Ithaca High School Fire (Now DeWitt Mall)

Finding Fires - Tompkins County

Ithaca High School Fire (Now DeWitt Mall)

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage


Date: February 14, 1912

Location: 215 North Cayuga Street, Ithaca

Early in the morning, a “laborer” passing by noticed smoke coming from the windows of the high school. He went to the police headquarters to raise the alarm, and soon after, the Ithaca Fire Department responded. Much to the firefighters’ dismay, the cold weather had frozen the fire hydrants and prevented them from pumping any water. Quick to problem solve, they built small fires to melt the ice that prevented access to the water line. Although this step proved successful, they discovered that the water pressure was too low to be effective at extinguishing the fire. The focus turned to rescuing what could be saved from the fire: a new time clock that rang the bell between classes, irreplaceable student records, and a music teacher’s favorite mug, made for her by her students. At seven in the morning, the walls of the building collapsed completely onto Cayuga St. The crowd of onlookers watched as the school fell, with an atmosphere more approriate for funeral. One teacher, however, was overheard commenting that although it was sad to watch the building burn, “It was the most inconvenient place I ever taught in.”

Explore building records and maps for 215 North Cayuga Street throughout the twentieth century on the HistoryForge Ithaca database:

Images courtesy of The History Center in Tompkins County.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Finding Fires - Tompkins County


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