On June 6, 1950, the fire alarm in Haven Hall rang. And for once, there was actually a fire.
The fire, which is rumored to have been started by a disgruntled professor, started in the building’s central attic, according to firemen at the time of the fire.
In the end, it was estimated that the blaze did more than three million dollars worth of damage, including destroying the 20,000 volume Bureau of Government Library.
Although no one was killed in the fire, one firefighter was slightly injured and several students were treated for smoke inhalation.
A crowd of 20,000 surrounded the building to watch it burn. At times the memorized onlookers blocked firefighters.
Despite the efforts of police to restrain the crowd, others rushed into the building to salvage their research and belongings by throwing files from the building’s windows.
Journalism students were able to save typewriters and an Associated Press Teletype machine.
Many University graduate students lost their masters’ theses and research. History Prof. Dwight Dumond lost 15 years of research on the anti-slavery movement.
The building, which at the time stood near the Law Quad, was evacuated at about 4:30 p.m. when several people noticed smoke coming out of the walls. Soon smoke was billowing from the buildings roof.
As a precaution, Angell Hall was also evacuated.
One student, junior Alvin Kaplan, ran into the journalism department, where students were taking final exams, and said, “I think your building is burning down.”
Firefighters did not declare the fire under control until 9 p.m.
At the time, Haven Hall housed the journalism, sociology, and history departments, all of which were gutted in the blaze.
The fire helped to push forward plans to renovate and expand Angell Hall. When the renovations were completed in 1952, a section of the new complex was named Haven Hall after the original building.