Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Temporary Morgues

Gosh, it's cheerful around here lately, isn't it? Let's talk about temporary morgues!

Temporary morgues are set up when disaster strikes, leaving too many dead bodies to fit in a regular morgue. You never can tell when a place you're walking around might have been a morgue once.

A few from Chicago history:

870 N. Milwaukee Ave (formerly 64 Milwaukee) - near Milwaukee and Racine. This was the site of a stable used as a temporary morgue following the great Chicago Fire.

C.H. Jordans Saloon and Annex, State and Madison - Numerous soucres list the seventh or eighth floor (depending on which source you read) of Marshall Field's as a temporary morgue after the Iroquois Theatre fire. It was really more of a hospital (though many people surely died there). The main temporary morgue was nearby at Jordan's saloon and annex, 14-16 E. Madison (old numbering). Incidentally, the story of the guy yanking gold fillings from teeth seems to be apocryphal, but the NYT reported that there was a lot of that kind of thing going on.

Harpo Studios, The Reid Murdoch building, and Under the Wells Street Bridge - though most of the bodies following the Eastland disaster were brought to the Second Regiment Armory (now Harpo Studios),  some were brought to the Reid Murdoch (right next to the site of the tragedy) and to a floating morgue under the bridge (the LaSalle Street bridge didn't exist yet). Contrary to legend, none were brought to the building where the Excalibur Club is now.

The Brueschater Buildling - 21st and Leavitt. In 1889 this saloon (then still operated by William Brueschater, whose name is still clearly visible on the turret)  was used as a morgue when a building across the street collapsed in a storm, killing at least 8 people.

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