Questions still surround the fire which destroyed the Vogue Terrace in 1963

One day in 1986 while doing electrical work for a contractor at the Burnam Wood Apartments in Monroeville  an older gentleman who  looked to be in his 70's who was moving to a new apartment asked if I could help him get couple heavy things up to his car. Sure I said when its lunch time in 30 minutes. I went up and helped him move couple boxes and he tried to pay me and I said no just a cold drink would be fine and he gave me a can of coke.
I asked If he had lived in complex long and he said about 10 years . He asked me had I ever heard of the Vouges? the singing group yes I had my parents listened to them when I was a kid on the radio.
Well he goes on to tell me his name is Elmer Willet  and he was the manager of the Vogues at one time. Wow thats neat my parents will get a kick out of that I told him.
 He then asked me of I heard of the old Vogue Terrace where the group got its name ? I had I told him  I had and that it burned down when I was a little kid my parents had told me about it . Elmer went on to tell me how he had an office there and how terrible the fire was and how a manager for a group appearing  there died.
Elmer also lived there and how he almost lost his life and had to crawl out on a ledge .He said he had lost everything in the fire but luckily came out of it OK. He said he still to that day thought something funny about the fire and explosion he heard with it  happening a day after the place opened after being remodeled into a full night club. But it was investigated and they believe it started in basement furnace room.









The owners of the club  did all they could to make everyone whole but where not able to rebuild unfortunately they where financially ruined by the fire.
I saw him  a couple more times during the remodel project in 86  that summer never to see him again  and later read in papers he died  in 1991 .
I forgot about the whole thing .
Then as a Fireman I got interested in Fire Investigation having how many customers having been thru fires before hand and seeing what caused them while doing repairs  and then joining the Fire service and after looking into the Fire at the Vogue Terrace and descriptions of how fast and violent it was one would think arson was a possibility especially in light of all the other fires in region at that time so Elmer was right to be concerned. Had some one deliberately burned out the owners? Its possible but we will never know .


Consider that even today there are still massive court fights about fires being ruled incorrectly  as many Arson Convictions are being thrown out  for use of junk Science in determining how a fire started.
 Where talking 1963 when I was a little kid Fire Science has greatly expanded  but still even today an experienced arsonist can make a fire look accidental and the fact the club burned a day after it opened you better believe lots of people including insurance company's had questions so they used what technology they had available at the time to come to the conclusion.

It has been too many years and any evidence long gone and memory's fading and witnesses and perpetrators if there where one  have passed away . So even if a compete investigation was done today using the most advanced investigative techniques  little could be found out or proved and who could you prosecute?  like in so many case where a fire burns so intensely
  all you can do is speculate as to how the fire started .
I have heard a couple old timers say Morrie the Match an infamous arsonist in the City of Pittsburgh started it so club owners could collect on the insurance , but it was all talk and speculation and was looked into as far as In can tell   and nothing to it Morrie was not operating in area at the time  from what I can tell.
 Anything I could  add to the fire hypothesis  would be strictly speculation as well.
You also have to remember back then fire resistant building construction codes where not in place and few buildings had Sprinkler systems so this could also account for why the club went up so fast and explosions heard during fires are normal as a fire overtakes a room .
So for all intents and purposes its another  tragic fire lost to history and all we can do today is speculate.

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