Local NewsFrom the Archives: The Vendome Hotel fire, 50 years...

From the Archives: The Vendome Hotel fire, 50 years later

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The Vendome Hotel fire in Boston on June 17, 1972, remains the largest line-of-duty death toll in the city. Nine firefighters lost their lives fighting that blaze.

Guest columnist Kevin Duffy paid homage to those men the other day (link here to his column.) And today’s “From the Archives” entry shares the front pages that carried the grim news.

Vendome Hotel fire anniversaryThe Vendome Hotel fire in Boston on June 17, 1972, cost nine city firefighters their lives and remains the largest line-of-duty death toll in the city. (Herald archives.)

Vendome Hotel fire day 1

Vendome fire day 2

You’ll notice that Day 2 includes a notice from the publisher that the Record American and Boston Herald Traveler had merged. But the coverage of first-responders remains in this paper’s DNA. When the shots ring out, the alarm bells ring or someone is sick or hurt, police, fire, EMTs and reservists run at the danger. Add doctors, nurses and Good Samaritans to that equation. On the water, the Coast Guard and fellow boaters are also heroes among us.

That’s why we’re devoting today to the Vendome Hotel fire.

As the Boston Fire Historial Society reports, the hotel was celebrated for its “Parisian elegance, stately decor and location fronting the Commonwealth Avenue mall.” But it fell into disrepair and was going to be transformed into luxury apartments.

On Saturday, June 17, 1972, that all changed. Fire broke out, 100 customers in a cafe ran out and soon a fire on the upper floors and parts of the building collapsing cost nine firefighters their lives. The last injured firefighter was rescued the next day, Father’s Day.

Those who died were:

Fire Lieutenant Thomas J. Carroll
Fire Lieutenant John E. Hanbury
Fire Fighter Charles E. Dolan
Fire Fighter Joseph P. Saniuk
Fire Fighter John E. Jameson
Fire Fighter Thomas W. Beckwith
Fire Fighter Paul J. Murphy
Fire Fighter Richard B. Magee
Fire Fighter Joseph F. Boucher, Jr.

To quote Kevin Duffy’s excellent column: “There weren’t many people there when it came down, then. But there were some; there were the seventeen Boston firefighters that came down with it, and under it. Eight of them survived. For the other nine and their families, so much more came down with the Vendome Hotel, 50 years ago this week.”

He’s right in adding “passersby on Commonwealth Avenue might occasionally stop to note a certain monument at Dartmouth Street … (and) thank and honor” those who died “doing their jobs.”

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