Completed in 1868, Old Main Building served as the heart of Wells College until 1888. Situated across the bridge from Henry Wells’s house at Glen Park, Old Main served as the only building of the college for a period of time. The building was built with brick and stone, and, as she does today, a statue of Minerva stood at the entrance. The first floor had 14 rooms, including a parlor, library, office for the president, music room, and school room. The second and third floor had 160 sleeping-rooms.
At about 1:30 in the morning on August 9th, 1888, Old Main was destroyed by fire. The fire started in the basement kitchen. The students were on summer vacation, and some of the valuable art works had also been removed from the building due to the vacation. However, everything left in the building was destroyed, including things left by the students during the vacation, a portrait of Governor Seward. Everything in the library was destroyed.
The destruction of the building did not deter the college, however. Although the start of fall classes was delayed two weeks, the college was able to house students in the village of Aurora and classes were held in Morgan Hall. An appeal was sent out for books to furnish the library, and plans were made to rebuild at the same site. The new building would have the same name- Main Building, still in use at the heart of Wells College.
Information and picture taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.
Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library