The 40 cadets who remained on the Maryland Agricultural College (M.A.C.) campus during the 1912 Thanksgiving weekend would never have predicted the catastrophic event that altered the campus’ future.
On Friday evening, November 29, the gallant cadets arranged an impromptu dance. Their charming dates, in resplendent dress, gathered on the first floor of the Administration Building.
At the peak of their mirth, around 10:30 p.m., the Cadet Major was notified that a blaze had begun in the Administration Building between the third and fourth floors of the administration building.
The alarm sounded!
Initially, the brave cadets fought the blaze. They scrambled to rescue their classmates’ property, and miraculously, most of the valuable records in the offices President R.W. Silvester and the college treasurer were also saved.
The ladies, adorned in evening gowns, contributed to the heroic efforts of their escorts as they worked to fight the flames.
Never was there a more nervy bunch of girls. The heroic way in which they helped to save our belongings will go down in the history of old M.A.C. No praise can be too high, no tribute can be too great for them.
Hyattsville fire departments were called and fought desperately against a stiff wind, until tragically the water supply was depleted.
Saturday morning, the devastation became a reality in the bright sunshine.
The Barracks, M.A.C.’s original college building, and the administration building lay in ruins.Newspaper reports estimated the loss at $150,000. Every dorm room was destroyed, as well as half of the classrooms and offices. These two buildings housed 200 students and served as the music hall and science hall, in addition to the kitchen, chapel, and laundry. They served as the backdrop for faculty and athlete photos, such as these shots from the 1911 Reveille yearbook.
The people in nearby towns threw open their doors to us. The College work went on, almost without a break . . . The old school has emerged triumphant.
It looked for a time as though M.A.C. would have to suspend operations indefinitely. But four days after the fire, every student, save one, reported for duty, resolved to keep the College going. The sense of loss was soon overcome with an indomitable spirit.
Today marks the 104th anniversary of this landmark event in University of Maryland history. You can find more information about the Great Fire of 1912 at https://www.lib.umd.edu/fire.