1901 - BUILDING IS BADLY DAMAGED. MECHANIC ARTS HALL AT UNIVERSITY FIRESWEPT. CAUSE NOT AT ALL CERTAIN - EVIDENCE POINTS TO DEFECTIVE WIRING BUT IS NOT CONCLUSIVE - LOSS OF $16,000 SUSTAINED WITH NO INSURANCE.
Lincoln, Neb. - With the fourth floor of Mechanic Arts hall fireswept, the loss by blaze and water amounting to upwards of $16,000, the state university yesterday morning sustained the most serious fire loss in its history. The damage to the roof and interior equipment of the building will entail a $10,000 loss on the university itself. An additional $6,000 to $8,000 loss is sustained by professors and students who lost books and instruments in the blaze. The building will be immediately reconstructed.
The fire was first discovered by employes in the administration building, who saw smoke and flame issuing from a ventilating shaft near the front of the burning structure. By the time the department had arrived the entire fourth floor was ablaze and for a time it appeared that the building was doomed. The slow burning construction kept the flames from spreading rapidly, however, and the fire was under control after an hour's hard work. In another hour it was entirely out.
The fire was apparently caused by a short circuit in the electric wiring between the third and fourth floors. Testimony of students engaged in work on the fourth floor and of Dr. C. W. M. Poynter, who was in his office on the third floor, indicate that the blaze originated at or near the air shaft which parallels the stairway from the top of the building to the basement. Strenuous work by students, armed with a few chemical fire extinguishers, failed to check the flames when first discovered.
The loss sustained by both the university and individuals was uninsured. The university carries no insurance, since the premiums would amount to many times the fire loss, and the property of the individuals was largely non-insurable. The building was erected in 1898-99 at a cost of $30,000. Superintendent Chowins and Dean Richards of the engineering college estimate that at least $10,000 will be required to restore it to its condition before the fire. This will include an almost entirely new roof, a refitting of the fourth floor, and the installation of new equipment to take the place of some that was damaged by water. The walls are all firm.
Loss by professors was largely through the burning and water-damaging of books and library effects. The libraries on the two lower floors, including the valuable mechanical arts and Bohemian collections, were removed before the water did great damage. Those on the third floor did not fare so well. On the fourth floor was located the freshman drawing room. Here were some three hundred sets of drawing instruments valued at approximately $18 each. The loss on these may not be total, but in any case it will be a heavy one.
The Nebraska State Journal
November 13, 1901
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