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June 23, 2011

Adelbert Hall burns - 20 years ago

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Adelbert Hall before and during the fire

On Sunday, June 23, 1991 fire broke out in the oldest campus building, Adelbert Hall, gutting the historic building. Built 1881-1882 it was formally dedicated October 26, 1882; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

President Pytte arrived at the building in the early afternoon to do a little work. He was met by a security guard who was checking the building because a fire alarm had tripped. The security guard could not locate the problem until the fire alarm tripped again. The Cleveland Fire Department was called at 1:57 p.m. and arrived at 2:02 p.m. Firefighters first tried to fight the blaze from inside the building, but evacuated when the roof collapsed. The fire was declared under control at 3:43 p.m. Sixty men and 10 trucks from 3 battalions fought the fire. The loss was estimated at $10-$15 million.

Salvage started the next day, after the Fire Department allowed entry to the building. Staff working on the direct salvage of materials from the building included staff from Plant Services, University Archives, University Libraries Preservation Department, Administrative Information Services and Development Information Services, University Movers. Personnel from the displaced offices were on hand to help identify records, computers, equipment, and belongings. Wet paper records were first frozen and then underwent a vacuum freeze-drying process to remove the water. Paper records that were not wet, were deodorized to remove the smell of smoke. Many paintings were restored by several art conservators or repainted from photographs of the paintings. More than 130 personal computers were retrieved from Adelbert. Most information was recovered by backing up the hard drives to tape. Nine seriously damaged units were sent off-site to On-Track Data Recovery in Minnesota. Data was recovered from all but one hard drive. The university’s mainframe was located in Crawford Hall and was unaffected by the disaster.

The university hired R. M. Kliment and Frances Halsband Architects to coordinate the renovation. The firm was experienced with building rehabilitation, additions, historical restorations, and educational facilities. The rebuilding of Adelbert Hall took 2 years with a cost of $12.4 million. The Krill Company was the construction manager.

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Adelbert Hall exterior and interior after the fire

Twenty offices were displaced by the fire, including the president. Personnel from the affected offices were housed in Crawford 13 and 14 until arrangements were made for temporary office space. Some offices, like the Controller, never returned to Adelbert. Other offices, such as Student Affairs, were added as new tenants.

Some changes made to Adelbert in its reconstruction included a different tower, redesigned central hall with the stairs in the tradition of the original double staircase, an expanded skylight, central air conditioning, wiring for CWRUnet, a modern elevator (if you remember the old elevator this was a big deal), and 9 new conference rooms.

Posted by hxy2 at June 23, 2011 12:39 PM

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