Alarm activation marks anniversary of Italian Hall Disaster

CALUMET – The ringing of alarm bells in the Village of Calumet recently commemorated 73 lives lost more than 100 years ago.

At 4:45 p.m. Christmas Eve, those gathered at the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum on Sixth Street – the former fire station – and commemorated the anniversary of the Italian Hall Disaster, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1913.

During a Christmas party for the families of striking copper miners, held on the second floor of the Italian Hall on Seventh Street, it’s alleged that someone yelled “fire,” causing a stampede down the steps. Seventy-three people, most of them children, were trampled or suffocated as people tried to exit.

Those who listened this Christmas Eve, a release for the event said, heard what the villagers would have heard in 1913. Though the fire department no longer uses the same alarm system, Fire Chief, Tim Gasperich was able to repair the alarm. The sequence is four bells, followed by five bells – a sequence unique to that area of the village.

The release said this even wasn’t the first of its kind. In 2007, Jeffery Primeau made 73 ice luminaries to remember the victims of the disaster, with the help of his family. In the fall of 2008, the CLK Rotary embraced the project, and has purchased luminaries since then.

More recently, the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum announced plans to dedicate a room to telling the story of the strike of 1913 and the Italian Hall Disaster. In a Daily Mining Gazette article published November 30, John Sullivan, treasurer of the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum, said Heritage Grant funds were being sought for the project, and the museum should know by May if the request has been approved.