I was happy to see a recent sale of my photograph of the fire fighter memorial taken last sprint in Boston’s Back Bay. I know it must be finding a home with one of our brave first responders.
If you’ve seen it, you know its along the park on Commmonwealth Ave. I used to go to college on the other end of Commonwealth Ave at Boston University, but the memorial is in the back bay area which is closer to the Boston Common.
On June 17th, 1997 — the 25th anniversary of the Vendome fire — a monument was dedicated on the Commonwealth Avenue mall, a few yards from the site of the fire. The monument features a fireman’s helmet and coat cast in bronze draped over a low arc of dark granite. An inscription bears the timeline of the fire and the names of the men who died. One faces the site of the fire when reading the names.
The Hotel Vendome fire was the worst firefighting tragedy in Boston history. Nine firefighters were killed when part of the building collapsed, June 17, 1972. The Hotel Vendome was on the southwest corner of the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Dartmouth Street, in the Back Bay area of Boston.
The Vendome was a luxury hotel built in 1871 in Boston’s Back Bay, just north of Copley Square. A massive expansion was undertaken in 1881 according to plans by architect J. F. Ober and completed in 1882.
During the 1960s, the Vendome suffered four small fires. In 1971, the year of the original building’s centennial, the Vendome was sold. The new owners opened a restaurant called Cafe Vendome on the first floor, and began renovating the remaining hotel into condominiums and a shopping mall.
The building was largely empty the afternoon of Saturday June 17, 1972, save for a few people performing renovations. One of the workers discovered that a fire had begun in an enclosed space between the third and fourth floors, and at 2:35 pm rang Box 1571. A working fire was called in at 2:44, and subsequent alarms were rung at 2:46, 3:02, and 3:06. A total of 16 engine companies, five ladder companies, two aerial towers, and a heavy rescue company responded.
The fire was brought largely under control by 4:30 pm. Several crews, including Boston Fire Department Ladder 13 and Engines 22 and 32, remained on scene performing overhaul and cleanup. At 5:28pm, abruptly and without warning, all five floors of a 40-by-45 foot section at the southeast corner of the building collapsed, burying a ladder truck (Ladder 15) and 17 firefighters beneath a two-story pile of debris.
Occurring one day prior to the Father’s Day holiday, eight firemen were injured, and nine lost their lives in the worst firefighting disaster in Boston history (in terms of loss of firefighters). The men who were killed were:
Fire Fighter Thomas W. Beckwith
Fire Fighter Joseph F. Boucher
Lieutenant Thomas J. Carroll
Fire Fighter Charles E. Dolan
Lieutenant John E. Hanbury, Jr.
Fire Fighter John E. Jameson
Fire Fighter Richard B. Magee
Fire Fighter Paul J. Murphy
Fire Fighter Joseph P. Saniuk
Brave men working to protect the lives and properties of the rest of us.