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Brooklyn, New York

Green-Wood Cemetery's Brooklyn Theatre Fire Memorial

Mass grave for victims of one of the city’s worst fires 

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On December 5, 1876, a lantern on the stage of the Brooklyn Theatre would cause a horrific fire that would leave 278 dead. The building was considered to be up to safety standards, even though all of the victims were trapped in a single staircase, dying from smoke inhalation as they tried to flee the balcony.

One hundred and three bodies were unidentifiable or belonged to families who could not afford a proper burial. They were buried in a circular mass grave in Green-Wood Cemetery, marked in the center with a granite obelisk.

Coincidentally, one of the fire’s survivor’s, Kate Claxton, was buried in another area of the cemetery in 1924. She starred in The Two Orphans, the play that was going on that night. She only managed to escape by remembering that there was an underground tunnel that lead from a dressing room to the box office.

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