Preservation Magazine, Winter 2024

Triangle Tribute: Memorializing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Though the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurred more than a century ago, it remains one of the worst industrial disasters in United States history. The fire claimed 146 lives—most of them young immigrant women—when it ripped through the New York City garment factory on March 25, 1911.

Trapped by locked doors, dozens perished from smoke inhalation and burns. Others died after jumping to their deaths, or from falling when the building’s only fire escape collapsed. The tragedy is considered a turning point for workers’ rights and safety regulations, inspiring dozens of new bills and labor law reform.

On October 11, 2023, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition dedicated the Triangle Fire Memorial (shown in a rendering) at the historic building where the fire broke out. The memorial is slated to be fully installed by February.

Here's the fire and memorial, by the numbers.

2,000: Approximate weight in pounds (equivalent to 1 ton) of fabric scraps on the floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory around the time of the fire. This allowed the flames to spread quickly.

6: Number of victims whose identities remained unknown until 2011, when researcher and historian Michael Hirsch uncovered their names.

120,000: Number of mourners who marched through the streets of Lower Manhattan in the cold and rain on April 5, 1911, to honor the victims of the fire.

107: Age of the fire’s last survivor, Rose Freedman, when she died in 2001. After the fire, Freedman advocated for workers’ rights, attending labor rallies throughout her life, according to her obituary in The New York Times.

96 feet 8 inches: Length of the steel ribbon that will cascade down the building when the memorial is complete in February 2024. The victims’ names and ages are cut into a horizontal steel panel that will meet the ribbon.

photo by: Rendering by Richard Joon Yoo and Uri Wegman

A rendering shows what the Triangle Fire Memorial will look like upon completion.

Preservation magazine Assistant Editor Malea Martin.

Malea Martin is the assistant editor at Preservation magazine. Outside of work, you can find her scouring antique stores for mid-century furniture and vintage sewing patterns, or exploring new trail runs with her dog. Malea is based on the Central Coast of California.

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