Old Chemistry Lab

Title

Old Chemistry Lab

Subject

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Description

The Massachusetts Agricultural College was founded in 1863 and the Old Chemistry Laboratory (also known as College Hall) was one of the first buildings erected on the campus. The Chemistry Laboratory, built in 1867 and expanded two years later, was located where the west end of Machmer currently resides.

Although known as the Old Chemistry Laboratory, the building was used for a variety of purposes over the years. The Handbook of Amherst, which was published in 1891, states that the first floor consisted of a chapel used for morning prayers as well as laboratories for the zoological and chemistry departments. The second floor contained additional rooms for the physical, mathematical and chemical departments, while the third floor had a collection of agricultural equipment from Japan. When the building was first erected the top story was unfurnished and used as a drill hall, but by 1891 it housed a temporary museum.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the building was in far from excellent condition and was considered somewhat of a joke amongst the faculty and students. Made entirely of wood, the building was not safe to house laboratories, and in 1922 plans were put in place for a new chemistry building, which we know today as Goessmann Laboratory.

On the morning of September 6, 1922, just weeks after plans for the new chemistry building were written up, the Old Chemistry Laboratory erupted in flames. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 6:30am but there was not much that could be done at that point. The building was soon engulfed in flames, but Dr. Charles Peters and other professors in the Chemistry Department were able to salvage books and some valuable equipment. Still, the flames caused over $20,000 in damages.

The origin of the fire was never determined although some believed that a Bunsen burner on a wooden bench caught fire. The fire destroyed the building mere weeks before term was due to begin, leaving numerous chemistry students and faculty without lecture halls, textbooks, laboratories, or equipment. Goessmann Laboratory was ready to be used by faculty and students in the fall of 1924, a whole two years after the fire. The site of the Old Chemistry Laboratory remained untouched until 1957 when Machmer was constructed.

Creator

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Source

UMass Special Collections and University Archives

Publisher

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Date

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Contributor

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Rights

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Relation

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Format

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Language

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Type

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Identifier

RG150-0003917, RG150-0003920, RG150-0003924, RG150-0003927

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Files

RG150-0003917.png
RG150-0003920.png
RG150-0003924.png
RG150-0003927.png
Date Added
August 31, 2012
Collection
Central Campus
Item Type
Still Image
Citation
“Old Chemistry Lab,” Lost UMass, accessed May 29, 2017, http://lostumass.omeka.net/items/show/24.