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Cox: Memories of Fire

By Samuel Z. Goldhaber

When Archibald Cox '34 discussed the Women's Center occupation last week, he referred repeatedly to memories of Lawrence Hall, which was taken over last April 12 by the Free University and which burned down accidentally on May 7.

With Lawrence Hall, the City urged Harvard to vacate the building. But last week, it was the University which pressured the City and Middlesex County to end the women's occupation of 888 Memorial Drive.

William J. Cremins, Chief of the Cambridge Fire Department, said Thursday that three City departments sent official reports to Harvard last year stating that Lawrence Hall violated City codes.

Memoranda were issued by the supervisor of Housing and Sanitation, the Building Department, and the Electrical Department, Cremins said.

Harvard failed to act and, as the three-alarm fire raged, a wall fell on four firemen. Two of the men, including Cremins himself, escaped with non-permanent injuries.

Two other men, Cremins said, "will never be able to return to active firefighting. One man had serious back, leg, and hip injuries, including multiple fractures. The other will limp for the rest of his life."

"It was one of the most serious fires last year. In the top five, I suppose," Cremins said.

Cox said last week that "the responsibility for the decision not to compel the unauthorized occupants to vacate Lawrence Hall was chiefly mine."

On the defensive after the Lawrence Hall tragedy, Cox switched to an offense strategy in the Women's Center occupation. Taking the initiative, he decided his best tactic would be to use the City departments to his advantage.

Harvard shut off heat and light in the building, which had a poor electric wiring system, and then asked the City's Health Department to determine whether the women might be in danger.

Harvard also requested a temporary restraining order from Middlesex County's Superior Court and after it was issued, pointed out that the County judge might decide to bust if Harvard remained inactive.

By using the City and County governments, Cox has guarded against a repeat of Lawrence Hall, where local officials turned back to Harvard and said, "We told you so."

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