Bay Ridge

Fontbonne students visit Triangle Factory fire site

November 14, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Fontbonne Hall Academy students toured Greenwich Village with historian Joyce Gold. Photo courtesy of Juliette Tugander

Students from Fontbonne Hall Academy got a close-up view of a historic site when they recently took a walking tour of Greenwich Village and stood outside the building where the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took place in 1911.

Members of the Fontbonne Hall Academy Scholar Society took part in a walking tour titled the “Immigrant, Radical, Notorious Women of Washington Square” and listened intently as tour guide Joyce Gold, a historian, described the circumstances of the devastating fire and discussed how the deadly blaze helped to galvanize the labor movement in the U.S. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which took place on March 25, 1911, was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history. The fire killed 146 garment workers, most of them young immigrant women between the ages of 16 and 23.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was located on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors of the 10-story Asch Building at 23-29 Washington Place. The building is still standing. It is known today as the Brown Building and is currently owned by New York University. 

In 1911, Fire Department ladders did not have the capacity to reach above the 6th floor of a building. The one fire escape attached to the Asch Building had collapsed. In addition, the factory owners had locked the doors from the outside to prevent the workers from stealing material. This meant that the victims were trapped with no way out of the rapidly spreading fire. Many of the young women jumped out the windows and plunged to their deaths rather than burn to death. 

The deadly fire highlighted the plight of immigrant workers who often toiled under tough conditions in factories for little pay.

The building where the fire took place is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was only one aspect of the tour led by Gold.

Thirty-two Fontbonne Hall students and three chaperones walked around the area around Washington Square Park and learned about the women who lived in Greenwich Village and contributed to the arts and politics. 

The tour also included information about famous women in literature, art and theater and the fight for women’s suffrage, according to Fontbonne Hall officials. 

Fontbonne Hall Academy is a private high school for Catholic girls. The school is located at 9901 Shore Road. 

The Fontbonne Hall Academy Scholar Society is open to freshman and sophomores by invitation only and is based on academic achievement. An induction ceremony took place in September. Members of the society take part in extracurricular programs throughout the school year.