LOST MANSFIELD # 24: THE C.A.C. DAIRY BARN AND GROVE COTTAGE.
The Connecticut Agricultural College was dealt two serious blows in July 1919. The first occurred on the night of July 6 when the dairy barn was destroyed. The dairy barn had been built in 1914 to accommodate fifty head of stock. It was considered a model of barn construction with the most advanced ventilation system. Edwina Whitney, the college librarian, reported in her diary: “I was in bed by 9:15. Was just settled when the fire bell rang. Jumped up, dressed as soon as possible & hurried out. Thought it was the main building. Much relieved to find it was the dairy barn. All stock was gotten out though bull roared well. It went quickly & 70 tons of hay with it & a car load of grain & straw for bedding. 11 calves were taken out.”
The ruins of the dairy barn were still smoking, when fire broke out at Grove Cottage, the women’s dormitory, less than two days later. On July 8, Edwina Whitney recorded in her diary: “We have gone through another terrible experience of fire today. Grove Cottage is tonight only a heap of smoking debris. A plumber’s torch under the eaves seems to be the reason this time… It started at noon. When the bell rang every body thought it was for dinner. I was in the library & saw smoke coming out round the edges of the attic. I thought they could stop it but the men were slow in coming & the hose not ready nor big enough. By the time I had run home to tell Mother & Pearl & got back again, the top was all aflame. Soon it was roaring all over. Firemen came from Willie but too late.”
The next day she added: “The Willie firemen succeeded in quenching the blaze enough so that all the first floor furniture (substantially) was saved & some upstairs things. The girls who are away [students] lost trunks etc. in the attic. Flora Miller lost the most. The fire lasted till after four. It was an awesome spectacle. I hope it will be the last for a time. Don’t know what they will do about the girls now.”
At a time of rising female enrollment, the loss of Grove Cottage created great difficulties. It left the college without home economics laboratories and no housing accommodations for young women. Following the fire, female students were forced to live in makeshift quarters until Holcomb Hall was built in 1921.
This series is made possible by a Capacity Building Grant from The Last Green Valley, Inc.