December 22, 1917, while students were
on winter vacation and the campus was virtually
empty, Williston Hall burned to the ground.
fire was first spotted by Reverend J.P.
Nichols of the Congregational Church, who
noticed flashing lights at the
north end of the building. He decided to
realized that Williston Hall was afire.
Although the source of the fire remains
unknown, there is great speculation that
caused by an electrical wiring problem.
reports and articles document
the Williston Hall fire, most catering
to the interest of Mount Holyoke students
were away for the holidays. Because
the majority of students were absent,
the faculty and townspeople contributed their
efforts to save the contents of
the building and to extinguish the blaze.
of Physiology, Abby Howe Turner, and student,
Eleanor D. Mason '19, were both present
and active during the blaze. Their
hand accounts describe the intense effort
that faculty put
into saving their colleagues' research,
papers and discoveries
from destruction. The townspeople's' efforts
mainly contributed to controlling the fire
and attempting to put it out.
account is much more detailed and thorough,
probably because it was written shortly
after the fire. Mason's account
lacks clarity and is somewhat disheveled,
mostly likely due to the fact that it was
recorded sixty years later in 1983. However,
despite the large gap between their accounts,
both Mason and Turner conveyed similar
sentiments and memories when recalling
saved many of the department things from
my office, Miss Stokey's office was well
cleared and most of her research material
saved. But no one went elsewhere for
the flames rushed through the building
at a speed that was amazing.(8)"
Abby Howe Turner's Account
were snow-shoeing back across the fields
above Upper Lake when we saw the great
billows of smoke which turned out to be
Williston burning down.(9)"
Eleanor D. Mason's Account
Facts About the Fire