Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Memorial Hall fire, September 6, 1956

Amazing footage of the fire that destroyed the tower of Memorial Hall, uncovered by David Malan and uploaded to Youtube. It seems to confirm that the water pressure was insufficient for the fire hoses to reach the tower.


  1. Back in my Crimson Key tour-guide days there was an apocryphal-smelling story that 1) the fire station next door was built on land taken from Harvard via eminent domain, 2) Harvard pressured the city to have the station's architecture conform to the Yard's exacting (and expensive) neo-Georgian standards, and 3) in an ironic twist -- somehow as a result of the station design and the engines kept there -- there wasn't a way to position a ladder truck to extinguish the blaze immediately.

    And so it seems the real culprit for the delay was merely insufficient pressure, I take it?

    1. I am pretty sure #2 is true, and that the City was even more annoyed when Harvard started building modern buildings in the neighborhood. (Burr Hal, an ugly lecture hall building, I think was located where the Sackler now is.) #1 could well be true, but I don't recall hearing it before. I am skeptical about #3, though it is not inconsistent with the water pressure being inadequate, which from this footage it seems to have been.