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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 879

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This is the grave of the unidentified victims of the Windsor Hotel Fire.

The Windsor Hotel opened on 5th Avenue and 47th Street in New York in 1873. It was an elite hotel, the kind of place the rich would actually live. It was advertised as “the most comfortable and homelike hotel in New York.”

In 1899, the St. Patrick’s Day parade was going down 5th Avenue. Supposedly, someone was watching the parade on the second floor. Said person lit a cigarette or cigar and tossed the match out the window. But it was a windy day. The match flew back into the hotel and set some lace curtains on fire. The entire building soon erupted in flames. Somewhere around 90 people died, although the entire parade stopped while people rushed inside to rescue those trapped. Among the rescued was a young girl named Isadora Duncan. William McKinley’s brother managed to save his wife and disabled daughter. But it was gruesome. In an age where buildings simply were higher than fire systems could reach, something that would not be addressed until after the Triangle Fire in 1911, it was a death trap to be above about the 7th floor. And here it was worse because the fire had started on the 2nd floor. Here’s a picture of the fire.

More pictures are here.

There were 31 people whose remains could not be identified. One was the daughter the hotel’s operator. He would pay for the grave of the unidentified victims himself.

The unidentified victims of the Windsor Fire are buried in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York. This tombstone was erected in 2014. Hard to photograph too because of the reflection. Before that, the plot was unmarked. I certainly did not go to this cemetery to see this grave, but sometimes you find interesting things while wandering around.

If you would like this series to visit other mass graves or victims of disasters, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Mass graves at the Indian boarding schools have recently been in the news and Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania certainly has them, so I could visit there. Or I could visit victims of the Triangle Fire, who are listed here with their burial sites. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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