Aurora, NY Wells College Fire, Aug 1888

Aurora NY Wells College fire.jpg Aurora NY Wells Library Fire.jpg



Auburn, N. Y., Aug. 9. -- Fire was discovered in the library of the main building of Wells Female College -- MRS. GROVER CLEVELAND'S Alma Mater -- Aurora, at 1:30 o'clock this morning by PATRICK GRAY, who occupies the lodge on the Wells estate. He immediately gave the alarm and, running to the building, cut off the gasoline connection and with the assistance of others endeavored to stay the flames. The effort was unavailing, however, for the village does not boast a Fire Department, and all the facilities for extinguishing the fire were in the burning building. There was nothing to do but stand by and see the imposing structure become a prey to the flames. When the flames had spent their force only the blackened walls of the main building or college proper remained standing. The servants' hall, a frame structure connected at the rear by a bridge, was also swept away.
During vacation a number of the more valuable paintings and works of art had been removed to safe quarters, but the other contents of the building were entirely consumed, including a painting of Gov. Seward by Charles Elliott. The library was situated over the kitchen and the only theory advanced as to the origin of the fire attributes it to the fire in the kitchen range. The housekeeper made a tour of the building late at night and saw no indications of fire. Morgan Hall, 50 feet to the south of the main building was uninjured. PROF. ROLLAND, desiring to obtain ingress to the building to look after his grand piano, thrust his foot through a pane of glass and also had his wrist cut severely.
The insurance upon the building was written with D. R. ALWARD of this city in 16 different companies, the aggregate insurance carried being $75,000. It is not known how the fire originated. The ordinary vacation repairs and renovating were under way. Only two persons were sleeping in the building at the time the fire was discovered, but their lives were in no way endangered. Friends of the college manifest great interest to learn the particulars of the disaster, and telegrams have been pouring in on President FRISBLE at Aurora all day. The loss is placed at $130,000.
Preparations to rebuild will undoubtedly be commenced as soon as the insurance is adjusted. It is understood the interest on the endowment of $200,000 given by the late Col. Morgan can be used in this exigency. The prospects for the college year were unusually bright and the disaster is a severe blow to the institution.

Wells Female College is situated on the east shore of Cayuga Lake, in the village of Aurora, 25 miles west from Ithaca and on the line of the Cayuga Lake Railroad. It was founded and endowed by HENRY WELLS, the organizer of the American Express Company, and also of Wells Fargo & Co.'s Transcontinental Express. E. B. MORGAN, one of the original shareholders of The New York Times, was one of the charter Trustees, and gave a quarter of a million dollars to the college. His wife subsequently built Morgan Hall as an addition to the original buildings. The college is beautifully situated, having a broad campus sloping down to the lake side, which is at this place four miles wide. The grounds are well shaded with ornamental and fruit trees, and are kept in the most perfect order. The burned building was of moderate size and plain in its architecture. The most distinguished of th graduates is the wife of President Cleveland, who received her diploma in 1885.

The New York Times New York 1888-08-10