Being in Brooklyn

The melodrama, “The Two Orphans” was playing on the stage of the Brooklyn theater on December 5, 1876 with a full house in attendance. Over a thousand people were packed inside with most of them in the upper gallery seats, comprised of  families and large groups of people that came to see the show at an affordable price. The show had become quite popular and had been going on for some time, however that  night’s performance at the Brooklyn theater would be different.  At 11:15 PM, shortly after the opening of the last act, a fire broke out, apparently caused by scenery touching the gas lights. A common problem with gas lamps inside structures back in the days of wooden frame and floors, especially a stage with props and backdrops. Much like the Titanic after itself the theater staff and performers were slow to respond to and inform the audience of the danger. Then when the fire started raging so did the people started panicking and running for the only two exits. The building had three levels of seats and only one staircase that ran the height of the building. These factors led to people collapsing down the steps and being trampled, adding to the jam that already existed. Many on the upper level died of asphyxiation or when the building finally collapsed on itself in fifteen to twenty minutes. Over 300 died that night, most of them being families and the not so well off. This event has been recorded as one of the worst fires in the history of Brooklyn. however other then the memorial at the mass grave site for the burn victims nothing can be seen near the site today.

Today all you will see a beautiful white and gray stone building with a 5 story tower, arches above every window, gate towers at the entrance with an eagle carved above and lion heads on the towers themselves. The purpose of this building is more public than it exterior would led us to believe, it is the base of operations for Brooklyn’s post service and a court house. It has been so since 1891.

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