1910-Dartmouth College's South Fayerweather Hall Gutted by Fire


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Michael Hinsley

Today in Hanover and Dartmouth College History February 26, 1910

South Fayerweather Hall with its twin North Fayerweather was built in 1907 completing Fayerweather row. The Fayerweather Halls as well as other Dartmouth priorities at the time were funded by a unconditional bequest by Mr. Daniel B. Fayerweather, a successful New York City Merchant. The initial gift of $100,000 and additional monies received by the college from a residuary bequest created and supported the Fayerweather Fund. The Fayerweather Halls constructed under the leadership of Dartmouth President William Jewett Tucker, were part of a period of growth and modernization of Dartmouth that has arguably had the most profound impact and change on the College and the Town of Hanover.

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North Fayerweather Hall caught fire in the winter of 1908 but escaped destruction. On the night of February 26, 1910, a particularly cold night, with a temperature recorded at -20 degrees below zero, South Fayerweather Hall was destroyed by fire. The fire started on the ground floor in a janitor's closet. The fire spread quickly through open unprotected wooden stairways.  If not for the quick action of the student residents this without a doubt would have been a fire with multiple fatalities. Students were forced to jump out of second floor windows or use make shift sheet ropes to escape from the third floor windows because the staircase had already collapsed.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. What is clear is the assumption that a masonry constructed building is "fire proof", is not a sound assumption. The idea that a brick and mortar exterior alone can make a building safe, even when the buildings are provided with the latest life safety systems. The requirement of a healthy respect for the very real danger and power of fire, and the personal responsibility of each resident to act immediately when the cry of Fire or the fire alarm sounds, coupled with the responsibility to themselves and the others in the building that will be affected by their actions. 

The description of the blaze is provided near the end of the post by The Dartmouth.

The lessons learned expressed in an editorial (the last image) to The Dartmouth are lessons that still ring true today.

South Fayerweather Hall completely engulfed in flames. The fire started at 2:30 am on a -20 degree

In addition to North and South Fayerweather Halls, The formation of the partnership between the College and the Village Precinct in 1893, allowed the construction of a water reservoir and piping system to provide safe clean drinking water and sufficient water for fire protection. The construction of the Dartmouth Heating Pant in 1898 with thousands of feet of steam mains throughout campus greatly reduced the danger of fire by eliminating a large number of open flame heating sources. 

The new Fayerweather Row Prior to the February 26 1910 fire

Closeup of 1928 Hanover Map

Looking North at South Fayerweather Hall between 1908 or 1909 with Culver Hall on the right Mid Fayerweather visible on the left 

The smoldering brick walls of South Fayerweather Hall. Note the fire hose on the left hand side of this image. Also check out the posting of the Dartmouth Hall fire. Notice anything missing? Fire Engines! One of the most significant achievements in the Presidency of William Jewett Tucker was the formation of a partnership of the College and the Village Precinct in 1893 which constructed a water reservoir and a system of pipes that deliver not only safe drinking water but an abundant supply of pressurized water for fire fighting.

Looking East-Southeast Culver Hall on the left. The last remaining combustible items are burning.

Looking East-Southeast Culver Hall on the left, now a road that leads up to the observatory, the field of the former College f Agricultural and Mechanic Arts on the right allow the houses on South Park St to be visible. I believe the "New Gymnasium" foundation is visible in this image.

Looking West, The Cornice of Culver Hall on the very left of the image, Fayerweather Hall on the right. The roof and dormers of New Hampshire Hall are just visible rear left.

Looking East at the shell of South Fayerweather Hall

This page of the Dartmouth is Double-Historic. The left column continues the report of the South Fayerweather Fire. The right column reports on Dartmouth's new Winter Field Day organized by The Dartmouth Outing Club and conceived by Fred Harris '11 who injured his knee jumping out of his South Fayerweather Hall window to escape the advancing flames. The "Winter Field Day" was the precursor to Dartmouth's Winter Carnival.


Photo Credit Dartmouth Rauner Library

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