Fires

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There have been a number of fires on the grounds of the College of William and Mary throughout its history.

October 1705: College Building (Wren) and its library burned. One book from the library survived the fire and is part of the collection of the Special Collections Research Center.

November 1781: President’s House burned while occupied by wounded French during the Revolutionary War.

February 1859: College Building (Wren) burned, library contents destroyed. A fragment from the bell survived the fire and is part of the University Archives Artifact Collection. An image of the fragment is available in the box list of the finding aid.

September 1862: College Building (Wren) burned by Union soldiers from the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

1925: The kitchen of the Dining Hall was damaged in a fire which destroyed the Penniman Building in the back of the dining hall. Governor Trinkle authorized the construction of a new dining hall after the fire.

1930: A fire on March 15 burned the roof, dormer story, and third floor of Chancellors Hall, causing $70,142 worth of damage. Temporary roofing was set up on the west end of the hall until June so that classes could be held while construction continued on a permanent roof of the east side.

1948: A fire on the left side of the stadium burned for two hours and cracked the concrete under the stand. However, the damage to the stadium was not too serious.

1953: A fire on December 29, 1953 destroyed the auditorium of Phi Beta Kappa Hall (now known as Ewell Hall). John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave $250,000 to the College of William and Mary in 1954 for the reconstruction of Phi Beta Kappa Hall.

1966: There was a fire in the attic and center cupola of Bryan Hall.

1972: Another fire in Chancellors Hall, this time in the basement, caused $30,000 in damage.

1972: A fire in the project room of the Botetourt Theater in Swem Library.

1983: Jefferson Hall was destroyed by fire on January 20, 1983, but the outer walls remained standing. Reconstruction of the building was turned over to the Buildings and Grounds Department in October 1984.

2005: An exhaust fan sparked a fire in Preston Hall on May 3, 2005. Some students began the next school year living at Colonial Williamsburg's Governor's Inn.[1]