December 14th, 1985 the College Inn, a favorite
Mount Holyoke student hangout for many years,
was destroyed by a fire.
fire was first reported by Karl Schenker,
a chef at the College Inn (or "CI" as many
students called it), when he heard the fire alarm.
As the fire caught on, smoke filled the air
and was visible all the way from Granby. Firefighters
from Amherst, Hadley, Holyoke, Belchertown
and Granby all arrived
at the scene to attempt to extinguish the fire.
it was believed that a defective furnace in
the College Inn was the cause of the fire.
However, it was later proven that Schenker
himself, son of South Hadley police commissioner
William Schenker, purposefully ignited the
fire. He was later convicted of arson.
College Inn was one of many buildings that
burned during the fire. Others included the
famed Odyssey Bookshop, Campus
Photo, the College Inn Giftshop, College Cut-Ups
(a hair salon) and a newly opened dressmaking
loss of the College Inn had a dramatic effect
on the social lives of Mount Holyoke students.
It served as a relaxing gathering
place for students to visit with friends and
it also attracted a number of five-college
visitors. After the fire, more students
chose to go off-campus in search of social
pursuits, as the majority of the town common
was destroyed, save the post office, a shoe
and Woodbridges restaurant
the fire's effects
on both Mount Holyoke students and town
residents. Students Noreen Kuziak '88 and
'87 describe in detail their
experiences during the fire and the deep impact
that the loss of the College Inn had on themselves
and their peers.
was always an early riser, and I remember
setting out across campus thinking that it
hazy and it smelled outside, as well. It
was a pungent kind of smell - the type that
eyes and throats."(26)
interviews with students who experienced the
the fire raged, officials closed Route 116
leading to the Center. But hundreds of spectators
watched from the lawn of the college, First
Congregational Church and the parking lot behind
the building as smoke gave way to flames that
turned the colonial wooden structure into a
charred skeleton before its collapse."(27)
Read the Transcript-Telegram article
documenting the fire
Facts About the College Inn Fire