Upstairs Lounge Fire

Tour curated by: University of New Orleans History Department

The 1973 Upstairs Lounge fire massacred more than thirty New Orleans residents. The disgraceful reaction of the media and most New Orleanians helped to galvanize the gay and lesbian community as they mourned those lost to the most deadly fire in New Orleans history.

Locations for Tour

On June 24, 1973, the Metropolitan Community Church had just finished a worship service and was hosting a social event with free beer and food for about 125 men and women. Later in the evening, the crowd had dwindled down to about 60, almost all of…

National press coverage of the Upstairs Lounge fire was rather light and short-lived, considering the scale of the crime. Coverage in New Orleans was very insensitive and callous; newspaper reporters described “bodies stacked up like pancakes”…

32 people died in the Upstairs Lounge Fire, making it the deadliest fire in the history of New Orleans. In the fire's aftermath, many New Orleans residents revealed prejudice against gays and gay culture. Survivor Stewart Butler recalls the…

The Upstairs Lounge had served as the home of a religious denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church; however, no church would allow a prayer service for those who died, except for the pastor of St. George’s Episcopal Church. Father Bill…