Amherst, MA North College Building Fire, Jan 1857
Amherst College, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 20, 1857,
Last evening, (Monday), Amherst was the scene of a sadly destructive fire. At twenty minutes past 8, P.M., it was discovered that the room, southeast corner, third story, North College, was on fire. The alarm was immediately given, and forthwith the hall was thronged with students, whose first attempts were to extinguish the fire. But all to no purpose. The flames bursting out through the opened door into the hall, soon set on fire the castings of the door opposite, and in less than three minutes the smoke had so filled the halls, in the third and fourth stories of the east end of the building, and the loft above -- the all communication between the rooms above and the students assembled below was entirely cut off. Seeing that the building must go, the students next directed their efforts to the saving of property. In half or three quarters of an hour after the alarm was given, the halls in the west end were filled with smoke, and, no more furniture could be saved. By this time a large number of the citizens had collected on the College grounds, and soon the Engine company came to the scene with all the "pomp and circumstance" usually attending the war with the elements, and it was expected to do great execution; but the snow, gathering on the hose when it was drawn through the drifts, had frozen it, and so rendered it useless. The only thing now remaining for us to do, was to form a line in the old fashioned manner, from the reservoir to the upper story of the Middle College. For the north wind blew in a perfect gale, and threw the flames over towards the Middle College, which was not more than twenty-five feet distant, and had this building been fired, there would have remained no hope for the other three buildings south of it, viz; the Chapel, South College, and the new Appleton Cabinet. By most praiseworthy exertion on the part of both sudentss and citizens, the fire was restrained. Had the others been burned -- nothing would have remained to Amherst College, save its Mineralogical and Geological Cabinets, (not including the trasks,) the Library, its Trustees, Faculty and friends.
The alarm, as has been stated, was given at about 8:20 P.M., but, when the fire was first discovered, the room was filled with flames and smoke. The room probably caught fire as early at 8 o'clock. In three hours North College was a gloomy mass of rubbish and ruin. The fire is supposed to have originated from a spark from the open fireplace, though the occupant, when he left his room, carefully covered the coals with ashes, expecting to be absent some time. The tin roof greatly prevented the bursting out of the flames, and thus was the means of the preservation of the other buildings.
The building was one hundred and eight in length, by forty in depth; four stories in height; of brick; containing thirty-two rooms, with the dormitories, and the newest of the buildings devoted to rooms. The cost was about $11,000; insurance, $5,000. A number of the students are absent, engaged in teaching, and the greater number of those who roomed in North College lost everything which they did not take with them. Many of the students escaped without saving a particle, save what clothes they happened to have on. It is not exaggerating in the least to put the loss, in clothing, books and furniture, sustained by the students, at about $3,000. This amount was lost in sums varying from $5 to $225. Great praise is due to the Professors, and citizens of the village, and all those members of the College who did not suffer, for the kind assistance which they have so freely offered to those who have suffered. Most of the curiosities in the Museum of the Society of Inquiry were saved, though somewhat injured.
The New York Times New York 1857-01-23