Iowa History Daily: November 24 - Keokuk Armory Explosion

Iowa History Daily: On November 24, 1965, a natural gas explosion at the Keokuk Armory building killed 21 while injuring many more during a Thanksgiving Eve dance. An incredible tragedy, the fateful event stands out as one of the most unfortunate accidents in Iowa’s history.

As families gathered from near and far to celebrate Thanksgiving, around 75 adults and children crowded into the 100-square-foot poured concrete, block, and wood-truss Keokuk Armory Building for a dance hosted by the Swing Easy Square Dance Club. As the majority of people in the building dosey-do’d and swung their partners round-and-round, a few others found themselves in the basement rifle range or other parts of the building.

At 9:30 p.m. an incredible explosion roared through the building, shooting the concrete ceiling of the rifle range upward and blowing out three sides of the first floor block walls. The truss roof of the building fell in, trapping many of those inside while feeding the roaring inferno. Although firefighters arrived on the scene quickly, the violent explosion resulting from a break in a gas service pipe had already claimed seven lives.

14 more people would die in the weeks to follow of burns, and dozens were injured. Two of the dead were children accompanying their parents to the dance, while eight children lost both parents. An additional sixteen children lost one parent in one of Iowa’s most infamous accidents. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar



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