50 Years Later: Remembering the Fire

On this day, The White Mountain School remembers the fire that destroyed the Main House of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains and the distance we’ve come since then.

On this day, The White Mountain School remembers the great fire that destroyed the Main House of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains. 50 years ago, a fire sparked in the early hours of the morning on January 3, 1964 consumed the Headmaster’s office, the kitchen, the dining halls, the music room, the library, the study hall, the infirmary, and rooms belonging to 27 students. Fortunately, the fire occurred over Winter Break, so no students were in attendance and no lives were lost, but the fire’s path was truly devastating and it placed the trustees of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains in a difficult position. They were faced with a decision: shut the school down in the wake of the disaster, or carry on to bigger and brighter things.

They made the right decision.

The fire’s great importance in our School’s history stems not only from the destruction it wrought and the changes it made to the layout of our campus, but also as a symbol of what this School is capable of when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. Fifty years ago, the Main House was destroyed and the future seemed unsure. Today, the McClane Building stands proudly where Main House once did, with the beautiful new Catherine Houghton Arts Center rising up behind it and the recently constructed Fred Steele Science Center alongside it.

In the January, 1964 edition of the Telemark, the editor writes, “Although we can never replace the charm and majesty of Main House, no fire will ever destroy the spirit of St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains.” And though 50 years have passed and St. Mary’s is now known as The White Mountain School, it is still true.

Read authentic documents surrounding the fire and our School’s recovery here:

News Story: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Board Chairman’s Letter: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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