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St. George Hotel Fire Report


The St. George Hotel was the grandest of New York City’s hotels when it opened in 1926. Located in the Brooklyn Heights area of the city, it had a total of 2,632 guestrooms in a complex of eight buildings that occupied an entire city block. 1). Some of the original buildings dated back to 1885. All the buildings were interconnected at the basement level, and there were numerous connections on various floor levels among the different buildings.

The complex was bordered by Pineapple Street to the north, Clark Street to the south, Hicks Street to the east and Henry Street on the west. Many streets in the Brooklyn Heights area are only 40 feet wide. Parking on the streets in front of the fire building further congested the area. Figure 1 shows the block and the relationships of the buildings to each other.

Over the years, several of the buildings in the complex were vacated, while others were converted to residential apartment use. Only the original St. George Hotel building on the east end of the complex operated as a hotel at the time of the fire.

The building of fire origin, known as the Clark Building, was located at 51 Clark Street. It was nine stores high, measured 75 feet wide by 90 feet deep, and had been vacant for at least seven years.

The ten story Grill building was immediately west of the Clark Building on the corner of Clark and Hicks. Although the Grill Building was only 25 feet deep, it had 100 feet of frontage on Clark Street. At one time the Grill Building and the Clark Building had been connected at each floor level with overhead rolling fire doors at the openings. After the Clark Building was vacated the fire doors were closed and the openings were bricked over on the Grill Building side.

The 31 story Tower Building ran nearly the length of the block on Hicks Street, between Clark and Pineapple Streets behind the Grill and Clark Buildings. The Tower building had 175 feet of frontage on Hicks Street and 150 feet on Pineapple Street. The main entrance was at 111 Hicks Street. The Tower Building was built in 1929 of protected steel construction and was connected to the Grill Building at the basement level.
The portion of the Tower Building that fronts on Pineapple Street was built as a free standing structure known as the St. George Apartments. In recent years the original Tower building, the old St. George Apartments and the Grill Building had all been combined into one residential building known as the Tower Building.

East of the Tower Building were the six story Crosshall and the eight story Pineapple Buildings. The Crosshall building had a fifty-foot frontage on Pineapple Street, while the Pineapple Building at 60 Pineapple Street is 115 feet wide and, like Crosshall, is ninety feet deep.

The building that was being operated as the St. George Hotel occupied the entire east end of the block. The section that faces Pineapple is eight stories tall, while the portion that faced Clark Street was 12 stories tall. There were entrances on Henry Street, which had more than 200 feet of frontage, and on Clark Street, which had 125 feet of frontage. The New York City Transit Authority operates a subway station under the St. George Hotel with direct access from the lobby to the station.

The Weller Building, west of the St. George Hotel, was four stories in height with a 50 by 85 footprint. Between the Weller and the Clark Buildings was the 12 story Marquee Building, which had been vacant for several years. The Marquee Building was separated from the Weller Building by fire doors. The 50 by 85-foot Marquee Building was open to the Clark Building on all floor levels. A common one story covered courtyard
occupied the remaining open area between the buildings at the west end of the block.

All the buildings on the block, except the 31 story portions of the Tower Building, were of ordinary construction. The Clark and Marquee Buildings were both vacant at the time of the fire while all of the other buildings were being used as residential occupancies. The St. George Hotel had some permanent residents and was also being used by various city agencies to provide temporary housing for AIDS patients. Standpipe systems and partial sprinkler systems were present and functional in the occupied building.

The vacant Clark Building had been legally and illegally scavenged. Large sections of flooring were missing and the standpipe system was partially dismantled. Vagrants were known to frequent the building despite efforts to keep the building sealed as required by New York City codes.

The Fire

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