Song - Artist -
Get A Little Order - The Sweet Inspirations -
This past Sunday on "Dark Side of the Highway" (4-6 AM) the weekly "This Day in Dark Americana" segment recalled the Collinwood School Fire of March 4, 1908...
Lake View School, Collinwood, Ohio before the fire.
Lake View School, Collinwood, Ohio after the fire.
The Collinwood school fire (also known as the Lake View School fire) of Ash Wednesday, March 4, 1908, was one of the deadliest disasters of its type in the United States. 172 students, two teachers and a rescuer were killed in the conflagration in Collinwood, Ohio, a community that has since been absorbed into the city of Cleveland.
While the Lake View School was built with load-bearing masonry outer walls, much of the four story building's floor structure system used wooden joists. It was one wooden joist that caught fire when it was overheated by a steam pipe. The building’s main stair case extended from the front doors of the building, up to the third floor; without benefit of fire doors. The stairwell acted like a chimney, helping to spread the fire quickly. Oiled wooden hall and classroom floors also fueled the fire.
A common misconception about the building's design is that the doors opened inward. They did not, as has been verified in accounts of the fire written at the time. Doors to the building were equipped with common door knob latches, not the more modern crash bar type latch. As panic leading to the crush of a large number of students in stairwell vestibules contributed to the death toll, students also died as a result of smoke inhalation and the fire itself. Some children died jumping from second- and third-story windows. Community members watched as victims trapped in the building were burned beyond recognition.
Those killed in the fire who could not be individually identified, as well as those students whose parents could not afford a burial, were buried in a mass grave in Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery. Additionally, several families who lost their children in the fire chose to bury their children's remains adjacent to the Collinwood victims.
Following the fire, the remains of the Lake View School were demolished and a memorial garden planned for the site. A new school—Collinwood Memorial Elementary School—was built adjacent to the disaster site, and incorporated many features that had been lacking in the previous building. Unlike the building involved in the disaster, the new school incorporated fire safe stairwells, a central alarm system, and was built of steel framing and other fire-safe materials. Although the new school was torn down in 2004, a memorial plaque remains on the site as new development is added to the area.
In the aftermath of the catastrophic Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago, 1903, a national drive was instigated to upgrade safe egress from buildings. Official regulations required that doors now open from the inside and swing outward, thereby facilitating public exit. The installation of what were called "panic bar" latches were mandated for doors in schools. The final casualty of the fire was the independence of the Collinwood community itself. Unable to sufficiently guarantee fire safety resources for its residents, voters approved an annexation of Collinwood into Cleveland within two years of the fire.
This week's accompanying musical selection was the classic song "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, taken from their self-titled 1968 debut album on Polydor Records. The song can also be found on the out-of-print compilation CD "The British Invasion: A History of the British Invasion Volume 9" on Rhino Records.