On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top three floors of what is now known as the Brown Building, located at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street in the Lower East Side. At the time, the top floors — which now house New York University’s Center for Developmental Genetics — were occupied by the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, which produced women’s blouses and employed mostly teenaged immigrant girls, many of whom did not speak English. The fire broke out at 4:45pm, and by the time it was put out 18 minutes later, 146 people had already perished.
The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company was one of the most significant workplace tragedies in New York City history. Claustrophobic and unsafe working conditions, created by greed and corruption in politics, were commonplace during the early 20th century. The fire served as a call to arms to fight for the rights of factory workers and immigrants.
Today, the effects of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire are still felt as people continue to champion the rights of women, workers and immigrants around the country. This year marks the 107th anniversary of the tragedy, In commemoration of the day, various events will be held throughout the city to raise awareness of the causes the incident inspired.
10. Official Commemoration of the 107th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Every year, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition organizes events to commemorate the tragic fire and bring awareness to the underserved needs of workers today. This year’s commemoration takes place in partnership with Workers United/ SEIU (ILGWU) and will feature a raising of the ladder, the calling of the names and the laying of the flowers. The ceremony will unfold at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street on March 23 from 11:30am to 1pm.
Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition’s mission is to educate the public about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire through on-going projects, educational outreach, and social media sites. The group also serves as a resource for organizations fighting for workers’ rights. In 2013, the coalition launched a design competition calling for proposals for a permanent art memorial. The winning design chosen for The Triangle Fire Memorial was designed by Richard Joon Yoo and Uri Wegman, and will become a permanent fixture of the Brown Building where the fire occurred.