights. The framework of the stairs is of iron and the steps are heavy marble slabs. The landings, measuring 8 by 5 feet, are also of the same marble 1 inch in thickness.

On the mezzanine landing above the fourth floor, from no known cause, the iron support broke, and the tow slabs that make up the landing floor fell with a thundering report to the floor below, and then, with added weight and velocity, the marble slabs dropped through the floor each successive report increasing the terror of the tenants.

Patrolman Henry Rohrs of the Oak Street station heard the noise and rushed at once to a telephone to call for reserves. He was under the impression that the tenement had been dynamited. Capt. Toole and a squad of his men arrived on the scene at the same time as an ambulance from the Hudson Street Hospital and another from St. Gregory's Hospital. An excited neighbor had turned in an alarm of fire, and the engines and hook and ladder truck arrived a moment after the police.

In the meantime the tenants had rum to the front fire escapes. The men, women, and children stood in rows on the escapes, and many of them were also on the roof ready to jump at a repetition of the suppose explosion.

Collins had just left his friend, William Perkins, on the fourth floor, when the crash occurred. His first impulse led him to seek flight down the stairs. As soon as he reached the landing below the floor he fell through the aperture and dropped to the ground floor among the shattered marble. A moment or two after he had fallen another body fell within a few feet of him. This was Mrs. Powers, who, too, had attempted to reach safety by the stairs.

The policemen and the firemen on the outside of the building shouted to the frightened crowd on the fire escapes not to jump, and, to further reassure them, the men of Truck 1 reared their long ladders against the side of the building.

As soon as the reserves ran into the building they came upon Collins and Mrs. Powers among the debris. They picked them out of the broken marble and rushed them to the ambulances. Collins was found to be suffer ring from abrasions and laceration of the scalp, and Mrs. Powers had sustained lacerations of the chin and arms.

In the meantime the firemen began the work of carrying the people to the street, while hundreds cheered their efforts. The policemen worked their way through the building and passed the people from one flight to another to the roof. They then were lifted over to the roof of the Fox building, and thence to the street.

Fully two hours were required to clear the building, but Charles Sweeney, a Building Inspector, insisted that all the tenants leave the house.

The building Inspector notified the agent of the building, Frederick Bergman, that some sort of temporary landings would have to be installed before he would allow the house to be reoccupied. The tenants are in the meantime being taken care of in the homes of the neighbors.

The New York Times, New York, NY 20 Dec 1908