Posts Tagged ‘” 1905 tenement laws’

The mysterious plaque affixed to fire escapes

August 19, 2009

An Ephemeral reader sent in this photo of the plaque on her fire escape. It carries a stern warning: “Notice: Any one placing any ? ? on this balcony will be fined ten dollars.” 

I once lived in an old walkup with a fire escape with the same plaque, and I’ve seen them in other apartments as well. 

fireescapeplaque

According to a 1905 guide the reader dug up called Birdseye’s Revised Statutes, Codes and General Laws of the State of New York, all fire escape balconies had to sport this plate, which is supposed to read “Any one placing any encumbrance on this balcony shall be fined ten dollars.”

Does anyone know if this law was inspired by a specific tragedy? Residents back then, crammed into small apartments, must have routinely stored stuff on their fire escapes. The result: They couldn’t get out during a fire—and firefighters couldn’t get in to save them.