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Fire, of undetermined origin, completely destroyed the Soldiers Field Locker Building early this morning. The three-alarm blaze, which commenced a few minutes before midnight, gained such a start that the three dozen odd pieces of apparatus and their complement of fire fighters were absolutely helpless to extinguish the flames. A crowd of upwards of 4,500, made up largely of students, watched hungry flames turn into belching smoke and a tangled mass of debris all of the medical equipment of the Athletic Association, trophies of generations of Harvard victories, over 300 complete football outfits, 100-odd baseball uniforms, and miscellaneous equipment of the track, lacrosse, soccer, and other minor sports squads.
Despite this large loss, a major portion of which is believed to be covered by insurance, a less disastrous fire for Harvard could hardly have occurred, since plans had already been made to replace the antiquated thirty-five year old structure with a modern field house. It has been known in Cambridge since early last fall that Clarence Dillon '05, of New York City, has offered the University a sum large enough for a new and adequate building. It could not be learned this morning whether the razing of the old Locker Building would cause a shift in plans calling for an immediate start on the new structure.
According to arrangements still indefinite, the new field house will occupy a position behind and to one side of the Briggs Memorial baseball cage, roughly where the first bank of tennis courts is now located. This would necessitate moving the stables from their present location, a project that has long been under consideration.
According to witnesses who arrived at the conflagration soon after its inception, the first flames burst through the roof in the central part of the building a few minutes after midnight. By 12.30 o'clock, as fresh contingents of firefighters arrived from various Boston, Allston, and Cambridge stations, the flames had already soared to a height at least twice that of the building, coloring the murky, rainladen sky with a deep crimson hue, visible for miles around.
At a quarter of one, an explosion, probably in the basement of the building catapulted a veritable geyser of flame and black smoke high into the heavens, spraying with a shower of glowing embers the spectators and Business School buildings, which were to the leeward of the raging inferno. Bright, sporadic flashes of newspaper photographers' powder charges lent a Fourth of July twist to a typical New England winter night. By 1.05, half a dozen hardy firemen drew a cheer from the throng when they struggled on the lean-to roof behind the central section of the doomed building carrying with them hoses and axes to attack the fire from close range.
It was plain by this time, however, that their efforts would be of little avail, for the flames were already showing signs of subsiding through sheer lack of sustaining fuel. At 5.30 o'clock this morning, the smouldering embers and skeleton walls were a mute testimony to the tinderbox qualities and inadequacy of Soldier Field's superannuated and condemned athletic center.
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