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The Great Fire of 1912: The Blaze That Built Maryland

October 18, 2012

David Ottalini, 301-405-4076 or

MAC Before the Great Fire of 1912

By Lauren Brown

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The buildings were still smoldering as day broke on Nov. 30, 1912. Exhausted cadets stood among the scattered effects salvaged the night before: damaged trunks, a charred bureau or chair, a basket of papers. They and their dinner-dance dates, still wearing party dresses stained and reeking of smoke, stared at the ruins before them.

The Barracks and the Administration Building— the heart of the Maryland Agricultural College—had housed all 265 cadets as well as the mess halls, all the offices and records, and the departments of languages and mathematics. Now they were an unrecognizable, blackened heap of brick and stone.

The inexplicable catastrophe might easily have shuttered the little college on the hill. Instead, MAC emerged from the ashes of the Great Fire to reshape its mission, ownership, physical appearance and orientation, and enrollment—its entire identity. It rallied determined students, faculty, alumni and state leaders to lay the groundwork for a far more ambitious institution, one that became the University of Maryland.

TerpVision 7: The Great Fire of November 29, 1912 

Listen to the oral history of Ken Grace - a student at Maryland Agricultural College at the time of the Great Fire. Interview by Art Brodsky on November 21, 1973.


Read the Complete Terp Magazine Feature about The Great Fire of 1912
See the University Archives Feature on the Great Fire that includes photos, oral histories and more.