This Week in History
by Christie Connolley
This Week in History on August 27, 1892 a workman dropped a cigarette in the paint room of the Metropolitan Opera igniting a fire that reeked havoc and destruction to the historical musical venue. Check out these articles about the fire in the Met archives.
From The Metropolitan Opera 1883-1935
by Irving Kolodin
Oxford University Press, 1936
1892 – Fire and Reorganization
The workman who dropped a cigarette in the paint room of the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturday morning, 27 August 1892, exercised, it is incredible to note, even more influence on the future of the organization than did any of the eminent singers who had been heard in the house to that time. The fire which followed brought about not merely certain essential and necessary revisions in the structure of the building. It marked the death of the Metropolitan Opera-house Company, Ltd., and the birth of the Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate Company, which has ever since occupied a position of tremendous importance in the musical life of New York.
Though the fire was discovered at nine o’clock in the morning, shortly after it began, the stage was entirely aflame before the arrival of the firemen. In addition to the scenery which was being painted, according to the off-season custom, on the stage, the fire was fed by large quantities of discarded scenery which was stored in cellar beneath the stage. A fireproof curtain, designed to protect the auditorium from just such a mishap as this, was no longer in use, and the flames quickly spread through the interior of the house. The only protection to any portion of it was the ballroom floor over the seats, but even this was of slight value. Though the fire was extinguished by noon, the interior of the building was damaged to an extent estimated to be as much as three hundred thousand dollars.
Read more at the Met Archives.