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1881 Parrish Hall Burns

Parrish Hall, as the College's only building, housed everything from student rooms and the dining hall to classrooms and the library. Around 11 p.m. on Sept. 25th, an explosion occurred, possibly in the chemistry lab. Soon after, President Magill reported seeing fire shooting out of the dome's west side. The fire spread across the roof and within a few hours reduced the building to its exterior stone walls.

Students evacuated the building safely and spent the night on the front lawn. Many slept on mattresses they had thrown out their dorm windows.  The next day, the Chester Military Academy served breakfast on the lawn while the building smoldered. By nightfall, the Board of Managers had rented houses in nearby Media as a temporary home for the College. Classes resumed two weeks later.

Plans for rebuilding began immediately. Gifts for the new library included the complete works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Francis Parkman, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, all donated by the authors. On the first anniversary of the fire, the rebuilding was complete enough to allow students to begin their work for the year.