Town of Greenwich, Village of Port Chester to Mark 50th Anniversary of Deadly Gulliver’s Disco Fire

There will be a ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Greenwich-Post Chester border to mark the 50th anniversary of the Gulliver’s Night Club fire.

The gathering will be at 1:00 pm at the Thomas Lyon House, across Rte 1 from the scene of the 1974 blaze.

In his e-blast on Friday, First Selectman Camillo said the gathering would be a brief, solemn remembrance marking the tragic nightclub fire that killed 24 people mostly from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning injured more than 30.

The blaze broke out in the early morning hours of June 30, 1974.

An article about the nightclub fire in Connecticut History says, “…a rock group called Creation was blaring away when the first wisps of acrid smoke drifted into Gulliver’s, a nightclub that straddled the Port Chester, New York, and Greenwich, Connecticut border. Then, according to one of the survivors, ‘smoke came in really quickly and there was almost a stampede for the stairway.'”

The article goes on to say the fire drew attention to the dangers of gatherings in windowless underground rooms without smoke alarms, sprinklers, fire-resistant walls or limits on occupancy.

After the Gulliver’s fire, followed unfortunately by others including one at Stouffer’s Inn in Westchester that killed 26 people, fire safety legislation was passed in New York.

At the time of the fire, Gulliver’s was a popular disco for Connecticut residents, especially Greenwich, because while the drinking age was 18 in both states, last call in New York was later.

In the 1980’s Connecticut’s drinking age was gradually raised until to 21. New York raised the drinking age from 19 to 21, effective December 1, 1985.

According to a 1999 article in the New York Times marking the 25th anniversary of the fire, at the time, Port Chester, with only 25,000 people, had at least 60 bars.

There were about 200 young people in the lower level lounge when the fire broke out.

Greenwich resident Peter Leonard intentionally set a fire in an adjacent bowling alley where he burglarized a cigarette vending machine and set a fire to cover his crime.

After initial questions over which state had jurisdiction, and, later, an overturned conviction, Leonard was found guilty of Manslaughter 2nd degree and sentenced in 1986 to time served about 12 years.

Photo Rick DeGroot via Greenwich Fire Dept Facebook page.

A post on the Greenwich Fire Dept Facebook page by Rick DeGroot in 2022, said, “While many jurisdictions have passed tough fire code regulations requiring fire protection features like automatic fire sprinklers, emergency lighting systems, and strict requirements for adequate exits, many localities have failed to heed the lessons of the past.”