A ditty about the Brooklyn Theater Fire

When I posted my Green Wood Cemetery photos a few months back I expressed interest in writing about the tragic Brooklyn Theater Fire which claimed the lives of over 300 theatergoers and actors on December 5th, 1876. As I researched, I realized there are many blogs online with mounds of information on the event. Popular Brooklyn blog site Brownstowner.com posted a fascinating 2 part article with an inside-out history of the theater and what occurred that tragic night. It also includes 2 slideshows of images.

Read both parts here:

Walkabout: The Brooklyn Theater Fire (Part 1)

Walkabout: The Brooklyn Theater Fire (Part 2)

We can always count on the arts to provide us with a colorful, or in this case, musical, backdrop of the era and event. After a little digging I came up with this!

Folk Song

Listen to a quick midi version of the Tune

The Brooklyn Theater Fire Lyrics

In the evening bright stars they were shining,
And the moon it shone clear on the land.
Our city in peace and in quiet;
The hour of midnight at hand.

Hark, do you hear the cry, “Fire”?
How dismal the bells they do sound.
The Brooklyn Theater is burning,
It’s fast burning down to the ground.

We never can forget those two orphans.
Bad luck seemed to stand in their way.
It seems they were brought to our city,
The lives of our dear friends to take.

The doors they were open at seven.
The curtains were rolled up at eight.
And those that had seats, they were happy.
Outsiders were mad they were late.

The play it went on very smoothly
‘Til sparks from the curtain did fly
It was then the women and chlldren,
“Oh God, save our lives,” they did cry.

Next morning among the black ruins,
Oh God, what a sight met our eyes!
The dead they were lying in heaps
And some could not be recognized.

Mothers were weeping and crying
For sons who were out on that night.
Oh God, may their souls rest in heaven,
All those who were innocent and bright.

What means this large gathering of people
Upon such a cold winter day?
What means this long line of hearses
That gather in their mournful array?

It’s away to the cemetery of Greenwood
Where the winds of the cold winter blow
It’s there where the funeral is going
The dead and unknown for to lie.

From Folk Songs Out of Wisconson, Peters
Collected from Lester Coffee, Harvard, IL, 1946.


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