Other Event Detail

Pennsylvania Military Academy Fire
Chester, PA

February 16, 1882

Around 5 p.m. on February 16, 1882, a fire broke out in the Old Main building of the Pennsylvania Military Academy (later known as the Pennsylvania Military College, and even later as Widener University), in Chester, Pennsylvania. The 143 cadets were out drilling and returned to find the third corridor filling with smoke that was issuing from the laboratory. They quickly formed a bucket brigade from a lake some distance away, but the flames spread from the laboratory on the fourth floor to the eastern wing. The entire Chester Fire Department answered the alarm, but the apparatus was greatly delayed due to bad conditions of the street. By the time they reached the scene, the building was completely enveloped in flames. In the meantime, the cadets and hundreds of citizens had the campus strewn with furniture, books, provisions, and government property they emptied from the building. Most of the cadets were able to save the most valuable of their personal effects. By 9 p.m., nothing remained of the building but blackened walls. The loss was estimated at $200,000. After the fire, the cadets were summoned to the drill hall, when each was given enough money for transportation home. Nearly every state in the union was represented by a cadet.

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