The owner of the former Station nightclub, which was destroyed in a 2003 fire that took the lives of 100 people, announced Friday that he would donate the land for the use of a permanent memorial, according to papers filed with the city of West Warwick, R.I.
Raymond Villanova, the property owner, filed papers this week to transfer ownership of the small Cowesett Avenue property to the Station Fire Memorial Foundation on the condition that its sole use will be to construct and maintain a memorial to the victims of the fire, the deed said.
“We’ve been working toward this goal of obtaining the property for a long time,” said Victoria Eagan, a survivor of the fire and vice president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.
More than 50 people, including Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, attended the announcement of the ownership transfer made by Villanova’s attorney, Dan McKiernan, Friday morning at the site of the former nightclub, Eagan said.
“The Station Fire was a profound tragedy for Rhode Island, one of the most painful chapters in the long history of our state,” Chafee said in a statement. “It is my hope that, through the cooperation of the Villanova family, a permanent memorial in the place where it occurred will bring some comfort and peace to those who lost loved ones.”
Currently, a makeshift memorial covers the charred site. It started with 100 crosses made of the original floorboards of the building, but dozens of other personal items and memorials have been added over time. The 10th anniversary of the fire is next year.
“It’s a very emotional place,” said Eagan. “It’s not technically a graveyard, but many people feel as though it is and go there to reflect.”
On Feb. 20, 2003, the band Great White was performing before more than 400 people at The Station when pyrotechnics ignited foam insulation. Along with the 100 people killed, 230 were injured as the fire spread through the building in just under six minutes.
In 2006, club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian and Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele were criminally convicted of 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Now that the land has been obtained, the foundation plans on immediately starting fundraising for the memorial.
“We haven’t been able to aggressively fund-raise because we didn’t own the property,” Eagan said.
The foundation already has more than $100,000 raised and some designs planned.
“So many volunteers, builders, contractors, suppliers have been waiting for the word,” said Eagan. “It’s a big step towards big healing.”
Press was used in this report.
Sarah N. Mattero can be
reached at sarah.mattero@