The UpStairs Lounge Fire

About the UpStairs Lounge Fire

In 1973, the deadliest fire in New Orleans’ history occurred in a small gay bar at 604 Iberville Street in the French Quarter. The UpStairs Lounge was a refuge of love and acceptance in the New Orleans community until, in a matter of 19 minutes, it became a symbol of tragedy and rejection. Thirty-two people perished in the fire, and the New Orleans LGBT+ community was changed forever.

At the time, local police did not consider the tragedy a top priority. One officer told a reporter, “This was, after all, a queer bar.” No elected official responded publicly to the fire. Archbishop Philip Hannan denied the victims Catholic funerals. Radio commentators joked that the victims’ remains should be buried in fruit jars. The arson at the Up Stairs Lounge remains officially unsolved despite being the deadliest crime against LGBT+ people in US history until the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

See this page for more detailed information about the UpStairs Lounge Fire.

See this page for our online archive of images related to the UpStairs Lounge Fire.

In 2023, a 50th anniversary commemoration will document and share this overlooked event with the community and honor the victims and their families.

Take a deeper dive into the UpStairs Lounge Fire

Letter from Morty Manford to Bill Rushton

Courtesy of the Special Collections Division, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans

An announcement of a Day of Mourning after the fire

Courtesy of the Special Collections Division, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans

UpStairs Lounge Fire 50th Anniversary Commemoration

In 2023, on the 50th anniversary of the UpStairs Lounge fire, the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana planned a commemoration event. You can see the original commemoration page here.
Below are links to media coverage and videos and images taken at the commemoration.

50 Years Ago, the Fire at the Up Stairs Lounge Gay Bar in New Orleans Killed 32 Alex Cooper / The Advocate(

Honoring the Legacy of New Orleans’ 1973 UpStairs Lounge Fire Robert Fieseler/Washington Blade (

A Deadly Arson At A Gay Bar Was Never Officially Solved. A New Podcast Examines Why Moorhouse, Drusilla/Huffington Post (

50 Years Later, the UpStairs Lounge Fire is More Important than Ever Andrew Sciallo/The Nation (

The UpStairs Lounge Fire in New Orleans Was a Deadly Attack on the Local LGBTQ+ Community Shahamat Uddin/Teen Vogue (

Family of Veteran Killed in 1973 New Orleans Fire Trying to Recover Remains Ramon Antonio Vargas/The Guardian(

Radio Interview
On 50th Anniversary of the UpStairs Lounge Fire, a Look at LGBTQ+ History in New Orleans Alana Shreiber/New Orleans Public Radio (

From Stonewall to today: LGBTQ+ moments of resilience Wayne Edwards, Kevin Chang Barnum, Khalilah Brown-Dean, Meg Dalton, Catie Talarski (
50 Years of Remembering the Up Stairs Lounge Fire Catherine Cooper speaks with Bobby Fieseler (

Panels and discussions from the 50th Anniversary Conference of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire, which occurred in New Orleans on June 24th 1973.

Thirty-two people from the LGBT community were burned to death, but officials failed to act in the ensuing days to help the victims or find their families. Churches refused burial services, and many were buried in Potter’s Field.

Produced by: Valda Lewis
Production assistant: Vanessa Lewis
Field camera: Rick Delaup

Below is a collection of other videos collected during the 50th Anniversary Commemoration.



Some of the images on this page are graphic and may be disturbing.
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