On the night of November 28, 1942, fire swept through Boston's most popular night club, the Cocoanut Grove. In less than 30 minutes, the fire had traveled through the four main rooms, leaving 492 persons dead or dying. The cause of the fire was an apparent spark which ignited the combustible decorations on the ceiling.
The Club was a group of four buildings connected on the ground floor. In the basement, was the Melody lounge, kitchen, and storage rooms. Included in the main building was a basement of reinforced concrete and brick masonry construction. The Foyer walls were covered with artificial leather over structural concrete. Artificial palm trees with lights in them were decorations in the Melody Lounge. The Broadway Lounge was added to Club and connected to the lounge by a passageway. Plywood covered with artificial leather and a wood floor made up the new lounge. Exits from the lounge included a main door and passage way to the Main Dining Room.
Exits included a revolving door and a panic fire door in the front of the club. Unfortunately, at the time of the fire, the panic fire door was locked to prevent non-paying customers from entering.
Only 8 days before this tragic fire occurred, the night club was inspected by the Boston Fire Department. At that time, the decorations were match tested by the Inspector who found them to be "non-flammable". The report concluded that the club was in "good" condition.
Some of the most notable advances that came out of this tragedy was; in the area of exits, combustible materials, emergency lighting, and automatic sprinklers. They also expanded the definition of public places of assembly to include places that were similar to the Cocoanut Grove. These investigations not only revealed the technical causes of the fire and huge loss of life, but also hinted at a more deeply rooted problem: fire codes and their enforcement.
Fore more information The Cocoanut Grove Fire