Looking Back – Fall 2014

Archival Photo

Archival Photo

Chaplin Library Blaze, circa 1978

A fire of undetermined origin broke out in the basement of Chaplin Library on the evening of April 5, 1978. Although subdued within an hour its discovery, the blaze damaged an estimated 3,000 books—many of them rare—and five student firefighters were transported to Central Vermont Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Fire crews from Montpelier, Berlin, Roxbury, Williamstown, and East Montpelier responded to the alarm.

The Northfield News reported, “At the peak of the fire, more than 50 firemen were present,” along with rescue squads from Northfield and Williamstown. The article also stated that University librarian Ann Turner was “very distressed about the fire and the resultant loss of the books.” I asked Ann, who lives in Northfield, what she remembers. “I refused to leave the building,” she said. “I stood in the doorway of the rare books room and wouldn’t let the firefighters inside. I didn’t want them destroying my books.” Were you there? What do you remember? – Editor

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