Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: Historian Uncovers Forgotten Names, Graves
The victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire have not been forgotten by at least one genealogist who has been working over the past five years to honor their memories by maintaining their grave sites. NY1's Mara Montalbano filed the following report.
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Revealing hidden secrets through walks in cemeteries may not be everyone's idea of an interesting hobby. But for the past five years, Lower East Side resident Michael Hirsch has spent countless days locating forgotten graves of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire victims. After locating them he was troubled by what he found.
"Ultimately their death changed a lot of things in this country for the better. So it just seemed wrong that they didn't even have their names right," Hirsch said.
Hirsch says he started out by attempting to get the spellings right on the some of the headstones. But after visiting some of the graves he says he decided to track down descendants of the victims.
Most of the eight graves at the Baron Hirsch Cemetery on Staten Island were weathered away, covered in poison ivy, or had become the targets of vandals.
"This is Esther Goldstein and this grave is probably in the worst condition...one of the worst remaining Triangle Monuments," said Hirsch. "It's my hope to be able to replace this for her one day."
Hirsch has spent many days at the cemetery clearing away the debris from the graves and laying rocks on the graves -- a traditional sign of a visitor.
He has been able to track down descendants of the victims, some of whom have taken up his cause.
"This is Rosie and Sarah Brenman. The family, only through my work in restoring these graves, became aware of this situation out here recently and now they've purchased perpetual care for the grave. So I'm really happy about that," Hirsch said.
Hircsh's research has been compiled into a list of all 146 victims, which he is still trying to expand on as he continues to find families. He also co-produced a documentary about the fire for HBO and is taking part in various events to commemorate the centennial of the tragedy.
Ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the fire will take place all over the city Friday, including one at Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island where another 22 victims of the fire are buried.