Categories: Business and Industry, Disaster, Emergence of Modern America, Hartford
Fuller Brush Tower Collapses – Today in History: March 31
On March 31, 1923, a 56,000-gallon water tank dropped through 4 concrete floors of the Fuller Brush Company Tower, which was in the final stages of construction. Nearing completion, the 160-foot-high, 4-story tower formed the entrance and elevator shaft of the new plant on Windsor Avenue in Hartford. The collapse occurred at 11:40 a.m. when the 200-ton water supply tank for the factory’s sprinkler system, located on the upper 2 stories, failed taking out the south and west walls, as well as the lower half of the north wall. Nine victims were pulled away from the wreckage before the firemen ordered everyone back from the building. Gas had filled the area from damaged lines, and the roof of the tower remained almost entirely intact leaving a large portion of it swinging back and forth dangerously in the wind. The roof needed to come down before further rescue attempts could be made. The Connecticut Company, Hartford’s electric street railway, offered assistance. Crews attached heavy cables to two trolleys in an effort to bring the roof and remaining brick work down but failed in their attempts. Eventually dynamite was used and rescue and recovery efforts continued through the night despite freezing temperatures and a 30-foot pile of debris.
Ten people were killed and later investigations into the accident revealed that the removal of eight steel tension support rods from the tank the day before were the likely cause of the accident. The rods reinforced the four upright supports of the water tank but took up quite a bit of space. The company had suggested the use of the space directly under the tank as a likely location for a school to instruct branch managers and the support rods had been removed after consulting the engineers on the project