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The Way We Were

The narrow escape of Morrill Hall, 1895

During the fall semester in 1895, the university and its oldest structure almost experienced a disaster that would have changed the campus forever.

In 1886, "The Main Building," now called Morrill Hall, was constructed. It housed the entire operation of the university. Everything from the president's office to student classrooms could be found within the facility.

Nine years later, in the eastern half of the basement, a study hall for boys was created. The room's purpose was to establish a comfortable environment with a large work table, good lighting and an old-fashioned stove to keep the students warm during the cold months.

One day during a study session, as Reno's windy, cold weather reached into the bowels of the building, the students grew tired of the decrepit chairs and tables and tore the large wooden table away from its hinges connected to the floor. Then, the students broke apart the wooden chairs that accompanied the damaged table and stuffed them into the stove to keep warm. The students proceeded to feed the stove until the range and its pipes leading to the ceiling turned red. After a few minutes, the students noticed that the building above the stove had caught on fire. After a mad rush to fill buckets with water, the fire was controlled.

This event marks the narrowest escape Morrill Hall has ever had.

— Scott Walquist


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