Dartmouth Hall Destroyed By Fire

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Michael Hinsley

Today in Hanover and Dartmouth College History February 18 1904

The bell in Dartmouth Hall's tower rang out eight times in the cold February 18th morning air and the cries of "Fire" soon followed.  The Dartmouth reports that the Thursday morning Chapel service was interrupted by the report of the fire. Notice throughout these pictures four fire hose lines are flowing water attempting the extinguish the fire and then protecting the neighboring buildings exposed to the fire and flying embers. Also note the absence of any fire engines!  The fire hose, nozzles and ladders were brought on hosewagons or a sled and were connected directly to the recently installed water system.

The original Dartmouth Hall was built in 1784-91. This original building served as classrooms, a dormitory, a library and a museum. The original building was proposed to be brick but was instead constructed of a wood timber frame and sheathed with clapboards. Records show the massive timber frame was raised in ten days in 1786. It took until 1791 to complete the building due to struggles securing the required funds. The nearly 118 year old wooden building was destroyed by fire February 18, 1904 by faulty wiring in less than two hours.

                                            Dartmouth Hall Prior to February 18, 1904 fire.

The February 18, 1904 Fire Report Recorded by A Storrs Foreman. "At a few minutes past 8 oclock in the morning the hose company was called to Dartmouth Hall. 4 streams were quickly laid but the fire was up under the roof where it could not be hit from the outside and the smoke so thick that it could not be reached from the inside."

February 18, 1904

Initial attempts to gain access to the fire from the interior were hampered due to the extreme smoke.
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Ladders were placed and a hoseline was advanced through a third floor window but without success at extinguishing the fire.

Attempts to extinguish the fire continued, as well as efforts save as much of the items from the Library and Museum

This view from East Wheelock St with Bartlett Hall(Y.M.C.A) on the left

The Base of the Bell Tower and attic space are well involved in fire. The smoke staining that is evident along the eves foretells what is happening inside the building.

Rear of the Dartmouth Hall Looking from  about South Fayerweather Hall

Rear of Dartmouth Hall. The Bell Tower is showing pretty substantial damage and has a bit of a lean to it.

Rear of Dartmouth Hall close up of the Bell Tower.
The top floor was a dormitory for twenty-four students at the time of the fire.
The Bell tower is obscured by smoke or is in the process of collapsing. Notice the individual panes of the windows that are broken out by throwing stones to vent the heat and smoke to allow attempts to salvage as many items as possible. The fate of the building is sealed.
Smoke is pushing out from the attic and third floor. Smoke is basically un-burnt fuel and when it ignites and flashes over the entire attic and roof of Dartmouth Hall was burnt off in a short time. These are Black and white photos, but compare the grey color of this smoke to the black smoke of future pictures.
This view from the front of the building shows a attempts continuing to enter the building by ladder on the left. A hose line spraying to the third floor on the right. The smoke is now a dark black.
This view from North College Street in front of Dartmouth Hall shows the bell tower has collapsed and the roof is gone. The ladder laying on the ground perpendicular to the building, tells me the fire company knew it was time to back off.
This view of the rear of Dartmouth Hall February 18, 1904 shows the amount of furniture salvaged, including those funky uncomfortable school chairs with folding tables that always vexed my left-handed friends.
Front of Dartmouth Hall. On the left Wentworth Hall has a ladder to the roof. Dartmouth Hall's fate is sealed, the saving of the neighboring buildings is what will be the measure of success that February 1904  morning.

This image showing a backdraft or smoke explosion from one of the concealed spaces of the heavy timber frame building and resulting running for safety of fire company and bystanders. 

Look also to the left at the number of people on the roof of Thornton Hall trying to "Stamp out embers"

One of my favorite images Ever.

The Feb 18 1904 etched onto the wet glass negative records the date. These images also show flames.

The small grouping of fire and college officials as well as their stance records the feeling of frustration, defeat  and knowing that a monumental task lies ahead.

One of the many chimneys collapsing. These chimneys served multiple heating sources and had long been a fire threat.

Smoldering Rubble. February 18, 1904

This view is with Wentworth Hall to the photographers back looking South. Thornton Hall is visible through the burned out window openings. In the left rear of the photo is the edge of Bartlett Halls roof and  Hallgarten Hall standing behind on the South side of East Wheelock St.
  Looking over the smoldering remains of Dartmouth Hall, towards Rollins Chapel with Wentworth Hall on the right.

From the road to Shattuck Observatory Thornton and Wilder alongside the smoldering ruins,

From The Northwest corner of the Green. Wentworth Hall on the Left, Thornton on the right and Fayerweather Hall visible through the smoke.

This picture from the Dartmouth Green in Spring of 1904 with the occupants of Fayerweather Hall and Culver Hall in the rear right enjoying a view of the Green. Their view would not last as the call had gone out to the Alumni and in two years Dartmouth Hall would be rebuilt and dedicated.

1904 Map Shows the "New Dartmouth Hall" Under Construction. No North or South Fayerweather Halls yet and Culver Hall one of the New Hampshire College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts is still shown.

The dashed lines with little black circles indicate where the new water mains and fire hydrants are located

Photo Credits to Dartmouth College Rauner Library

They are open on Saturdays until 1!!

Check out the -->Rauner Library BlogSpot on the 1904 Fire


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