Morse Hall Fire

Finding Fires - Tompkins County

Morse Hall Fire

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Ithaca Heritage


Date: February 13, 1916

Morse Hall, home to Cornell's chemistry department, burned down one day before the start of the spring term.The fire may have started at the top of the building in the studio of J. P. Troy, the university photographer from 1900-1928. Professors and students formed a line and saved thousands of library books, valuable equipment, department records, and rare earth materials like radium and platinum. However, valuable manuscripts, research, and data, some dating back to the time of the university’s founding, were destroyed. J. P. Troy’s materials, negatives, and camera equipment were also lost. As the first person to hold the position of University Photographer, Troy had photographed Cornell events, sports games, campus views, and Cornell Library books and valuable documents for reference. At the time of the fire, chemistry was required for almost every student at Cornell. The fire had a big impact on students and their class schedules that semester.

After the fire, Morse Hall’s top two floors were removed. The building was torn down in 1954 and renovated as a parking lot. Today the building site is home to the Johnson Museum of Art.

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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