PCS 100: Fire!: 1936
"Stage Children Routed by Fire" read one of the headlines on January 8 1936. The day before, about 180 students, along with teachers and staff, safely evacuated the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of 1860 Broadway, PCS's home at the time, when fire was discovered in the auditorium on the fourth floor.
The fire was widely reported in the press the next day and headlines read, "Calm Against Danger," "Fire In School of Child Actors" and "Stage Kids Remember Cues in Fire." Among the evacuees were vaudeville and radio star Baby Rose Marie (left) and the young cast of the long-running Broadway play "Dead End." All the papers remarked on the orderly evacuation and the students' composure during the incident.
The fire was discovered in the auditorium on the fourth floor by the director of the school lunch room who closed the doors to contain the blaze and then pulled the fire alarm. About forty children in two adjacent classrooms on the fourth floor "marched good humoredly to one of the fire-proof stairways and walked down to the street" one paper reported. Smoke reached the fifth floor where about 125 older students "were studying and reciting." Mrs. Hugh Nesbit, the director of the school, whose office was located on the fifth floor, told the teachers to lead their students down to the street while high school boys helped teachers keep order.
Tenants on the upper floors were taken down to the street in elevators which were kept running until they were flooded with water while crowds gathered on Broadway to watch the blaze. The fire destroyed the auditorium, including three pianos, and blew out many of the windows on the fourth floor, but no one was injured. Damage was estimated at $10,000. A short-circuit was blamed for the fire. The 17-story commercial building at 61st Street and Broadway (since demolished) was home to PCS from 1927 until 1956 when the school moved to its present location. -- John Tucker