Fire: Villa Nova College, Delaware County—Serious Danger, but Slight Damage (1871)

PI, October 9, 1871, Fire at Villanova.pdf


Fire: Villa Nova College, Delaware County—Serious Danger, but Slight Damage (1871)


Philadelphia Inquirer








“On Saturday evening, about seven o’clock, a telegram was received at the Central Station, asking for assistance at the burning Catholic institution at Villa Nova, under the charge of the Augustinian Fathers, ten miles from the city, on the line of the Pennsylvania Central railroad and the Lancaster turnpike. The distance, which had to be traversed by foot, owing to the lack of “orders” on the railroad to transport Engine No. 16, from Hestonville, prevented the fire department from giving any aid. On their arrival, about eleven o’clock, the fire, which threatened destruction of the extensive college buildings, has been, with difficulty, subdued by the students and neighbors under the efficient direction of the treasurer of the institution, Rev. J. D. Waldron. The flames originated in the cellar, from the upsetting of a lamp, as the person holding it was in the act of drawing coal oil from a barrel of that combustible material.

The subsequent bursting of the barrel added fuel to the flame, and the fire rapidly spread, shrouded in dense volumes of smoke, to a pile of coal and the rafters supporting the dining-room of the professors’ residence. The college bell gave the alarm, and many buckets of water passed by the willing hands of over seventy students and fifteen professors, superintended by the coolness and executive ability of Father Waldron, soon removed the threatened destruction of three noble buildings—the college proper, the chapel and the professors’ residence. In the latter building, to which the fire was confined, was stored one of the finest theological libraries in the United States, being that saved during the riots of ’44 from the burning St. Augustine’s Church.

The presence of a barrel of gasoline, a material of highly explosive qualities, added imminent danger to the … and the building, but the novel expedient of covering the barrel and the burning coal with damp clay was resorted to with entire success.

The damage done to the floor of the dining-room and kitchen and the contents of the cellar will not reach $2000, which is fully covered by insurance. "



“Fire: Villa Nova College, Delaware County—Serious Danger, but Slight Damage (1871),” The Rooted Project , accessed May 21, 2024,

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