Laurier Palace Theatre fire – Flames and panic kills angels in Montreal

Opened in 1912, the Laurier Palace was the scene of a tragic fire on January 9, 1927 which claimed the lives of seventy-eight children because the number of exits was inadequate and the some of those were blocked.

The fire, reportedly caused by a discarded cigarette. Started in the early afternoon during a performance of the comedy Get ‘Em Young (1926 American short film starring Stan Laurel). Approximately 250 children were in attendance, the majority of those children were not accompanied by an adult.

Theatre façade, after the fire, January 10, 1927

Ushers, not realizing the danger, at first blocked the east balcony exit and urged the children to return to their seats. The exit doors opened inwards, meaning that the crush of those trying escape prevented them from being opened. A fire station was across the street and firemen arrived quickly, but 12 children were crushed, 64 asphyxiated, and 2 children killed by the fire itself. Among the dead were the son of one firefighter and three children of a policeman who had been called to assist.

The Laurier Palace was closed after the fire, never reopened, and was later demolished. The theater was on Sainte-Catherine near rue Dézéry, a church was built on the theater’s site in 1954. That church is now the Eglise Evangelique Hispanique Bethel, and its modern address is 3215 Rue Sainte-Catherine Est, Montreal. There is a plaque commemorating the fire on the front of the building.

Eglise Evangelique Hispanique Bethel, the site of Laurier Palace Theatre fire / Image source 

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