On October 3, 1962, at 12:07 pm, an overheated boiler exploded inside the New York Telephone Company building on Broadway and West 213th Street in the Inwood section of Manhattan. In the aftermath 21 persons were counted dead and 95 others were injured. 19 of those killed were women.
“The blast,” according to a news account, “blew the boiler into the building’s cafeteria, where about 100 employees, mostly women, were beginning their lunch hour. Most if not all the deaths occurred there.” (New York Times, October 4, 1962)
Some 500 employees worked in the two-story yellow brick and cinderblock building—most in sales, accounting, and customer service positions.
The explosion occurred the day before payday and, short on funds, many had packed their own lunch. Consequently, the cafeteria was packed.
In the moments after the blast employees formed human chains to guide themselves through the dust, smoke, and steam.
Hundreds of emergency workers flooded the scene. Residents watched in horror from across the street. Many had wives, sisters, and mothers inside.
Six priests administered last rights amid the destruction as an off-duty fireman franticly searched for his fiancée. “That’s my Margie,” he said, confirming the identity of her body.
The tragedy made national news.
Today a new building sits at 5030 Broadway. It is home to mini-storage and an assortment of small businesses.