This riveting and moving story is courtesy of Joe, from FDNY Engine 24, (retired.) then located at 78 Morton st. The original PDF file resides on Fire Warehouse is owned and operated by retired FDNY Firefighters and this story is © 2002 NOTE: 5/07 the site appears to have been closed and taken over by some other entity. Below the article is Joe's email from 2002.

Every tour starts out the same and there is no way of knowing what will happen from one moment to the next in our district that will directly concern us.One thing is certain and that is when something does happen it is like fireworks going off.There is nothing and then suddenly something explosive happens and we find ourselves in situations that a few minutes earlier we would never have believed would happen.Sometimes it just places us in an interesting and in most cases exciting situation.And sometimes it could be very grim.I remember our company working on a child who had drowned when he slipped off the Morton Street Pier into the cold waters of the Hudson river. We worked on him for one hour after the doctor pronounced him dead. Sometimes we get lucky and bring someone back but not this time. That was grim in a major way.

Time passed and one morning in the early hours we were ordered by the dispatcher to respond to a hotel collapse which occurred on Broadway below 14th Street.Half of the building just separated from the other half with no apparent explanation as to why it happened other than it was just an old tired structure. We slid the pole put on our gear and hopped on the rig. With sirens blaring and lights flashing we went the short distance up Morton Street made a left onto 8th Avenue and raced uptown to 14th Street where we made a right turn and headed in the direction of Broadway.

We were just one of many companies which arrived at the scene almost at the same time. As we walked to the command center other rigs from other parts of the city were arriving. We would need all the manpower we could muster. We would work in 3 hour shifts and fresh companies would be needed to relieve the guys the previous 3 hours and were coming off their shift. In a few hours we would be joined by the members of our company who were working the day tour. Sometimes the men who were being relieved were kept on to double the manpower if the situation called for it.


We reported to the Chief in charge of the fire who gave us our orders, explained what he wanted us to do, then instructed us to join a cadre of Firefighters who were about to start the search through the mountains of rubble for survivors. We searched in an organized grid under the supervision of our company officers and a Battalion Chief for a few hours.Then we found two bodies amid the rubble.Finding bodies is never something we enjoyed doing but that was our job and we understood that. We also realized that it could have been far worst if it had happened in the evening when most of the occupants would have been home for the evening and we were thankful for that. After a short break we were to relieve a company at the scene and would, in turn, be relieved by another company of firefighters in three hours time as the search for survivors continued.I checked my watch, it was six a.m. and we were to carry out our assignment with the officer and members of Ladder Company One.

A large crane at the scene was doing its job, while firefighters were carefully observing every bit of debris being loaded onto the truck for subsequent removal to a destination I can only assume would be the dump.Each firefighter was positioned at a strategic location so that we would be able to spot any bodies suspected of still being buried beneath the tons of rubble yet to be removed. When a truck was loaded and ready to be driven away. Another truck stood by ready to take its place. Before the shifting of the two vehicles was about to start, we were ordered into the area of the collapse. Our job was to search for bodies by entering the area the crane couldn't work in. It was heavy work because we had to move a lot of the heavier parts of the collapsed pieces of the hotel. We walked past the guard rail and slowly descended steps of dried timbers and broken walls, pushing different sizes and shapes of debris out of our path. We reached bottom and were carefully searching various sections of the gaping hole that was the cellar of this once proud hotel. At this point we were aware of the fact that this was the once famous Broadway Central Hotel. It's funny I thought, a building falls in the night and no one seems to appreciate the significance or the history of this hotel. If one were to look past the debris he could find remnants of the fame that was a part of its history.


During a break from the laborious work of moving debris and carefully searching the rubble, we stepped into the part of the building that was still standing. There was a staircase of solid marble lead- ing to the main ballroom.As we walked up this beautiful staircase, one noticed the look of weariness and a trace of sadness about it. Like a loved one growing old but not gracefully. You knew that at one time, no expense was too great for this hotel.

We stepped into the grand ballroom and entered another dimension: we stepped into the past. It was a large ballroom that had a combination turn of the century and Art Deco 1920's look to it. The dust hung in the room as if it were holographically painted; It was like looking through a veil, peering into a long lost tomb. I wanted to step into it and look around but at the same time I felt like I was about to intrude on something I wasn't quite sure I understood. At the far end of the room where the wall once stood was daylight. Nothing stood beyond that point.

Maybe that was the strangeness. Where I was looking was where the building separated into two halves. One half of the room opened to daylight and the noises of the city and my imagination took me to the other half which was steeped in shadows and dust. I could see tables set as if waiting for the dinner crowd. I could imagine ladies in beautiful gowns of various colors with gentlemen in evening suits dancing a waltz in this ballroom. I was jolted from my thoughts when I heard someone say, "Sad isn't it?" This startled me at first because I didn't expect anyone to be in this room but me and my partner Toby.

I asked,

"Who are you and what are you doing here?"

A man stepped out of the shadows in the far corner of the room, diagonal to where we were standing and told me he was in charge of maintenance for the building. As we talked, he started to explain the history of this old hotel. He told me royalty stayed here,he pointed to a slab of marble that adorned the huge fireplace in a corner of the main ballroom.The marble slab was purchased from France at a time in history when France was trying desperately to raise money. It was bought by and imported to the United States by Diamond Jim Brady for the beautiful Lillian Russell. There was a sadness on the caretaker's face equaled only by the ruins of this old hotel. It matched the feelings I experienced earlier when I walked up the worn elegant marble staircase of this old hotel.

The old man knew something was irretrievably lost never to be found again. When we returned to the search area, we continued investigating the debris for quite a while, finding nothing out of the ordinary. We were about to leave the area and begin work in another section when I heard a muffled sound. I couldn't make out what it was. I stopped what I was doing and listened intently.

There it was again. It was a dog's bark. We wondered where it could be coming from. I asked Tom Dunn, a member of my company, if he had heard the bark he answered, affirmatively. Again the bark. This time there was no doubt in our minds. The dog seemed to know we were coming and its barking became more consistent as it were guiding us to where it was buried.He was in front and directly below us. The barks were coming from very deep below, probably in the sub cellar,or maybe two or three sub cellars. How was it possible for anything to survive the collapse, then to stay alive all this time? He saved his strength until we were almost directly over him then let us know he was there waiting for us to get him out.


I signaled Deputy Assistant Chief Hess who was in charge of the operation and informed him of what I heard. I explained that the dog was buried somewhere below where we were standing. He immediately sent Captain McLaughlin to investigate and report back to him. Everyone was silent as we dug into the rubble and searched, straining our ears for a tell-tale bark. We no longer heard a bark and hoped the dog hadn't died. No! Tom heard the dog and so did I but not Captain McLaughlin and he reported this fact to Chief Hess. He reasoned that the dog we heard was probably on the other side of the building to the rear of where we were standing. It made sense.There was an opening leading to the rear of the building and terminating in the street behind the hotel. It formed a tunnel that could have carried a dog's sound to where we had been standing.Nevertheless, I argued,

"Chief, there is a dog buried somewhere below us, I heard him, and so did fireman Dunn. I think the attempt should be made to get him if in fact he is there."

The Chief agreed, and ordered us to start digging in the area Tom and I first heard the barking. Nothing would be left to chance. We were all aware of the possibil ity of finding this second dog. We had found our dog first a few days ago, which we immediately adopted. Suddenly, there was another bark and everyone heard it this time. It was as if the dog was asking us to hurry. Chief Hess ordered us to get the dog out as quickly as safety would permit. All of us started to dig. It was tough but enjoyable work. After all the other times digging and knowing what we would find and then finding it, this time we were going to rescue something that was living. The dog sensing that we were coming closer was barking. His bark was weak at first,but then became stronger. Most importantly, his barking was consistent.
He was guiding us to where he was buried. We called to him,

"Come on fella, come on boy. Keep on barking. That's a boy!"

and words to that effect. I didn't know what he looked like but all of our hearts went out to him. The Captain ordered a ladder placed between the structural debris hanging over us and the more solid rubble underneath us. We understand the risks to this job and make our compensations in the ways that have become known to us through experience. The ladder was doing the trick. It worked as a wedge. Now we began to work to free the animal from this tomb that he had occupied for the past seven days.


We picked up pieces of loose material one by one. The pieces were passed from the Captain to Fireman Petricek of Ladder Company One to myself to Tom Dunn until it accumulated in an area the crane could get after we had finished our digging. We sawed,we chopped, we sweated in the heat. We made progress, slowly but fruitfully and the results of our labor became apparent. The debris moved, he was trying to free himself but couldn't... not just yet. We increased our pace of digging. Then we found the single item that had kept the dog alive all this time. It was a sink.The sink had fallen over his head, allowing him breathing room and providing him with a shield to protect him from the debris falling on top of him.

The Captain asked for a lump hammer at an attempt to break the sink thereby freeing the dog. Two heavy swings in a confined area did the job. The Captain straightened his body from the contorted position he had been working in. The dog was still trapped but the Captain was carefully starting to remove pieces of the sink nearest the dogs' eyes.. The dogs' snoot was bruised and he was struggling to free himself but he was wedged solid. We tried to calm him so he didn't injure himself any further. One of the men brought him water, his snoot being in a position we could feed it to him. We did it slowly. He drank it gratefully, savoring it.

He had waited a long time for this drink and he had earned it. But getting him out was still a problem. We had no doubts we would free him, only it would take a little while longer. There was still a huge beam covering his extremities. We had to be careful on how we handled him. He could have broken bones or internal injuries. There was no telling at this point. We had to keep digging as carefully as possible, especially when it came time to remove him. We still had the lingering problem of debris hanging over us. We worked feverishly, but carefully, because if at this point we dislodged something in haste, we could be buried along with the dog. Suddenly, and with renewed strength, a last surge of energy by the dog himself started pulling free. He pulled and clawed and stretched and in the end found himself in the waiting arm of Captain Mclaughlin. The dog was brought out alive from the Broadway Central Hotel into the light of day. When the tired, exhausted but very grateful little dog kissed the captain who helped rescue him, there came a mighty roar from all of the fire fighters on the scene,as well as the spectators who viewing the rescue attempt on Broadway. Had been caught up in this drama.

(A photo of the rescued dog with his rescuers appeared in the New York Daily News on Friday, August 10,1973)

Fire Warehouse is owned and operated by retired FDNY Firefighters.

Converted from the PDF file format to HTML by Randall, thank you Joe for letting me share your writing on this hotel!

Newspaper articles

Hotel Collapse survivor

Fireman Joe Schreck (left) and Jim Walker give a drink to a brown and white Brittany Spanieldog, the only living thing found in the wreckage of the New York Broadway Central Hotel. The dog was apparently uninjured after being buried in the rubble for two days.

Survivor Of Collapse Adopted


August 8, 1973

Engine Company 24 has a new mascot, a brown and white Brittany Spaniel the firemen dug out of the rubble of the old Broadway Central Hotel. The hungry, panting animal was rescued Tuesday as a power shovel scooped through the mammoth pile of debris left after the 119-year-old hotel collapsed five days earlier.
"Hey, there's a dog there!"
shouted Fireman Joseph Shreck when he noticed something alive in a load of rubble that was about to be transferred to a waiting dump truck.
The dog's owner, who had been living in the hotel, said it was fine with him if the company adopted the eight-month-old animal .

For his first meal at the firehouse, Broadway Joe- that's what the fire-fighters renamed him- feasted on ham, beef, milk and chocolate cream pie. After that, it was time for a bath.


Indiana Gazette

August 4, 1973

Firemen push a taxi away from the wreckage of the old Broadway Central Hotel as rescue and cleanup operations got underway Friday, following the collapse of the civil war vintage building. The cab was damaged by cascading bricks during the collapse, and the driver and two passengers escaped injury by hiding under a nearby truck.

Search Rubble Of NYC Hotel

Firemen using two cranes searched truckloads of rubble today for persons feared buried when an eight-story section of the once-elegant Broadway Central Hotel collapsed. By dawn, fire officials had accounted for all but five of those registered at the hotel. They said customers and employes in a novelty shop in the collapsed section also might have been trapped.

Most of those in the 119- year-old former landmark in the East Village, now the University Hotel, escaped when rumbles sent plaster to the floors before of the thundering collapse late Friday.

At least 19 persons, including three policemen and a firemen,were treated at hospitals and released. More than 100 were made homeless and relocated. There were 325 persons registered at the hotel, 23 of them in the part that tumbled down. About 120 of those staying in the hotel are welfare clients living by themselves. Fire Chief John T. O'Hagan attributed the collapse to age and the weakening of the structure by decades of vibrations from street and subway traffic.

The entire south-central section and parts of the east wall cascaded in a roaring avalanche of wood, brick and mortar that piled 20 feet high at some points along Broadway. "I was getting ready to wash up, " said Samuel Thompson,who was watching television in his eighth-floor room. "I heard all this commotion. People began knocking on the door. The police said: 'You better get out.' I said: 'Do I have time to get my goods?' They told me I better get out."

Some residents said they had seen people buried by the falling walls. On the Broadway Central's grand staircase in 1872, railroad magnate Jim Fiski was shot in a romantic triangle. A meeting that led to the formation of organized baseball were held at the hotel. Its bar was privy to multimillion dollar deals by such as Boss Tweed, Diamond Jim Brady, Jim Fiske, Jay Gould and Commodore Cornelius Van-derbilt. In recent years, community groups have charged that the hotel was ruining their neighborhood.

State officials said that, in 1971,the hotel was involved in 124 complaints of crimes.

From: "Firewarehouse" Joe@firewarehouse com
To: "Randall" webmaster@lostnewyorkcity com
Subject: Re: Your web site
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 19:00:37 -0500

Hi Randall. I was involved in the rescue of the dog and I worked with a
firefighter by the name of Tom Dunn. I kept notes on this fire for some
reason and 30 years later I found them and wrote the story. I forgot my
friend was with me until I looked over my notes. 30 years later I was
informed of some stories written by a firefighter named Tom Dunn. I emailed
him to ask him if I could use his stories on my website and before I signed
off I told him that I worked with a Tom Dunn in E24 in Manhattan and asked
"Any Relationship?". I received an email from the firefighter who said that
the Tom Dunn I worked with In E24 was his father and I could use any story
he had.... Small world isn't it?

There was more to the story but I didn't write about it. We found another
dog earlier that we named Broadway Joe and when it hit the papers the media
hooked us up with Broadway Joe Nameth the football star quarterback. I
believe that picture hit the front page also but I can't be sure. I wrote
most of the stories on our site but changed the authors name so that the
stories appear to come from different writers. When I get enough stories I
will correct it. I'm glad you are enjoying the stories and if you come
across anything interesting, like old firehouses or anything that that you
write about or come across that you feel might fit into our story lines send
it to us. We'll publish it and give you the credit. And keep in touch with
us from time to time because I think you have the makings of a really great
site and one that could become a valuable source of information concerning
old New York. If I can help you in any way just email me. Keep up the good
work and.....

Thanks...........Joe D'Albert (FDNY Eng 24 ret.)