I hope this evidence can help save a horrific event from descending further down the memory hole. I was hard pressed to find a single image online that pictured the Everard as it stood at time of the fire, and that was of such a fuzzy low-resolution that I wondered if some sort of cover up was afoot. Even gay bloggers, who should have a vested interest in getting their history straight, use the same few miserable thumbnails to illustrate the disaster. Worse, there seems to be some sort of an agreement among the whole lot to dissemble away the discernible facts, such as consistently referring to the facade of the building that presently exists as being representative of the way the Everard stood at the time of the fire.
We know the site is the same by the sliver of Second-Empire mansard roof on the building to the left of the Everard, seen in both a current photo and in the 1905 image (and who in the outre-hospitality industry could ever have relinquished an address like 28 West Twenty-Eighth Street?)
I've located one image of the Everard from before the fire, found in an interesting, if somewhat expected, context---the web site 'GenDisasters,' which describes its work as motivated by 'Events That Touched Our Ancestors' Lives.' There, apparently amateur and presumably volunteer historians and archivists post web dossiers on history's notable tragedies, most often by transcribing little known news articles. The page on the Everard was posted by a man named Stu Beitler, where he transcribes an Associated Press article from May 26, 1977 published in The Danville Virginia Bee the day after the fire: Strange Findings in Fatal Fire. Mr. Beitler reports he has been a member of the GenDisasters collective 'for 6 years 39 weeks,' where--if my arithmetic is right--he has posted 14,625 individual pieces on the tragic or macabre happenings. It takes 365 pages just to index his opus, which works out to be 5.93 disasters a day, with no time off.
A similar internet effort is called 'FindAGrave,' where apparent hobbyists research the final resting places of perfect strangers "for the record." The postings frequently come adorned with images of tombstones or memorials, in addition to the salient facts of death, for a better looking web presentation. One contributor at FindAGrave whose work frequently came up in my searches relating to the Jonestown mass killing in Guyana in 1978, had a total tally in the high four figures last time I checked. This doesn't enhance the credibility of the individual in my book, when result looks so obsessive---and downright spooky. It's easy for someone to maintain various identities (so-called "sock-puppets") online, so I must assume prizes are promised to the high scorers---after they retired from working in Langley, of course, or wherever it is they come from
I've found several AP articles about the Everard fire from May 26 at the Google News archives, but the article published by The Bee doesn't show up there. The headline, "Strange Findings in Fatal Fire," really depends on whose point of view is being expressed, and here Fire Commissioner John O'Hagan plays his blame-the-victim card, by saying the fatality rate was exacerbated by the occupants of the bathhouse "tr[ying] in vain to put out a mattress fire before they reported the blaze an hour later..." It's hard to believe that a mattress fire in close quarters could be spotted, addressed, then ignored and allowed to get out of hand over the course of a full hour--unless, that is, an immolator was using incendiaries in place of poppers, in which case it would constitute a marvelous bit of staged terror management.
By the following day, amid charges that New York City building and fire department officials had "improperly inspected or approved" the bathhouse, authorities went on the offensive, claiming that alterations made by the proprietors, such as installing a warren of wooden cubicles in place of open dormitories, and sealing up windows with plywood and asbestos sheathing, led to fatalities, even though these conditions had existed for at least two decades, if not more.
Along with the transcript of the AP article, Mr. Beitler includes two fuzzy photographs; one showing the Everard before the fire, as well as a scan of a cover of a publication, 'GaysWeek,' which put out a special edition on the fire dated June 1, 1977, with a news photograph depicting two plumes of smoke billowing out some "openings" in the facade.
As someone working in the field of online disaster memorialization, Mr. Beitler posted a piece on the Everard fire October 12, 2011, 33 years after the event took place, I have to wonder where he came upon such rare examples of gay ephemera, while churning out a quota of nearly 6 disaster summaries a day.
In October 1977, four months after the fire at the Everard killed nine men, nine more men died when a blaze swept a movie house in Washington D.C. frequented by homosexuals. A month later, a person died in a fire at the Castro Baths in San Francisco. The Arizona Gay News, an early mimeographed gay news venture, reported that this was "the third such fire in San Francisco in the past 14 months." There had been a fire on February 10, 1978 at the Ritch Street Health Club, "in what officials believed was a case of arson. Arson was also blamed for a four-alarm blaze...at the Folsom Street Barracks in October 1976."
Residents of San Francisco set up a Gay Arson Task Force in response, and Harvey Milk, the newly elected, openly gay San Francisco city supervisor was quoted as saying "There is a lot of concern in the Gay community about fire hazards in the baths...This is a serious problem which we must meet." Milk would be dead within the year, killed along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, not by fire, but at the hand of a terrorist gunman.
Carey Winfrey, who wrote the Times' lead article on Thursday, its first day of coverage, 9 Killed by Fire at a West Side Bathhouse; Search Goes On for Bodies, digressed to note
The blaze recalled a 1973 fire in a French Quarter bar in New Orleans in which 30 persons dies. That fire, in a second-floor bar called the Upstairs, which also catered to male homosexuals, was packed the evening of June 24, 1973, when flames cut off escape by both the stairs and the elevator. Although arson was widely suspected, New Orleans homosexual organizations contended that the investigation was not effectively pursued.If the Everard fire reminded Winfrey of arson and murder, why didn't she write about it?
While they could be excused for ignoring the California fatalities, Mr. Beitler and his colleagues at GenDisaster would do better than overlooking the fire in a movie house that killed nine persons, which was caused by "exploding cleaning products in the basement," as the official summary would have it, for despite any disapproval of the lifestyle of the deceased, could any of us be safe anywhere if this were true?
Even with a lack of clear detail in the two pictures Mr. Beitler provides, the images seem to carry contradiction, and with a little more information provided by the New-York Historical Society's picture and other sources, we can begin to make some rational judgments, which in the absence of much of the news record from the Everard fire, especially in images of it, becomes evidence of organized suppression that will lead us to still further conclusions.
The bizarre facade we see circa 1905 was originally built as the front of a church. In David W. Dunlap's book, From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship, we learn that
New York's most enduring and notorious gay bathhouse, the Everard, occupied what was once the Church of the Disciples of Christ, on West 28th Street [H29]. It was built in 1860 as Free Will Baptist and acquired five years later by the Disciples of Christ. James Everard converted it into Turkish, Roman, and Electric Baths in 1888, By 1919, it had become a gay resort. It was still operating in 1977 when a dreadful fire claimed nine lives. The great Romanesque entry arch can still be seen at what is now the Yung Kee Wholesale Center.It's easy to see how the Free Will Baptists found themselves at the heart of Tin Pan Pan Alley, which the corner of 29th Street and Broadway was considered to be epicenter, since like the Quaker Meeting House fronting on 27th Street in the same city block as the Baptists, they both were there first, as evidenced by the church's setback from the street wall on 28th Street, and the open space surrounding the meeting house on 27th, seen on Geo. W. Bromley & E. Robinson's 1879 Atlas Map of Manhattan, Plate No. 13, (detail)
As the bawdy entertainment character of the neighborhood developed, with a theater directly across 28th Street from the Baptists, another moniker was hung on the area: "The Tenderloin," named for the police district in which the graft and corruption were so prevalent--and profitable--that everybody ate good. So why the Baptists decamped only five years after building their strange new church seems clear---if not so why the Disciples of Christ moved in for their interlude. What a world of difference between the ambiance around the Marble Collegiate Church on 29th Street at Fifth Avenue (with the Little Church Around the Corner just steps to the east) and this stretch of the Broadway corridor a short block west. The contrast with Fifth Avenue was as glaring in the 1970's, when Broadway was a no-man's land, as it was in the 1870's, when it was the glittering white way.
David W. Dunlap goes on to tell us that after they left:
The Disciples built a Romanesque church by Charles Mettam at 323 West 56th Street [K40] in 1883. They moved to what is now the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, at 142 West 81st Street [M31], before crossing over to the East Side, to the Park Avenue Christian Church, at 1010 Park Avenue [N20]This sounds strangely ambitious for a side-street congregation with no taste, but perhaps they had secret benefactors. All I know about the Disciples of Christ is they were the denomination Jim Jones joined in 1964 before he began his tear across California and South America. Tim Reiterman wrote in his book Raven, that
Jones had first become interested in Disciples of Christ when Ijames showed him newspaper articles indicating that the Indianapolis-based Disciples of Christ would tolerate all political views – and that the denomination respected local autonomy.… Benefits of affiliation would show themselves over the years. Chief among them was the mantle of legitimacy afforded by membership in a 1.5 million- to 2 million-member denomination, and, on the material side, an umbrella tax exemption. Membership would also provide a curtain over the Temple's political drift. (p. 67)Since Jim Jones was said to have delivered a seven-figure sum back to church headquarters over the years, maybe it was a collective misreading of "turn the other check," with the obvious abuse of power and authority this represents.
But before James Everard landed on the successful bathhouse idea, he tried several other desanctifying business plans. The best--and only--summing up is in
A History of the New York Stage; From the First Performances in 1732 to 1901, by T. Allston Brown, In Three Volumes, Vol.II, (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902) on page 593, and page 594,
The old Horticultural Hall on the south side of Twenty-eighth Street, two doors west of Broadway, was fitted up by Everard, the brewer, as a music hall and opened June 8, 1886, by James Meade and John Cannon, who called it "THE REGENT." It was closed by the authorities [unclear--within months,] 1886, and reopened by John Cannon afterwards. The next manager was Wallace Williams, who called it "The Fifth Avenue Music Hall," but it lasted only a short time. James Everard then fitted it up as a Turkish bath, and opened it May 7, 1888, with James W. Collier, the actor, as manager.
I don't know on whose nickle the old Horticultural Hall operated, but even the brief run provides an Everard narrative with the kind of symmetry hard to make up, midst the wholesale flower district. And it makes you wonder what's inside the Yung Kee Wholesale Center,
The spooky thing is what could these impresarios have staged, with their political connections, to have their enterprise shut down by some high authority. They were the higher authority
It was closed by the authorities [unclear--within a matter of months,] 1886,
There is an alarming quality to the 19th-century architecture of the Everard, although the facade certainly appears to be all of one piece--lets call it Sooty Steamboat Baptist. What can only be called am elongated half-lantern, which sits atop the entry porch, looks like it should have neon prototypes and a pole dancer in it. What I most despise is a quality I also found in the former Equitable Building, which as it grew over the same period to eventually cover an entire city block on Broadway between Cedar and Pine Streets, tried to overawe the populace, but deceptively, using cheap tricks, such as the building's rusticated granite base, which as the stories moved up, is replaced by cast-iron ornament meant to read as stone. Even the "carved marble" group that stood over the original Equitable building's entrance on Broadway began to dissolve in the New York atmosphere within ten years of installation. Such shoddy quality reeks of the usual financial kickbacks.
This is entirely different than the exuberant cast-iron exterior of the Gilsey Hotel on Broadway at 29th Street, which took the lovers of quality in hotel accommodations some time getting used to. Although the material is cast in the traditional mold of stonework, no one could be deceived as to what was under all of that white paint.
What is useful for our purposes here is to note that the facade of what was to became the Everard rises to a false parapet that stands a good 15 feet above the actual roof line--looking more like the set dressing for a gunslinger town in a spaghetti Western than any Vatican entablature.
All the news coverage of the Everard fire call the bathhouse a "four-story structure," but where these floors fit in with the fenestration in the front seems to be a point that is being obscured from proper analysis. The two factors which Fire Department officials blamed for the fatalities were an "illegal" cutting up of open "dormitory" space into a warren of wooden-walled "sleeping" cubicles, and the sealing up of windows with plywood sheathing and insulation, which prevented their use as possible escape routes.
The first complaint can be dismissed out of hand: The use of partial walls rising seven feet or so high, with chicken-wire fastened on top for security, and with a door that latched for privacy, was a traditional installation in low-cost housing for single men, commonly seen in so-called "flop houses" on the Bowery, with equivalents in big cities throughout America, if not the world. This was considered a great step above the alternative by patrons---where rows of cots in open rooms left both a person's body and their belongings vulnerable while they slept.
But in 1977, fire department officials and city building inspectors claimed a certificate of occupancy issued in 1921, when the Everard was so-called "fashionable," states a use as "bathhouse and dormitories," which seems to make the only crime a fall from grace. But it begs the question: what is the terminology on certificates of occupancy that makes cubicles a legal use? And if contemporary examples of such forms don't exist, does it mean every use was also illegal? Whose fault is that then?
This calls to mind the classic scene from the movie Casablanca: when Humphrey Bogart asks Claude Raines, "How can you close me up? On what grounds?" and the police captain replies, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" just as a croupier hands him a pile of money. Except in this case the establishment wasn't closed up.
To understand the relationship between the windows and floors, we need to summarize the history of the structure, which experienced three major conversions in its 154 years of existence: after its construction in 1860 was the conversion from a church building to bathhouse use in 1888; then an updating and expansion of the profitable bathhouse in 1921; with a rebuilding after the top two floors of the bathhouse were destroyed by fire in 1977.
The Everard's own advertising described the bathhouse as four floors---except the first, or primary wet-use floor was actually in the English-style basement, which rose only a few feet above street level. A historical print shows the Everard lobby with a descent down to the entrance to the baths.
The half-round windows made of bottle glass shown in a period advertisement of the pool area below, are fanciful, in that there were no windows on this floor---especially not side windows in a building built up to the lot line. But it does depict one of the original church features that went into the ambiance of the interior---one reason James Everard made the unusual decision to convert an existing church structure to a new bath use.
Articles in the June 9th and June 16, 1888 issues of Engineering and Building Record and Sanitary Engineer, mark the public opening of the Everard, and give a brief glimpse into the baths. The editors said:
we hope in a subsequent issue to give floor plans of the building, but as they are not in readiness, the general description will be postponed to accompany them. Our description commences with the plumbing...Although detailed plans were never forthcoming, one illustration does offer:
a diagram, not to scale, showing the general water-supply and drainage system. Foundation walls and all unnecessary details are omitted for clearness. ZZ is the sidewalk line...
The diagram indicates two pools---a Turkish Plunge Bath and a Russian Plunge Bath. Traditionally, the difference between a Russian and Turkish bath is defined by cabinets of wet steam or dry sauna. For anyone interested in what the hell an "electric bath" was, the answer was given June 16th:
Ten lenses are set in the sides of the plunge-tank. Behind these lenses are 120-candle power incandescent lights that brilliantly illuminate the entire volume of water.So the definition of an electric bath is illuminated public nude swimming, which the article states was found in the Turkish plunge in the forward part of the structure nearest the street, which had a vaulted ceiling illuminated by both natural and artificial light. A skylight can be seen in the center of the building's roof in the 1905 image, so a light-well must have hollowed out all the other floors. A logical choice for providing natural light to the basement area seems trumped by privacy concerns. Seen in 1905, the area between the set-backed building and the sidewalk line has an awkward and unsightly roof of what looks like standing-seam tin introduced over an extended subterranean area, where a secondary entrance via steps leads to the street. This appears to be the only alteration made to the original church exterior.
Since certain compound-form words are rarely uttered in the same breath---words like "picture-window," "plate-glass," and "bath-house"---it is something to keep in mind when viewing the 1921 modernization of the Everard, when the entire facade was removed and moved forward a dozen feet or so to the lot line, and where three grand arches on the fourth floor appear to originally have been designed as open loggias, with the third floor lined with traditional commercial show windows for trade goods. It is these two floors, which at different times were sealed up, which led to the fatalities in the Everard fire.
An illustration of the Russian bath apartment closely follows the breakfront outline of the original church building in the rear, as found on the 1879 Atlas Map. Here the pool stands directly underneath the altar of the original church sanctuary. One story alcoves lined with marble benches were introduced to either side of the original building to let in the more abundant, south-facing daylight. No other features are mentioned as distinguishing the Russian from the Turkish bath sections other than the heightened privacy of a separate "backroom" apartment, and the clear privilege of its positioning within the structure. This would have been the preferred pool in the daytime hours---and unelectrified, a more private retreat in the nighttime.
The Turkish bath section was said to be lined with "shampooing alcoves," where doors provided a modicum of privacy for the actual mechanical act of scrubbing, or "rubbing" down the patrons by a nude staff. It's interesting to note that in a photograph of a perhaps, slightly lower-class bathhouse, this act is depicted as underway out in the open, in the common area, although the space is also lined with private compartments, perhaps used as changing rooms, perhaps not, since the justification for a nude staff was the wet use and the warmth necessary for patrons' nudity. A uniformed staff dressed as Cossacks appear ready in the background to attend to other needs.
Although unpublishable in its era, the image above seems to carry with it a rigorous informational program, the central message for the uninitiated being that there is no shame or moral probity to having naked men wash your private bodily areas. Another photograph, titled, "The Bowery -- Ten Cent Turkish Baths," carries this same teaching, while at the same time shows us what it is we get for a dollar. Even here, the relative youth of an unbearded scrubber reminds us that this begins---and ends---as a commercial transaction, entirely different than what would be found at one of the municipal baths designed for hygiene.
The May 3, 1888, The Sun, New Turkish Baths Opened, described the Everard bathhouse as
just completed, was thrown open to public inspection last evening, and the rooms were thronged.and describes these same alcoves around the Turkish plunge differently than as "shampooing alcoves":
Around the sides of the main room are private dressing rooms, and around the gallery above are sleeping rooms.Such inconsistencies that shield the public narrative, is a part of the political, public-relations, and theatrical efforts the Everard marshaled to keep its public face one-hundred-and-eighty degrees opposite its private one.
The 1921 Expansion of the Everard Bathhouse
James Everard died May 31, 1913 after having been an invalid for fifteen years. On May 3, 1916, properties belonging to Everard Realty were sold at auction, including nineteen parcels in Manhattan, although the Everard Baths on 28th Street was not included in this group, and may have changed hands even before Everard's death, as his obituary in the Times, Made a Fortune in Real Estate and Brewery, makes no mention of a bathhouse interest.
In 1921, the then-owner, Meyer Smolowitz, president of the Smalwich Realty Corporation, sold "the one-time Everard Baths property" to Abraham Harawitz, a New York City lawyer
who plans extensive alterations. About $100,000 will be spent in refurnishing and re-equipping the place for use as a Russian bath. The property has been held at $175,000. Louis Freidel was the broker in the deal.The certificate of occupancy issued by the New York City Buildings Department following the 1921 reconstruction described the property's use as "bathhouse and dormitories," although news articless from as far back as 1888 had described socially prominent patrons as occupying "private rooms" in the Everard. It's unlikely that the third and fourth floor sleeping accommodations were reconfigured in 1921 to be entirely open sleeping dormitories, or, given the investment, flop-house cubicles in the style of the Bowery.
The December 31, 1929, New York Times, in Manhattan Properties Recorded Under New Control, reported that:
The building containing Turkish baths at 28 West Twenty-eighth Street has been leased by the 28 West Twenty-eighth Street Holding Corporation, Morris Langer, president, to Everard Baths, Inc., from July 1, 1929 to Dec, 31, 1935, the rental to be $40,000 per annum.Note the difference in spelling between Harrwitz and Harawitz on the two corporate records below
28 West Twenty-Eighth Street Holding Corporation was an business incorporated in New York, on April 14, 1921, (1st Dir.) Abraham Harrwitz, 305 Broadway, NYC.Whomever was the active agent in 1921, the modernization of the Everard Baths after 33 years of use was called for, especially given its construction at a time indoor plumbing was in its infancy. The social respectability of the the Everard had taken hits over the years, especially in 1919 when a police raid arrested both patrons and staff members for illicit conduct, but whatever system of protection and public relations that had guaranteed the financial success of bathhouses generally was still in place. The high-Victorian facade of the former church building was then in the height of disfavor, so a major part of the undertaking was its replacement with a vaguely Romanesque or Classical front, which was moved forward about a dozen feet and reconstructed at the lot line.
Everard Spa, Inc., was a business incorporated in New York on January 16, 1922. (1st Dir.) Abraham Harawitz, 305 Broadway, NYC
Yet despite the passage of decades and at least one intermediate ownership, an odd choice in continuity was made, creating a building which could be mistaken for a church---as David W. Dunlap does in his book, From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship, where he describes the church's "great Romanesque entry arch [which] can still be seen at what is now the Yung Kee Wholesale Center."
A different New York Times writer who experienced the 1921 building as it stood just a few months before the fire, before the evidence in its remains was quickly demolished and hauled away after the fire of May 25, 1977, didn't make the same ecclesiastical connection, but said the building had an "exterior that asserts public function"---perhaps the way a Tammany Hall clubhouse might look to modern passersby.
Writing in the Times on February 4, 1977, , Richard F. Shepard, in an "opinion" article, Broadway That Once Was, about an area
mostly unknown, undistinguished and unremembered, the short stretch of Manhattan that lies along Broadway and the Avenue of the Americas between 23rd and 33rd Streets, yet it was once at the heart of New York life, its Great White Way and its Tin Pan Alley. It's a no-name section that spills over into Chelsea and Madison Square Park on the south and abuts Herald Square on the north.took note of the odd side-street structure:
A short distance west of Broadway, at 28 West 28th Street is one of the most unusual buildings in the area, the Everard Bath. Best looked at from the outside, it has an exterior that asserts public function. There are two lights, one on each side of the entrance, and over the door is a round tiled window in which the initials of the enterprise, EB, are set in a kind of art nouveau flourish. According to the present owner, the building started life as a church in 1865 but has been a bathouse (men only), since 1885; this was not verified but the place certainly looks old.
Two additional design decisions made in 1921 hearken back to the original church . Although it's hard to tell if the lower structure with its "great Romanesque entry arch" is made of carved stone or pressed concrete, or if the top two stories were constructed of cast iron or terra cotta, even the dimmest photograph indicates that a radical change in building materials demarcates through the middle of the building. This feature of the original church, where a carved granite base gave way to iron cast to look like granite above, was likely to have been an economic decision, but here the dueling materials appear to be more in the way of an homage.
Also looking like a tribute to a grand past is the raised false front of the 1921 classical pediment, centered by a great oculus window that replaced the Victorian curlicues and doodads of the 1865 false parapet. Both added about twenty feet to the buildings' stature (though its difficult to judge scale from the photographs)
Originating in antiquity, the oculus, also known as an œil de boeuf from the French, or a "bull's-eye window" in English, is a feature found on Byzantine and Neoclassical architecture, but not so much the Romanesque. Tradition would have it that an opening in a false pediment be open to the sky, in much the same way the broken-pediment "Chippendale" top of the former AT&T building is presented, but a false pediment might have a false oculus if the overall intent was architectural falsity.
When the building is cut down to size we see it neatly aligning with the height of the four-story Victorian structure which has stood to the east since the beginning. It's hard to believe that a bathhouse existed in the structure seen below for the brief period following the fire in 1977 until shut down by the city in 1984. To name its style today would be Communist Palm Beach. But bathhouse use would account for the heavy cast-bronze display cases to either side of the entrance as the last, final, impractical, gasp at churchification
The rebuilding in 1977 displays the landlords' preference for adaptability in their properties. Were the twelve windows in the two dormitory floors sealed up with plywood here too, or did they simply pull down the curtains? At least they addressed the through-the-wall air-conditioning issue, without subtlety. Might the 1921 design of the Everard also have anticipated a possible reuse of that structure for other commercial use, should bathhouses fail, go out of fashion, or get closed down by the city?
The image below is a screen grab from a 3:24-minute video at YouTube, titled, 1975 Midtown Blaze FDNY (Paddy Brown Being Treated by EMS BEFORE he was an FDNY Fireman), uploaded on April 11, 2010 by bxbuff. A comment left there indicate it "was shot by Sheldon Levy and is from one of his War Years Volumes." Another comment tells bxbuff he has the date of the fire wrong by two years, which presumes to call into question the point in the title, since the comment leaver concludes: "Pat was in Fire Patrol 1 at the time, which was located on W. 30th St." However...
The New York Fire Patrol was a salvage corps created by the New York Board of Fire Underwriters which operated from 1839 until October 15, 2006. Their original mission was two-fold: to discover fires and to prevent losses to insured properties. The Patrol responded primarily to fires at commercial structures, however they would respond to high loss residential fires at times. During the fire the Patrol would spread canvas salvage covers, remove water, operate elevators and secure utilities.The New York Times said of Brown on May 26, 1977,
Fireman Patrick Brown, 24, was treated at Bellevue for exhaustion. He had administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to unconscious victims for more than an hour. "I know two of them died," he said.With 30 pieces of equipment and between 100 and 200 firefighters on the scene, along with numerous EMT and police, not only is Brown's claim personally excessive and professionally ludicrous, it is totally inappropriate from the standpoint of city liability to have a civilian necrophiliac insert himself into such a tragedy.
The New York Times published what it called "gay community lore"--lore being a synonym for unprovable--that Everard's was owned by either the Police Benevolent Society or the Police Athletic League. I think this video of Paddy Brown represents New York Fire Department lore--institutional knowledge it only takes two-and-a-half generations to forget if it isn't written down. Or posted on YouTube.
I don't know what the contractual relationship was between the city fire department and these agents for private insurance interests, but after 168 years it was time to reshuffle the wild cards back into the deck. Since the city fire department also contracts out its video record keeping to capitalist enterprises its hard to know much of anything. I do know that the F.D.N.Y. doesn't need a warrant to bust down your front door, which is why the general public likes to imagine some military-style discipline, and code of honor applies.
Analyzing one layer of the non-representational digital artifice introduced into this short fire department training video, part of a series the NYFD underwrites for training and memorialization purposes, is determining what kind of material infills the three large arched sections near the top of the building. On Sheldon Levy's video, these sections look like nothing less than angel-food cake overflowing their baking pans. Luckily, the New York Times saved a view of a small corner of one arch, revealing the lower portion to be of laid brick, while the upper arched section could be plate glass---if it is, it's bullet-proof. This would make sense if a source of daylight were sought without impacting on privacy.
The three irregularly centered dark rectangles seem to be openings for through-the-wall air conditioners, of a size and type we see suspended high up in the windows on the first floor.
Although the video shows many other signs of digital tampering (like a smoking oculus that works to obscure views and vantages)
A Matter of Identities
Laurie Johnston took over lead-article writing duties from Carey Winfrey for the next day's Friday edition, where the story was relegated to page A22. Johnston wrote:
The nine known dead in the Everard Baths fire were identified yesterday, mostly by friends rather than family members,Someone must have missed the final two paragraphs in Carey Winfrey's front-page article the day before:
A fireman who asked not to be identified said three of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. "You couldn't even tell they were bodies," he said.
"Eight is a lot," he added. "But the way they were packed in there, it could have been a lot worse." [5/26/77-NYT | 9 Killed by Fire at a West Side Bathhouse]It would have been impossible to make a visual ID of three of the eight unassigned corpses if the fireman's hyperbole is to be believed. (The identity of the ninth victim who struggled to free himself from a fiery entombment on the fourth floor by squeezing through an air-conditioner duct, then leaped to the ground in advance of the firemen's arrival, mortally breaking his spine, died in the hospital the next day, but his name has never been publicly pulled out from the other eight. His name should be honored for his exceptional display of the will to live.
On May 27, 1977, the Associated Press reported seven out of nine identifications had been made, [[The Newburgh, NY Evening News, Windows Sealed Deaths]
Seven of the dead were identified by medical officials Thursday asLaurie Johnston writing in the Times on the 27th, said:
Patrick Knott, 27, of Bay Parkway, in Brooklyn;
Kenneth Hill, 38, of West Fourth Street in Manhattan;
Adamo Alamo, 17, of West 108th Street, Manhattan
Hillman Wesley Adams, 40, of Ashbrook Drive, Scotch Plains, NJ.;
Ira Landau, 32, of West 75th Street in Manhattan;
James Charles Stuard, 30, of East 25 Street, in Manhattan and
Brian Duffy, 30, no address given.
The two other victims have not been identified.
"The fatalities were identified by the Medical Examiner's office as..."(list reorganized, two highlighted names missing from AP list.)
Amadi Alamo, 17 years old, West 108th Street; Manhattan;
Kenneth Hill, 38, West 4th Street; Manhattan;
Ira Landau, 32, West 75th Street, Manhattan;
James Stuard, 30, East 25th Street, Manhattan;
Anthony Calarco, about 25, 1519 Mace Avenue, the Bronx;
Patrick Knott, 27, Bay Parkway, Brooklyn;
Hillman Wesley Adams, 40, Scotch Plains, N.J.,
Brian Duffy, no age or address given;
Nicholas Smith, no age or addresses given.
A different list of nine names exists, apparently released by the AP, which I found in a sole online source---our old friend Stu Beitler, at GenDisasters - Events That Touched Our Ancestors' Lives, appends this list at the bottom of the AP article taken from The [Danville Virginia] Bee, Strange Findings in Fatal Fire, although that issue of the Danville Bee is available online and the victims' list was not published there along with the front-page AP story that had the word "strange" in it's headline.
Nor was any list published in the competing voice of the town: The Danville [Virginia] Register, Eight Men Die In Fire, it read the day before. A blackout on AP and UPI stories seems to be in effect for the May 27 date. I've found in the online newspaper registries scores of articles from the wire services' for May 25th, and 26th, but there is a precipitous drop-off in numbers for May 27th, where I've located just two AP, and one UPI article, one carrying the abbreviated list of names
(I've created chronologies of news articles for the Everard fire, linked to their original source, with an image of the text. 19th- and early 20th-century bathhouse news is here, and news directly related to the 1977 fire is here.)
So like the medieval Irish monks saving civilization one parchment of Aeschylus at a time, we say thank you to Mr. Stu Beitler for providing this small piece of truth:
List of the Casualties: HILLMAN WESLEY ADAMS, 40, South Plains, New Jersey. AMADO ALAMO, 17, Manhattan. ANTHONY CALARCO, Bronx. KENNETH HILL, 38, Manhattan. BRIAN DUFFY, 30. PATRICK KNOTT, 38, Manhattan. IRA LANDAU, 32, Manhattan. YOSEF SIGNOVEC, 30, Czech. JAMES CHARLES STUARD, 30, Manhattan.The next day, on the 28th, the Times printed a correction concerning one name on the list:
May 28, 1977, NYT, Corrections, In an article in The Times yesterday, Nicholas Smith was incorrectly listed as among the dead in a fire at the Everard Baths. The name should have been Yosef Synovec, 30 years old, of 201 West 70th Street. Mr. Smith, a friend, had identified his body...
It is a red-letter day indeed when the chief medical examiner of the largest city in the world, and the daunting editors of the official newspaper of record can confuse Nicholas Smith for Yosef Synovec. Somehow identity is starting to feel a little slippery around here, as if massage oil was too liberally applied. It's too bad Yosef's last name wasn't SinNoMore, he could have gone places, but his name was not the only anomaly found on the list.
On the AP or UPI wire service list with nine names, Patrick Knott is a 38-year-old Manhattanitte, but he's a 27-year-old resident of Bay Parkway, Brooklyn in the New York Times.
The variant spelling of Amado - Amadi could be just sloppiness---or it could be a more intentional disrespect.
Nicholas Smith had no age or address given in the Times that morning, but replaced by the "Czech" national, Yosef Synovec, he is the perfect age of 30, with a permanent address in Manhattan, and doubtlessly he is a blond, blue-eyed, championship downhill-race skier as well.
A list of properly spelled names and verified addresses of victims should have been handed out publicly at an news conference to everybody, with any lacuna fully explained to all, not dictated over the phone by a New York Times' editor to the Chief Medical Examiner.
Not only is it impossible to make this mistake in the real world, the explanation schemed up to cover only makes matters even worse---by saying the mistaken name was actually the name of the friend who had identified the body (a simple mix-up on a reporter's note pad, right?), The typewritten letters of a name do not leap across a desk from one death certificate to another.
The friend's identify has now been jeopardized by proximity to the premature announcement of his death in the New York Times. It raises the spooky possibility that the person outed as Nicholas Smith was in-line to go ghost himself---which is when a "publicly traded" identity will disappear from view under the guise of actually dying. Maybe Smith got cold feet and suddenly backed out, with no convenient way to shoot him.
The lack of precision and permanence in these names is akin to the fire department "order" that Irving Fine provide a sprinkler system in the Everard, an order that came out of nowhere almost a year previously, but still with weeks to run until its deadline. Any secretary would at a boss's command backdate the sort of file letter that claims Fine was under an order to provide a sprinkler system. There is no independent way to verify that Fine was working under any legitimate mandate.
On day one, Carey Winfrey made it perfectly plain in the Times: there were no sprinkler pipes installed at the Everard.
Irving Fine, 62 years old, who said he was the owner, said a sprinkler system had been installed but was not yet working. However, a spokesman for the Mayor's office said plans for a sprinkler system were rejected by the Buildings Department in January for noncompliance with codes.
[05/26/77 | NYT, 9 Killed by Fire at a West Side Bathhouse; Search Goes On for Bodies]
But that doesn't stop Laurie Johnston, who takes to the streets like a hooker in order to enforce an alternate view of reality that's all about dry pipes...
Crowds of spectators opposite the burned-out building yesterday could see the partially detached pipes of an overhead sprinkler system, which was installed in response to a July 1977 deadline set by the Fire Department, but which had not been connected to the street main.
[05/27/77 | NYT, 9 Killed In Bath Fire Identified By Friends]
Different than a lie or mistake found in the New York Times, are omissions within a story that rise to the level of intellectual sin.
Laurie Johnston wrote on May 28th that
A 1964 Fire Department order to install sprinklers was rescinded in 1965, after the owners "provided certain safety items," said the first deputy fire commissioner, Stephen J. Murphy. There was no order to install sprinklers following the 1972 fire and renovation. However, in keeping with new fire regulations, the installation was ordered again last year.But Johnston neglects to add the context for the 1964 order, making these departmental orders sound as easy to rescind as they were to write and backdate in the first place.
Published in the Times on June 17, 1964---my seventh birthday, by the way---an article, Bathhouse Blaze Kills 2, Injures 4, reports on a not uncommon occurrence:
Two men were found dead yesterday morning amid charred timbers and still smoldering mattresses after a fire swept a bathhouse on the Lower East Side.
This, incidentally reminds us that mattress fires tend to smolder, not blaze out of control like a 20-inch gas cock venting methane straight out of Satan's anus, which is what the fire looks like in the public-relations video.
It is a satisfying note of simultaneous justice and injustice to read the article continue:
Above the men, at ceiling level, were the newly installed pipes of a sprinkler system that might have saved them from death in their rented cots. But the system was not fully installed and would not have been in operation until Thursday at the earliest.
[6/17/64 | NYT, Bathhouse Blaze Kills 2, Injures 4]
Then when the Everard actually burns in 1972, and the roof and top floor are destroyed and rebuilt, not only was the installation of a sprinkler system not mandated, but the other defects common to a fire trap, like the lack of fire escapes, and an absence of emergency lighting, continue on unabated, as if by some fiat, or a hidden license, that rules and regulations are trivial, and of no account. Then when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar and their pants down, the system goes into overdrive to see that everything either works out or goes away. Supreme Court justices have even been known to decide presidential elections in this fashion, and any damage done to one's credibility in the process eventually goes away. People have short memories and the system is rigged to appose truth from the get-go.
In the 1905 image of the Baudouine Building, we see exterior fire escapes on both the four-story building to the left, and the five-story building to the right of the Everard, but no such safety feature on the supposedly overtaxed bathhouse building itself.
In a bathhouse with 135 sleeping berths, I find it extremely unlikely that "80-100" patrons would chose to be sleeping there overnight, and still be there at seven o'clock the next morning, as the owner Irving Fine asserted. This odd claim really makes the Everard look like a flophouse, which I'm sure the Lunts and Nureyev wouldn't have liked, Unless you're a blue collar shift worker looking for a quicky, I can't think of anything more ghastly than a bathhouse at seven o'clock in the morning. If awake, everybody's mouths would be so dry from all the drugs they consumed the night before, they wouldn't be able to blow a sweet-and-sour porkchop.
In the published images of the scattered denizens stopping to dress or collect themselves on the street, we see no authorities tending to them at all. The first thing they would need was access to retrieve their valuables left at the desk. Wallets and keys were the attributes that separated a homeless street kid from a respectable bath patron, and I don't see how admission could be made without leaving some surety at the desk in exchange for the room or locker key.
Their are signs that in many cases we're dealing here with so-called 'migrating birds,' low-end operatives in the thrall of clandestine intelligence services, or the secret police; a netherworld of outsiders and outcasts, where few notice if someone falls off the map, and few care if anyone gets reestablished.
From the off-key quotes of Fire Commissioner John O'Hagan, who "pulled his men back from searching for bodies for fear that the weakened, partially collapsed structure might come down on them," but who sent his boys in, if not his men, to find evidence of emptied fire extinguishers lying about at the heart of a much bigger, second blaze. The real firemen under his command had to be kept away from this evidence of arson, murder, and who knows what else. O'Hagan was widely quoted with this expression:
Fire Commissioner John T. O'Hagan said he didn't know whether more persons were trapped inside the Everard Baths at 28th Street near Broadway in the wholesale flower market district.In another quote the chief said:
May 25, 1977, AP-Tri-City Herald (Pasco, WA) page 1, 8 die in N.Y. blaze
"If there are others still in there, I'm afraid there's little hope they're alive," Fire Commissioner John T. O'Hagan said.It is not a fire responders' job to hope or fear, but to search and evaluate; they're talking about possibly living persons here, not bodies. Not seeming to care if a fire victim may be still alive inside of a burned-out building is a kind of tone-deafness that stands against everything the department says it stands for.
A quotation from O'Hagan put out by the UPI, at a point when the deaths were seven in number, reports
O'Hagan said, "We have testimony from one person that there was a previous fire this morning around 5 or 6 a.m. Apparently the residents put out the fire themselves and didn't call us.""Testimony"?! From "one" person? Did he get the sworn deposition? If this were a hotel fire the chief would have referred to occupants as guests, not residents, and in this early quote, it's acknowledged as much as two hours passed between the two fire events. A reigniting mattress doesn't explain the rapidity with which the second fire gained the upper hand and went out of control, but in later interviews the chief uses the 'hour' time frame to explain why the building was fully engulfed when firemen arrived.
In an UPI - Naples Daily News article, In N.Y. Blaze, Several Are Hurt, [at least 7 killed] a resident is quoted:
Raymond Walsh, 26, of Old Bridge, N.J., said he was on the second floor of the building when the fire began.
"I felt it. I kind of woke up and saw the reflection of orange under the door and then I could feel the heat. It was right in the next cubicle. I just got up and got out of there."I don't know if Agent Orange was called that for the logical reason, but the other name for jellied gasoline, Napalm, would have been the sort of chemical the 24-year-old Paddy Brown was familiar with from tours of duty in Vietnam.
Then O'Hagan takes out his firematics ouija board and declares:
"From the looks of it, I'm afraid there could be more dead," said Fire Commissioner John T. Hagan. "The entire rear of the building has collapsed. It could be a week before we know how many were trapped in there."_______________________________________________________________________________
May 28, 1977, New York Times, Stand-Alone Photo, page A23, Grim Task of Demolition: Workmen operate a crane to remove rubble at site of Everard Baths on West 28th Street and begin search for more bodies. Fire swept four-story structure, killing nine persons on Wednesday. Wreath on crane was left by someone who wanted it placed at the site. The New York Times/John Solo, View original in TimesMachine,
"Wreath on crane was left by someone who wanted it placed at the site." Is another way of saying, John Solo, the photographer for the Times, tried to do something to make an image register in some way, since he was limited by his editor's instructions not to photograph what was left of the Everard structure. Would anyone who cared enough to bring a floral wreath down to Twenty-eighth Street to memorialize the loss of life, and the seeming loss of a way of life, really be so stupid as to drop a tribute off on top of a moving crane involved in demolition work? Not to criticize hard working blue-collar construction workers unduly but they don't know how to take care of fresh-cut flowers. I doubt if they change the water in the vase even once, although they said they did.
The flames were brought under control by 200 fire fighters after about 1 1/2 hours, but Fire Commissioner John O'Hagan pulled his men back from searching for bodies for fear that the weakened, partially collapsed structure might come down on them
He said a search for bodies would continue using a crane to pick at debris "We now have the job of searching 135 cubicles." he said.
May 26, 1977, AP - Panama City News Herald, page 4,
The truth about Fire Commissioner John O'Hagan's decision to pull his men away from the search for victims following the fire Wednesday morning at the Everard Baths, was made abundantly clear by a single sentence recorded in a solitary news article:
"It may take a couple of days, " said city inspector Henry Townley. He added that the font wall of the baths had to come down, and the debris-clogged rear area had to be cleared before the body hunt began [May 28, 1977, AP - The Des Moines Register, page 4, Demolition begins at fatal fire site]If any more bodies were to be discovered they would likely be hidden in the "debris-clogged rear area" that Townley says must be cleared before a search could begin. Likewise, Townley says the front wall of the Everard had to come down before it would be safe to enter and check for remains, but this is a patently ridiculous assertion. If rescuers used a crane to pick gingerly at the remains of a partially collapsed building (here at the Everard, the only part to partially collapse was the part no one could see from the street) they would work a layer at a time, from the top down, or from the outside in. But the only thing holding the partially uncollapsed portions of the building together was the stabilization provided by the facade and side walls. To remove the facade first, rather than last, in the process, is to announce to the world that there is something glaringly wrong, a problem with the visuals as yet unrealized or documented.
Why would survivors, or the families of the dead, not sue the baths' owner in civil court for damages and wrongful death, is a startling fact given that this is America. But to have further implicated the city in the wrongdoing, with decades of collusion (such an unpretty word,) and failure to enforce even basic health and safety regulations, could set a cash register to ring to a tune of millions, upon millions of dollars in fines, penalties, restitution, givebacks and hush-money
The man most injured by what I perceive to be the elephant in the living-room---that the fourth-story windows had been bricked over at some point decades earlier, leaving no possible route in an emergency for the "residents" on the fourth-floor to egress or exit the building, and that this defect was so fundamental and structural a part of the nature and use of this fourth floor, that the failure on the part of New York City Buildings and Fire inspectors, to spot, and remedy these problem, left a matter of nine deaths just waiting to happen.
The bath patron who jumped from the fourth floor and survived, Philip Osbaum, 50, likely followed suit, or perhaps led the way out, along with the unnamed ninth fatality from the fire, who together were able---in pitch blackness and the choking smoke of a deliberately set and accelerated arson fire that trapped them on a dead-end Fourth Floor Hall of No Return, without any possibility or hope for escape---to rip out an industrial, through-the-wall air-conditioning unit from its fixed moorings in a brick wall, and together were able to slither outside. However, the fire had been so fast moving (and not so slow-going, as Fire Chief O'Hagan tried to mislead the public) that the fire department ladder trucks hadn't even made it onto 28th Street yet, so both men jumped 50 feet to the street below, and both suffered grave internal injuries in the fall-jump
May 28, 1977, AP - The Des Moines Register, page 4, Demolition begins at fatal fire site,
NEW YORK, N.Y. (AP) -- Demolition of a burned-out West Side bathhouse that catered to homosexuals began Friday as a prelude to a search for bodies.
A fire swept the four-story structure earlier this week, and nine persons are known to have died.
"It may take a couple of days," said city inspector Henry Twonley. He added that the front wall of the Everard Baths had to come down, and the debris-clogged rear area had to be cleared before the body hunt began.May 26, 1977, AP - The Bakersfield Californian, page 7, Fire in NY bathhouse kills 9 with 12 hurt,
Single source for the following paragraph:
Firemen said they rescued 12 persons from windows. Others jumped, including some from the third floor who were among those hospitalized. A number who fled out the door wore only bath towels.
Fire officials said the occupants of the four-story building containing the Everard Baths had tried ineffectually to fight the fire themselves and flames were roaring through two floors when firemen arrived shortly after 7 a.m.But this had been going on for some time well in advance of 1975, when a big fire occurred in one of the World Trade Towers. There had been a series of nettlesome small fires in the towers almost since the buildings were completed. The New York State Employee's Union had some oversight over working conditions in the south tower, where various New York State Agencies had taken 60 contiguous floors. The union agitated to have these floors installed with sprinkler systems, independent of the Port Authority's doing. This was, of course, an end run around the state budget, and the Port Authority's spending plan, but bids, estimates, contracts, and penalties were often bypassed when something needed to get done.
But the moment in the mid-seventies, when the city seemed to be falling apart the most; with Felix Rohatyn at the helm, and Stephen Berger, late of Odyssey Investment Partners, then a force behind the scenes at the Port Authority, people were going up unpleasantly high in the new buildings, and there was a real period of alarm for many, which The Towering Inferno, brilliantly crass and cast, capitalized on superbly, The uncertainly after a rules re-set, when two new towers named David and Nelson started working their stargate magic on bonds, commodities, insurance, foreign trade, and what-not. They were probably listening in on the equivalent of Angela Merkel's cell phone back in 1970 too, so times don't really change, just our alibis.
Well, I finally found something that resembles that strange rocket-ship-like window that stood atop the entry-porch in the old 1865 church at 28 West 28th Street, seen in the Baudouine Building photograph, half submerged beneath the surface of the church front:
It's the exterior passenger elevator from the 1975 movie, The Towering Inferno. The one Fay Dunaway rode halfway down while wearing that amazing raw-umber chiffon gown that hung from her neck and showed her navel. She didn't seem alarmed at the prospect of a Jane Mansfield-style nip slip amid all the carnage; she may even have had her nipples surgically removed before filming began per a contract with Lloyd's of London.
Eat, Karen, Eat!
Can't leave the men out, but don't have to put all the men in either. Just Paul Newman.
Towering Inferno movie mistakes, goofs and bloopers,
I wonder if the Free Baptist congregation that built the church went in for modern-day prophecies, or if they we're just your typical American Armageddon worshipers. My first impression was the same as my last is: it was modeled on some sort of Biblical space-ship.
The patron who jumped and survived, Philip Osbaum, 50, was listed in critical condition at Bellevue Hospital with a fractured trachea and fractured ribs.
Others there, listed as satisfactory, are
Kevin Duffley, 33;
Luis Figueroa, 22, and
John Stanisz, 22, inhalation and multiple minor injuries, all of Manhattan;
Alexander Mamon, 28, Jamaica, Queens, inhalation and fractured ankle.
Thomas Dyer, a fireman, remained at Bellevue Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.
Only seven of the nine bodies had been identified by the AP by one edition on Thursday (The exceptions were Anthony Calarco, "about 25," 1519 Mace Avenue, the Bronx; and Nicholas Smith, no age or addresses given. [See 5/27/77 | Evening News]
May 27, 1977, AP - The Evening News [Newburgh, NY], Windows Sealed Deaths,
Fire officials say illegally sealed windows contributed to the nine or more deaths and the dozen injuries that occurred Wednesday during the fire that destroyed the Everard Baths, a bath house that catered to homosexuals.
A spokesman for the fire department said the windows were sealed with paneling and insulation. "Had the paneling not been there we might have gotten everybody out," he said.
Meanwhile, fire officials have begun a search through the charred ruins of the baths for more possible victims of the Wednesday fire which gutted the four-story building.
Seven of the dead were identified by medical officials Thursday as
Patrick Knott, 27, of Bay Parkway, in Brooklyn;
Kenneth Hill, 38, of West Fourth Street in Manhattan;
Adamo Alamo, 17, of West 108th Street, Manhattan
Hillman Wesley Adams, 40, of Ashbrook Drive, Scotch Plains, NJ.;
Ira Landau, 32, of West 75th Street in Manhattan;
James Charles Stuard, 30, of East 25 Street, in Manhattan and
Brian Duffy, 30, no address given.
The two other victims have not been identified.
The Bee of Danville, Virginia, was some little newspaper. Very C.I.A. if you ask me, and you didn't.
May 26, 1977, AP -The Bee (Danville, VA) page 1, Strange Findings In Fatal Fire,
May 26, 1977, AP - The Bee, [Danville, Va.] page 1, Human Fly Climbing World Trade Center,
May 26, 1977, AP - The Bee, [Danville, Va.] page 4A, CIA; First Line of Our Defense, by Jack Anderson,
May 26, 1977, The Bee, [Danville, VA] Punishment For Prostitutes,
Even the competition, The Danville Register, is unusually interesting.
May 26, 1977, The Bee, [Danville, VA] Punishment For Prostitutes,
Even the competition, The Danville Register, is unusually interesting.
May 27, 1977, The Danville [VA] Register, page 1, Daredevil Toy Maker Scales World Trade Center,
I've never seen Mayor Beame look happier than in this picture: He just beams.
May 28, 1977, New York Times, page 1, 'Fly' Pays $1.10, A Cent a Floor; City Drops Suit, by Murray Schumach,
July 16, 2014, StevenWarRan Research, Fire in the Everard Baths - Research 1880-1960,
July 18, 2014, StevenWarRan Research, Everard Baths 1976-1977 A.D.,
July 19, 2014, StevenWarRan Research, New York Times, 1977, Carey Winfrey, Laurie Johnston, Peter Flint,