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Losses Minor In Tower Fire

Collections Damaged as 20th Floor Burns

The twentieth floor of the University Tower was lashed by fire Aug. 10, causing extensive damage to that section of the building and destroying portions of the many collections stored in the area.

Sparks from torches used by workers installing air-conditioning equipment in the building caused the fire, W.L. Heaton, city fire marshal, said.

Charles Sparenberg, University comptroller, said at the time of the investigation that if the contractors started the fire they would pay for damages with their public liability policy. McCarty-Conley Co., Inc., which has a contract to air-condition six campus buildings, has from $100,000 to $300,000 maximum in Traveler’s Insurance for bodily injury.

University officials feared at the time that several complete collections, including the Goblitzelle Theater Collection, were lost in the blaze. An inventory made after the fire revealed that most of the collections were not seriously damaged.

IN A STATEMENT issued two days after the fire, W.W. Heath, chairman of the Board of Regents, said the Hoblitzelle Theater Collection was intact, with damage restricted to dampness suffered by the Albert Davis Collection of theatrical materials.

The Downing Collection of theatrical books and manuscripts was not damaged, Heath said. The Kendall Collection, which includes the Harry Houdini Collection on magic and the P.T. Barnum Collection on circus, was damaged by water and smoke, but only a small proportion destroyed. Much of the Barnum Collection was said to be restorable.

The Bel Geddes Collection of theatrical designs was left unscathed, Heath said, although some original industrial designs and projects, located elsewhere, were destroyed.

Water-damaged objects included motion picture materials from the E.V. Richards Collection, sheet music from the Interstate Circuit Incorporated Music Collection and musical comedy manuscripts of Jule Styne Collection.

The Ernest Lehmann, King Vidor, and Mike Wallace collections of manuscripts, photographs, and production data suffered only slight smoke damage.

NO INJURIES were suffered by occupants of the Tower. Three firemen were overcome by smoke and were taken to Brackenridge Hospital.

The initial alarm was turned in at 11:26 a.m. by Mrs. Patricia Morrison, a research assistant and spring graduate, and by 1 p.m. the fire was under control and restricted to an air shaft in the northwest part of the twentieth floor. The fire was out by 1:55 p.m.

THE FIREMEN HAD to drag hoses up the 20 stories of stairs instead of using the elevator because of the possibility of short-circuiting it, thus leaving workers on upper floors stranded. Water was pumped up to the twentieth floor, and it gushed down the elevator shaft and stairs onto other floors of the building.

Graves W. Landrum, assistant to the chancellor, said inspection of the basic structure of the Tower showed no dangerous effects from the fire or water seepage.

Daily Texan. September 14, 1965.
Article by: Unknown

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3 May 1999
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