The History of Fire & Fire Safety at MHC

  • 1894, South Hadley Congregational Church fire.
  • 1896, View of Seminary ruins from College Street.
  • 1903, Students practice climbing out of a dorm window during a fire drill.
  • 1917, Students sort through the rubble of Williston after a fire.
  • 1920, Students practice carrying a fire hose to window during fire drill.
  • 1922, The original Rockefeller Hall fire.
  • 1986, Fire at the Odyssey Bookshop, one year after its original location burned down.
  • 1922, Newspaper article about the Rockefeller Hall fire.
  • 1985, College Inn fire.

Many of Mount Holyoke’s buildings have been partially or completely destroyed by fire over the years. See more photographs at the Archives and Special Collection’s Pinterest board.

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12 responses to “The History of Fire & Fire Safety at MHC”

  1. Susan Girardeau '53 says:

    I wasn’t there when it happened but I lived in Woodbridge Hall for 3 years and heard later that it burned down. When did it happen? I know it isn’t there any more.

  2. Jessica Barry '86 says:

    And don’t forget the fire that burned down Goodbodies (next to the convenience store) later that spring… Same arsonist was responsible for both fires. Terrible senior year!

    • Kayla Jackson '86 says:

      December 14, 1985. I was taking my GREs when the smell of smoke wafted into the exam room. I remember walking outside to see soot on the snow and the smoldering CI across the street. Sad day indeed!

  3. Laurel Williams Murphy"89 says:

    I remember the CI fire, it was my Freshman year and I thought the whole town was burning down! Oh wait, it was almost the whole town! Everything changed after that, So. Hadley lost some of it’s old New England quaintness. The new So Hadley is beautiful and after all it is really the people who matter. MHC students and faculty are still the best!

  4. Lenore Franklin '81 says:

    Junior year I lived in North Rocky. We had just had our “official” last fire drill for the year. Kathy, my roommate, said jokingly “Well, if the fire alarm goes off again we will know it is the real thing”. Three nights later in the middle of the night the fire alarm woke us out of our sleep. We ran out of the dorm and looked up to see flames shooting out of the roof. Although the fire was contained quickly, I can still remember the sick feeling I had in the pit of my stomach!

  5. Danetta Beaushaw says:

    Remember the C.I./Odyssey fires vividly — had to evacuate in the middle of a final exam, only to sit in the snow and mourn the loss of the C.I. where I had met just a few days prior with the Student Evaluation of Faculty Teaching committee (Donal O’Shea, Jim Cavanaugh and a nice geography prof whose name I can’t remember) to in Jim’s immortal words “drip pizza and beer all over” our fabulous ideas.

  6. Jill Havens '89 says:

    I remember very well the day the CI burned down. It happened during finals week my first semester at MHC. I was living in Prospect and they rerouted all the traffic down past our dorm. We could see and smell the smoke. So sad when the Odyssey bookstore went up with it all. I don’t remember, though, if they cancelled exams for the rest of the day.

  7. virginia quinn anthony 67 says:

    Another fire…mostly smoke in Torrey during my sophomore year. I left a dryer with a padded bra in it….smoke and fire engines and headline in Amherst News. Ginger Quinn 67

  8. Janet Schwind says:

    My mother, MHC 1925, was a farm girl who lost her possessions in the Rocky fire of 1921. Luckily bags were packed for vacation, but unluckily, professor wouldn’t let students leave to regain what they could salvage when fire was discovered. Donors helped out the poor students afterward. I just had to live in the “new Rocky.” Janet Hall Schwind, 1960

  9. Elizabeth Stone '75 P'04 says:

    Nice article- I love articles about MHC history.