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I’ve heard the Dartmouth Hall is not the original building. When was it rebuilt and why?

Last updated 08/08/11

On the morning of February 18, 1904, while the students were attending chapel, fire broke out in Dartmouth Hall. The original building, begun in 1784 and completed in 1791, had survived fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and oil lamps only to fall victim to faulty wiring. The temperature was minus 20 degrees that day, and the local volunteer fire department could not stop the blaze. The building burned to the ground in under two hours, leaving only two window frames behind.

Planning for a replacement building began while the fire still smoldered. The Trustees voted to rebuild, and Melvin O. Adams of the Class of 1871 put out a call to Boston alumni, saying “This not an invitation: it is a summons!” Within three months, enough money had been pledged for a new cornerstone to be laid in late October 1904 by none other than the sixth Earl of Dartmouth, the great-great-grandson of the man for whom the College was named.

Although the new frame was made from brick and steel instead of wood, the exterior building replicated the first Dartmouth Hall. The two surviving window frames were placed on either side of the building’s original main entrance. (These doors are no longer in use.) Bronze plaques, cast from the remnants of the old building’s bell, were placed underneath, identifying the frames as part of the original building.

The new Dartmouth Hall was dedicated almost two years to the day after the original burned, on February 17, 1906. Another fire destroyed the cupola and damaged the upper levels in 1935, prompting a gutting and refitting of the interior. The exterior remains virtually the same, and Dartmouth Hall remains a vital building, housing classrooms and offices as it graces the Green as an icon of Dartmouth.

Read a longer version of the history of Dartmouth Hall on Rauner Special Collections Library's blog.

Photos by Joseph Mehling ’69

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Last updated: 08/08/11