July 4, 1925: Did Hot Jazz Bring Down the Pickwick Club?
It was 3:00 in the morning on July 4, 1925, at the Pickwick Club, a licensed social club—a speakeasy—at 6 Beach Street in downtown Boston. McGlennon’s Jazz Orchestra was on the bandstand, with Johnny Duffy singing “Twelfth Street Rag.” There were perhaps 125 people in the room at the time, maybe 50 of them dancing.
An employee, standing outside the second-story club’s barred door, heard a sound he described as being like “a granulated substance falling on paper.” He went to the empty third floor to investigate, but found nothing out of the ordinary. A few minutes later, water began splashing to the club’s floor. At about 3:05, plaster started falling, lights went out, the ceiling collapsed, the floor gave way, two side walls caved in, and the whole building came crashing down.
It was a catastrophe, and the death toll eventually reached 44, singer Johnny Duffy among them. A stunned Boston asked, “how could this happen?”
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