The Great Fire, Maryland Agriculture College, 1912

The Baltimore American, December 1, 1912

The Baltimore American, December 1, 1912
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Governor Calls A Meeting For Next Tuesday.


Board of Directors of the Maryland Agricultural College Will Discuss Plans at the Hotel Rennert—A Larger and Better School Proposed—The Fire Loss is Estimated at $265,000—No Interruption to Studies

Special From a Staff Correspondent

College Park, Md., November 30 — From a heap of charred walls and smouldering debris, all that remains today of the administration and dormitory buildings of the Maryland Agricultural College, which were swept by fire late Friday night, will probably rise a greater and better equipped school. Governor Goldsborough this morning called a meeting of the board of directors of the institution for Tuesday at the Rennert Hotel, at which plans for rebuilding will be discussed. Whether the rebuilding will begin before the next session of the legislature will be one of the important questions to be discussed at the meeting.

Little remains of the two buildings, the most important of the school. The administration building and the structure familiarly referred to as the "Old Barracks" are no more than a ruined heap of granite and bricks. The fire fanned by a brisk wind from the southwest, started at 10:30 o'clock Friday night, and swept and completely wrecked the two buildings. Officials for the institution estimate the loss at $265,000, including the loss suffered by the student body. Both burned buildings were insured.

Studies to Go On.

According to R. W. Sylvester, president of the college, there will be no interruption to studies, which, he said, will be resumed Wednesday at noon in the 14 remaining lecture rooms in Science Hall and other outbuildings. Some of the students are being accommodated by families in the vicinity of the college, Hyattsville, and Berwyn.

This morning C. H. Stanley, chairman of the executive committee of the college, and John Hubert, president of the First Branch City Council, of Baltimore, who is chairman of the building committee, visited the scene, and gave orders that the studies be resumed Wednesday. This advice was also given by Governor Goldsborough, who announced over the long-distance telephone that he would call the meeting Tuesday.

Perhaps the worst hit is the student body itself. The buildings were well insured by the state, the money from which will probably be used to erect a modern building of 500 rooms or more to replace those which were destroyed. Of the 265 students attending the college, all but 40 were at their home enjoying the Thanksgiving vacation, which began last Wednesday. Those who were away lost practically all the belongings they had in the college.

The 40 pupils who were at the college Friday night were enjoying a dance, their fair companies being young women of the neighboring towns and Washington. At the time the fire was discovered the young folks had enjoyed 10 sets and were seated at the dinner table.

Dancers to the Rescue.

W. C. Stanton, of Grantsville, Md., who discovered the fire between the second and third floors of the old barracks, directly over the room of W. E. Howe and L.C. Wilson, quietly informed several of his friends in the dining-hall of the fire. The young men in turn spoke quietly to the young women and there was not the least sign of a panic. The women were asked to vacate the building as hurriedly as possible while the men fought the fire.

A number of streams from small pipe lines leading from the 25,000-gallon tank in the rear of both buildings were turned on the blaze, but the fire spread rapidly. Realizing that their personal effects would be destroyed, a number of the young men bent their efforts to saving trunks, suitcases and other movable valuables. Only a small number of trunks were saved, and these were scattered about the lawn today, many unclaimed and unrecognizable.

Many of the young women coolly joined in the work of saving property and also lent their aid in dragging the few lines of hose. Many beautiful dresses were torn, soaked with water and ruined, but despite this the girls fought bravely and accomplished much.

Unmindful of the fact that they were taking chances of contracting colds, the young women worked until morning, after two of them had succeeded, with the help of students, in getting two of those who were still in the dormitories out from the stifling fumes.

Realizing that the small streams of water poured on the fire by the students themselves were of no avail, a call for help was sent to Hyattsville, and in a short time 20 members of the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Company were on hand and did everything in their power to avert the destruction of the building. Water facilities were bad. Just after the arrival of the Hyattsville people the supply of water from the tank in the rear gave out.

Two engine companies were sent to the college grounds on a special train from Washington.

When the blaze was at its height, there was, according to the students, a mysterious spluttering throughout the fire, followed by a shower of bricks and granite, some of the pieces falling 200 yards away from the building. Captain Sylvester said that he could not account for the origin of the fire unless it started from defective wiring. A number of the younger students, who were not attending the dance, ventured the information this morning that they had seen several flashes of light in the southwest wing shortly before the alarm of fire was given.

The Burned Buildings.

The administration building was erected under an act of the Maryland legislature, and cost approximately $75,000, including equipment and furniture. In this building were the offices of the president and other members of the faculty, and those of the secretary and treasurer. The meeting-room of the board of directors also occupied part of the first floor, as did the dance hall and recreation halls. The upper floor formed an adjunct to the dormitories in the old barracks. Most of the valuable records and papers of the institution were saved from the rooms on the first floor, as well as several articles of treasured fixings and furniture.

The barracks, or the main and oldest building in the college group, was erected in 1854 on property donated by the late Charles B. Calvert. The building was erected by private subscriptions from leading citizens of the state, who were interested in the establishment of an institution for the dissemination of agricultural knowledge among the young men of the state. Later, the State of Maryland became a part owner of the college and its grounds, and at every session of the legislature an amount is appropriated for the maintenance of the college. This amount is usually $9,000. The second and third floors of this building were devoted to the sleeping quarters of the students. The first floor comprised a recreation hall and commandant's quarters, while the mess rooms and dining rooms of both faculty and student body were in the basement.

For More Water.

If, at the meeting of the directors next Tuesday, it is decided to begin the rebuilding at once, the faculty of the college will ask that a water-pressure system for emergencies be installed at the same time. With the erection of a new building the officials of the college are in hopes that a new gymnasium will also be fitted out. That the buildings will be erected on a more efficient scale is the hope and belief of all those interested in the institution, and the directors feel that the disaster presents an opportunity to equip the college anew with more modern apparatus and better living facilities.

Fourteen lecture-rooms in Science Hall, the machine shop and the geographical building remain, and it is in these that studies will be resumed Wednesday.

Many residents of the surrounding towns flocked to the college grounds today. A few prominent Washingtonians were there in the afternoon. Governor Goldsborough did not visit the scene. All advices were received and given by him over the long-distance telephone.

During the afternoon, when the greater part of the rescued property was removed to neighboring farmhouses, Captain Sylvester and Treasurer Ford stood by the heap of ruins looking ruefully at what had been their home for the past 20 years. After inspecting the debris and organizing several parties of hands to get things in as good order as possible, both Captain Sylvester and Mr. Ford retired to their temporary quarters in the laboratory of the machine building.

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