Boston, MA Cocoanut Grove Club Fire, Nov 1942

Cocoanut Grove Night Club Fire from wikipedia.org Front View Of Building Side View of Building Memorial Plaque Memorial Plaque

The Cocoanut Grove was Boston's premier nightclub during the post-Prohibition 1930s and 1940s. On November 28, 1942, this club was the scene of the deadliest nightclub fire in history, killing 492 people (which was 32 more than the building's authorized capacity) and injuring hundreds more. The enormity of the tragedy shocked the nation and briefly replaced the events of World War II in newspaper headlines. It led to a reform of safety standards and codes across the country, and major changes in the treatment and rehabilitation of burn victims.

It was the second-deadliest single-building fire in American history; only the 1903 Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago had a higher death toll, of 605. It was only two years after the Rhythm Club Fire which had killed 209.

[The fire] quickly spread along the fronds of the palm tree, igniting decorations on the walls and ceiling. Flames raced up the stairway to the main level, burning the hair of patrons stumbling up the stairs. A fireball burst across the central dance floor as the orchestra was beginning its evening show. Flames raced through the adjacent Caricature Bar, then down a corridor to the Broadway Lounge. Within five minutes, flames had spread to the main clubroom and the entire nightclub was ablaze.

As is common in panic situations, many patrons attempted to exit through the main entrance, the same way they had entered. The building's main entrance was a single revolving door, rendered useless as the panicked crowd scrambled for safety. Bodies piled up behind both sides of the revolving door, jamming it to the extent that firefighters had to dismantle it to enter. Later, after fire laws had tightened, it would become illegal to have only one revolving door as a main entrance without being flanked by outward opening doors with panic bar openers attached, or have the revolving doors set up so that the doors could fold against themselves in emergency situations.

Other avenues of escape were similarly useless: side doors had been bolted shut to prevent people from leaving without paying. A plate glass window, which could have been smashed for escape, was boarded up and unusable as an emergency exit. Other unlocked doors, like the ones in the Broadway Lounge, opened inwards, rendering them useless against the crush of people trying to escape. Fire officials later testified that, had the doors swung outwards, at least 300 lives could have been spared. Many young soldiers perished in the disaster, as well as a newly married couple.

As night deepened, the temperature dropped. Water on cobblestones froze. Hoses froze to the ground. Newspaper trucks were appropriated as ambulances. From nearby bars, soldiers and sailors raced to assist. On the street, firefighters lugged out bodies and were treated for burned hands. Smoldering bodies, living and dead, were hosed in icy water. Some victims had ingested fumes so hot that when they inhaled cold air, as one firefighter put it, they dropped like stones.

Later, during the cleanup of the building, firefighters found several dead guests sitting in their seats, with drinks in their hands. They had been overcome so quickly by fire and toxic smoke that they hadn't had time to move.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoanut_Grove_fire

Comments

Ruth Knox

My dad was Edward Knox, Ruth's brother. My older sister is named after Ruth. How are you related? Dianne Knox

My Grandfather is a survivor

My Grandfather is a survivor of the coconut grove and is still alive today. he helped save many people, a documentary was even mad on him because of his courage.

1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire- relative last name was Sullivan

Hi Louise Sullivan O'Brien,

Sorry to hear about your aunt. My grandfather's first cousin also perished in the Cocoanut Grove Fire. My father was 15 at the time. He does not remember her first name but her last name was Sullivan and her family lived in Quincy.

After doing research on the fire to determine my grandfather's cousin's first name, I found your 2 posts. My father's name is John Henson and so was his father and grandfather. (My grandfather and father lived in New York City).

Was your grandmother's maiden name Henson? It may be possible that you are my father's second cousin. Please email me to let me know. I tried to reply to your posts but not sure if you received my comments. My email is mjmb94@aol.com.

Thank you,

Jean Marie

1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire

Hi Louise,

Sorry to hear about your aunt. My grandfather's first cousin also perished in the Cocoanut Grove Fire. My father was 15 at the time. He does not remember her first name but her last name was Sullivan and her family lived in Quincy.

After doing research on the fire to determine my grandfather's cousin's first name, I found your 2 posts. My father's name is John Henson and so was his father and grandfather. (My grandfather and father lived in New York City).

Was your grandmother's maiden name Henson? It may be possible that you are my father's second cousin. Please email me to let me know. I have old photos taken in Quincy. My email is mjmb94@aol.com.

Thank you,

Jean Marie

1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire

Hi Louise,

My grandfather's 1st cousin perished in the Cocoanut Grove Fire. My father doesn't remember her first name but her last name was Sullivan. He remembers having an Aunt Jennie Sullivan that lived in Quincy.
After doing some research on the fire, I found your 2 posts. My father's name is John Henson and so was his father and grandfather. They all lived in New York City. Was your grandmother's maiden name Henson? It may be possible that you are my father's 2nd cousin. Please email me to let me know. I have a few old photos taken in Quincy. My email is mjmb94@aol.com.

Thank you,

Jean Marie

1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire

I was a child of five, when this happened. My Aunt Louise Sullivan whom
I was named after. She was identified, as I was told, by her engagement ring.
She and Larry had gone into Boston to celebrate their engagement.
They had intended to go to another establishment, but it was full.
Instead they went to the Coconut Grove.
Her Family lived in Quincy. Her mother's name was Jane Sullivan. All her brothers Chris, Joe, Hubert, and Dan worked at the Fore River Shipyard. My father being Chris.
I have followed articles to learn more. But, have never seen her name listed.
But have held her spirit in my heart, and prayers.
Louise J. Sullivan O'Brien

Katie, Do you happen to know

Katie,
Do you happen to know the name of John C. Cobb's roommate at the time of the fire? I'm guessing your mother probably knew but don't know if she shared that information. I'm trying to do some research, my great-uncle William Roland was the other man with John Cobb's party. He's from Gladstone, MI and I'm from Green Bay, WI, which I thought was a bit of a coincidence. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Erin

Gilbert Williams Winslow Who got killed at Cocoanut Grove

I am looking for info. on where Gilbert Williams Winslow and Betty Winslow who got killed at the Cocoanut Grove Fire are buried?

Dotty Metzger aka Dotty Myles

My mother is Barbara Metzger, she was married to Dotty's cousin Alvin Metzger (my stepfather). I have an old magazine that features a first hand interview with Dotty after the fire. I would be happy to copy and send via email if you like. Incredible story...

Paul, you would be my

Paul, you would be my cousin. I was named after my Aunt Louise. I do not believe that my Grandmother and Grandfather were at the Cocoanut Grove that evening. My father Matthias, was the one who had to work and decline the invitation to go out that evening. It is true that my Grandmother then my Grandfather passed away within months of Louise's passing. We used to have a picture of our Aunt Louise hanging in our living room, I do believe that that picture is now in the possession of another of our cousins. I lost contact with most of my familly after my own father's death in 1975. I sure did adore my dad. So glad that he had to work that evening.