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Christmas Eve Fire


North Dakota State University’s campus has had a number of buildings come and go, but maybe none as dramatic as the old Chemical Building, which was a total loss in a Christmas Eve fire in 1909. The school was still called the North Dakota Agricultural College when the brick building opened in 1906. It offered chemistry classes, which had previously been held in the basement of College Hall, which is now known as Old Main.

Electrical wiring was apparently the source of the fire, which began about 7 p.m. on December 24th. Inoperable fire hydrants, snow and low water pressure hampered firefighter efforts. Smaller fires spread to the library and South Engineering.

The Chemical Building was a total loss with $75,000 in damages. Professor Edward Ladd lost $800 in personal items. No one was in the building at the time of the fire.

On this date in 1910, The Weekly Spectrum, the student newspaper, reported on the fire in a front-page story, calling the conflagration " highly spectacular." The flames were accompanied by a constant series of explosions as the fire reached various chemicals. As the article stated: "Several times windows were blown out while one explosion took off the entire roof, and another probably from the store rooms blew out the west wall.”

The Spectrum also reported on a replacement building to open by New Year’s Day 1911. Indeed a new, fireproof building did open in 1910. It was also called the Chemistry Building. In 1952, the building was renamed Ladd Hall after the professor who became president of the school in 1916. Ladd Hall today sits next to Dunbar Laboratory, a newer chemistry building finished in 1964. However, the newer Dunbar is now in such deteriorated condition that fire officials say they may have to back away and let it burn should it

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura