The Fire of 1919


One major discovery found in the archival material was that DU suffered two major fires, the one in 1910 and a second in 1919.  As the Cornell Alumni News article reported, the 1919 fire was actually DU’s third in about ten years. A minor fire in the basement occurred in 1916. The fire of 1919 destroyed the third floor and much of the second floor; water damage occurred on the lower levels.  This time school was in session, and brothers present. But no serious injuries were reported.

Minutes of Chapter Meeting, 1919

The minutes discuss the third floor fire.

Treasurer's Report on Repairs, 1920

Treasurer's Report on Repairs, 1920

Treasurer's Report on Fire, 1922

Treasurer's Report on Fire, 1922

Cornell Alumni News article, Jan. 30, 1919

Cornell Alumni News article, Jan. 30, 1919

Because the Alumni News article is difficult to read, the article in its entirety is presented below:

Fire in D. U. House

Third Blaze in Nine Years Does $30,000 Damage to this Fraternity House.

The Delta Upsilon House at 6 South avenue was badly damaged Sunday evening by fire, which was discovered about 6.30 o’clock, when tiles from the roof fell through a skylight and tumbled on the stairway underneath. Fifteen members of the fraternity were holding a meeting at the time in the drawing room on the first floor.

Investigation led to the discovery of flames in the attic and an alarm was telephoned to the police station. The Fire Department responded promptly, but when the companies arrived, it looked to the firemen as well as the spectators as if the building were doomed.

By efficient work, however, the fire- men were able to check the flames in the attic. The roof was burned away and the attic was destroyed, but the lower portion of the house was uninjured except by water.

A portion of the furnishings was removed from the house by the members of the fraternity and other students and firemen, and the men saved the greater part of their wearing apparel; but the water damage to the lower floors and furnishings was considerable.

The confining of the flames to the attic and roof made the fire a particularly hard one to fight, and time after time the firemen were driven back by the flames and smoke, several of the men being overcome. No one was seriously injured, but there were many minor injuries.

No partitions were burned through, despite the headway attained by the fire before it was discovered. The ceilings in four or five rooms were ruined by things falling through them after they had become weakened.

The roof being of tile and the walls of brick and stucco made the fighting difficult.

Until the fire was declared out at 8.15 o’clock the men of the Fire Department together with a number of students worked with great courage inside and outside of the building. This work was made exceedingly dangerous because of the shower of tiles which were falling from the roof. N. T. Newton ’19 was overcome by smoke while helping to carry out furniture but was revived shortly afterwards and went back to the fire.

While the cause of the fire has not been definitely determined, Chief Reilly is of the opinion that it may have been caused by defective wiring, as the electric wires were not in conduits. Another theory is that the fire started in the chimney.

The fire of Sunday night was the third in the history of the local chapter of Delta Upsilon. The first occurred at 5.45 on the morning of December 24, 1909, when the house was completely destroyed. There was only about $1,800 insurance on the building at that time. At 11.30 the night of January 2, 1916, a fire broke out in the basement of the house, but it was checked by the Fire Department before it got past the first floor.

The fraternity carries an insurance amounting to $40,000. It is believed that $30,000 will cover the present loss.

The rescued furniture has been removed to the Telluride House, recently vacated by the Officers’ Club, and here the fraternity will live temporarily.

Cornell Alumni News (Jan. 30, 1919) http://www.ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/3536/23/021_18.pdf


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