Facts About the 1917 Williston Fire
- Williston Hall was erected in 1876 where
Clapp Laboratory currently stands. A. Lyman
Williston, college treasurer for four years,
donated $100,000 for its erection.
- Williston housed the zoology, botany,
geology, physiology, and psychology
- Williston Hall, in addition to providing
students with science facilities, was
also used for certain Mount Holyoke
On the steps of Williston, seniors
annually held their step exercises
and transferred their rights and privileges
to the junior class.
- Williston Hall burned in December
22, 1917 during Mount Holyoke's Christmas
There were very few people present
- At the time of its destruction, Williston
Hall was the oldest building on campus.
- The loss of the building was estimated
to be $85,000-$100,000.
- The fire destroyed very valuable
geologic, zoological, and botanical
could only partly be replaced.
- Much faculty research, manuscripts,
lectures, and records were destroyed.
- Reverend J.P. Nichols of the Congregational
Church first noticed the fire from
his office window, when he saw flashes
coming from behind the building. He
went to investigate and then realized
- The fire was thought to be caused
by faulty electrical wiring, but this
was never confirmed.
- The fire was very colorful and caused
two big explosions, due to the many
chemicals that were stored in the building
- Firemen from South Hadley, South
Hadley Falls, and Holyoke all arrived
on the scene.
The Holyoke Fire Department arrived
with a steam fire engine from their
- College property that was saved during
the Williston fire was valued at $2,000
and stored in Mary Lyon and Porter
- On December 24, 1917, Christmas Eve,
President Mary Woolley met with the
dean, the registrar,
the treasurer, and department chairs
to discuss how the College would deal
- Insurance was provided for $90,000,
but a new building would cost $250,000.
- The College solicited financial assistance,
laboratory equipment, and specimens
from alumnae, benefactors, peer institutions,
- After the Williston fire, geology
classes were held in the library basement,
was relocated to the third floor of
Skinner Hall, botany was held in the
and the basement of Porter Hall, zoology
was held in Assembly Hall, and physiology
was held in the basement of Mary Lyon
and in Dwight Hall.
- A temporary science building was
built behind Blanchard gymnasium in
and was built with bricks from Williston
- Cornelia Clapp Laboratory opened
in 1924, after World War I was over.
page was created by Lindsay Theile '04 in History
283, Fall Semester 2003 - firstname.lastname@example.org