Phi Delta Theta Fraternity Burns April 19, 1919

Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, 5 Webster Ave Heavily Damaged by Fire.


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Michael Hinsley

Today in Hanover and Dartmouth College History, April 19, 1919

Saturday April 19, 1919 probably started out as a good day for the brothers of the Dartmouth Chapter of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. 

Early Webster Avenue view

Pre April 19, 1919 Phi Delta Theta Fraternity

Early view west of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity on Webster Ave

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The fraternity had recently purchased new furniture for the house and members of the fraternity were trying to help clean up the shipping/packing material. As annoying as packing peanuts are, the fire service is thankful the days of wide spread packing objects in excelsior is behind us. Excelsior or "wood-wool" is fine slivers of wood shaved to create a natural protective product. It has a number of other uses and qualities, including being very flammable! 

The brothers lit a fire in the main fire place on the first floor of the fraternity with the packing crates and the excelsior loaded in the fireplace. The terrific blaze raced up the chimney and reportedly set the roof on fire. The intensity of the fire coupled with the volume of material overheated the chimney and ignited the wooden structural material surrounding the chimney.

April 19, 1919 Phi Delta Theta Fraternity Webster Ave Dartmouth College

April 19, 1919 Phi Delta Theta Fraternity burning. Hanover Fire Chain Drive Mack fire engine on the left.

The members of the Hanover, Lebanon and Hartford Fire Departments discovered that there had been a previous fire in the building on a very cold January 10, 2010 night when our departments as well as Lyme and Norwich responded to try to extinguish a fire that apparently started in the same location  and from the same cause!

During overhaul we discovered charred structural members that had been burnt from a previous fire.

A little research at Rauner Library, the coolest place on campus revealed the story of the 1919 fire.

January 10 2010 charring around Chimney at Theta Delta Fraternity 5 Webster Ave.

History does in fact repeat itself.

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