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Today we share the second photograph in our From the Archives series. This photo shows a moment that changed the face of Purdue’s campus.

What exactly is happening in this image and what was its result?


On Jan. 19, 1894, Purdue dedicated a new mechanical engineering laboratory building on campus named after benefactor Amos Heavilon. The new structure was the pride of campus with state-of-the-art equipment and an eye-catching tower. Only four days after its dedication, however, a gas explosion in the boiler room sparked a fire that quickly spread throughout the building. Helpless crowds gathered to watch Purdue’s newest building burn to the ground. Aside from a few salvaged pieces of machinery, the building was a total loss.

Heavilon Hall after the fire (William Chester Halstead photographs, MSA 262)

The day after the fire, Purdue President James H. Smart drew upon the imagery of the Heavilon tower and vowed that it would be rebuilt “one brick higher.” Thanks to generous donations and fundraising efforts, the second Heavilon Hall was dedicated on December 4, 1895, less than two years after the fire. Ever since Smart’s speech in 1894, “one brick higher” has been a rallying cry spurring the Purdue community to ever greater heights.

Congratulations to the many respondents who knew the answer!

20 Responses to “From the Archives Photo Challenge Part 2”

  1. David Musi

    Original Heavilon hall is on fire. This led to the “one brick higher” comment.

  2. Howard Zeleaznik

    Heavilon Hall fire … Led to the “one-brick higher” quote.

  3. Alexander Gulik

    Heavilon Hall burned down after being open for 4 days in 1894.

  4. Sally Carter

    Heavilon Hall #1 fire, 1894

  5. LilyPurdue

    I am wondering if this is the fire that burned down the original clock tower that was on the original Heavilon Hall.

  6. Paul Moses

    The fire at Heavilon Hall, 1894.
    What was the name of the locomotive inside at the time? ….The Schenectady.

  7. Ron

    Fire of the original Heavilion Hall, opened the area for the construction of the Chemistry Building (WTHR)

  8. Matt Pharris

    It’s the first Heavilon Hall burning down back in the 1890s. The hall was re-built “one brick higher”!

  9. June Foster


  10. Rob Campbell

    Fire destroys the original Heavilon Hall in January, 1894.

  11. Jeanine Gnang

    Heavilon Hall fire that occurred in 1894.

  12. Cindy Salazar

    I believe this is the original Brown Chemistry building fire.

  13. Andy Robison

    Heavilon Hall fire, January 1894. Structure destroyed but from the smoldering ashes came Purdue President James Smart’s triumphant call to action, the famous “One Brick Higher” challenge.

  14. Marlayna Chaney

    My coworker Bruce Dexter seems to know everything about campus, he said he believes this is the original Heavilon Hall going up in smoke a few days after it was built!

  15. Ally Goodrich

    This is 1894 and the original fire at Heavilon Hall. This tragedy brought us the 1-brick higher program.

  16. Ellen Rantz

    As others have already indicated, this is the fire that destroyed Heavilon Hall, leading President Elliott (I think) to declare that “we will build one brick higher.”

  17. Terry Jones

    This looks like the Armory fire. Which destroyed the building.

  18. Debbie Rishel

    This looks like the Heavilon Hall fire that took out the original bell tower.

  19. Ralph Mickey

    This is the fire that was really from the secret party by faculty that featured indoor fireworks and a variety of drinks.

  20. Barb Welch

    This picture shows the fire at the original Heavilon Hall shortly after its completion. Pres. Short vowed to rebuild “one brick higher.”

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