Major Depression-Era Loss at Wingate

On April 23, 1932, the Administration Building of what’s now Wingate University was destroyed by fire.

Wingate’s Administration Building before and after the 1932 fire. Image from Ethel K. Smith Library at Wingate University.At the time, the building housed the college library and chemistry labs, classrooms, an auditorium and offices. The library, which had more than 5,000 volumes at the time, and the chemistry labs were totally destroyed.

The building was valued at $50,000 and the loss was only partially covered by insurance. Some equipment and furniture in the building was saved, as were the surrounding buildings. The fire began in the boiler room, even though the furnace had not been lit for several days.

Firefighters from Monroe and Marshville tried to save the building but a lack of water pressure and the chemicals from the lab hampered their progress. Another fire that night destroyed the W. A. Chaney building nearby. An investigation into a break-in there led to suspicions that the fire was set on purpose. There were suspicions too, that the Wingate fire was intentionally set, but its cause remain undetermined.

The board of trustees voted quickly to have a new building erected before classes began the next year and began fundraising. Local Baptist churches helped as much as they could in the Depression-strapped times.

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