New York, NY Sidewalk Collapse, May 1927


When It Collapsed 100 People Were Injured


The Crowd Fell Into an Excavation 20 Feet Deep.


New York, May 28 – Elvin L. Coolidge, circulation manager of the New York Commercial, was almost instantly killed and about 100 others injured last evening by the breaking down of a temporary sidewalk at Fifth avenue and Eighteenth Street. Some of those injured may die.

Those who fell were part of the crowd gathered to watch the parade of militia in honor of the visit of the French Rochambeau commission to this city.

Two hundred persons were on the sidewalk when it gave way. They were precipitated 20 feet into an excavation for a new building and fell on piles of building material.

The accident occurred just as the head of the parade had pasted the corner. The French visitors had gone past and knew nothing of the accident until some time later.

Troop C just ridden by and the Twenty-second regiment was passing when the crash came. The officers were detailed to the work of rescue. Hurry calls were sent out for police reserves and ambulances, and in a very short time those who fell were assisted out of the excavation and the work of binding up wounds and conveying those injured to hospitals was in full swing.

The authorities are busy endeavoring to discover who was to blame for the accident. Coroner Scholar says the sidewalk had not been built of material strong enough to stand such a great weight as burdened it.

He said the real cause of the accident was the giving way of an upright timber that extended from the bottom of the excavation to the crossbeams on which the sidewalk rested. About ten feet of this timber, he said, was rotten and very weak.

Early in the afternoon the police officials became suspicious of the sidewalk and a detail for hours kept the crowds from collecting on it. But as the time for the parade to pass came near the crowd became unmanageable, and in spite of force on the part of the police, crowded onto the forbidden walk and there stayed until the breaking of the support landed them in the excavation.

After viewing the body, of Mr. Coolidge and issuing necessary permits for its removal, the coroner ordered the arrest of Contractor Cowan, and of J. G. Miller, the sub-contractor, Mr. Cowan, however, had heard of the accident and went to the police station, where he saw the coroner. Cowan explained that he was not responsible for the accident and promised to appear at the inquest in case he wanted. He was then allowed to go.

Detectives were sent to arrest Miller, but they had not returned up to a late hour last night.

James Lawton, foreman of the work at the building, was arrested by the police, and later allowed to go under bail of $2,000, a charge of homicide having been placed against him.

The Weekly Chronicle, Elyria, OH 31 May 1902