Portfolios > Excavating History Projects 2008 and 2009

how the deadly theater fire changed the built environment
Performed Daily" A Living Memorial to the Iroquois Theater Fire
vinyl text on door

Chicago is a city shaped by fire. There is of course the famous blaze of 1871 that burned much of the city. But the deadliest single building fire in US history also happened in Chicago: the 1903 conflagration at the Iroquois theater, in which more than 600 people died. The fire began when a stage curtain caught fire. As the fire spread, panicked audience members raced to the exits. Unfortunately, the doors opened inward: the forward press of the desperate crowds prevented those who reached the doors from being able to open them.

As a result of the fire, building codes throughout the world were re-written, mandating that exit doors open outward. So today, as we move through the city, we are performing the legacy of the 600 dead: "Every time a door opens out I remember the Iroquois fire."