71 years later, Bay Village alley renamed in remembrance of Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire

Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh spoke with Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire survivor, John Rizzo, after Walsh unveiled a new street sign in the Bay Village neighborhood of Boston. The sign reads 'Cocoanut Grove Lane' in remembrance of the 492 people who died in the 1942 fire.
Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh, spoke with Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire survivor, John Rizzo, after Walsh unveiled a new street sign in the Bay Village neighborhood of Boston. The sign reads 'Cocoanut Grove Lane' in remembrance of the 492 people who died in the 1942 fire. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

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Dozens of survivors, dignitaries, fire officials and historians gathered Saturday morning in Bay Village as the street that once housed the Cocoanut Grove nightclub was renamed in memory of the fire and its victims.

Survivors praised the city for formally recognizing the 492 lives lost in the deadliest fire in New England history. City leaders and historians noted the various advances in fire safety and medical care that sprung about as a result of the fire.

“This is truly hallowed grounds we stand on today,” said Paul Christian, a former Boston Fire Department commissioner and the department’s historian. “The lessons of Cocoanut Grove are clear: It’s only through constant vigilance that tragedies like this can be avoided.”

The fire, which is believed to have been started by a match, brought about sweeping changes to the way city fire departments inspect buildings for safety.

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