‘Fire levels dorm at Paul Smith’s College’

That was the 72-point bold headline on the Enterprise dated April 21, 1967 — a mere 52 years ago.

We were not big on bylines back then (i.e., by William J. McLaughlin), and there was no byline on this story, but I can spot Bill’s prose and poetry a mile away.

The Enterprise also carried a full page of McLaughlin’s great photos of the fire.

Following are excerpts from that story:

“Fire roared through old Dormitory Two yesterday shortly after noon at Paul Smith’s College, destroying the possessions of about 40 students housed there. No one was reported injured.

“Most occupants were at lunch but those in the building succeeded in saving some of the boys’ effects. The Bloomingdale Fire Department, one of the first on the scene, was confronted with a wall of flame already beyond the stage where effective fire-fighting measures could be employed.

“New York State Conservation Department fire trucks were also on hand because of the chance of the blaze setting the nearby woods aflame. Saranac Lake Volunteer Firemen arrived about a half-hour after the fire was reported by a student, Ed Thomas, who called the central switchboard.

“A mutual aid call brought Lake Placid Volunteer Firemen to Bloomingdale village for stand-by purposes. Some ancient fire-fighting equipment from the collage itself was utilized.

“Students fanned out into nearby woods with Indian pumps to prevent the sparks from causing damage to nearby forest acreage.

“A second dormitory about 30 yards from Dorm Two, referred to affectionately as ‘The Snake Pit’ by the students, was scorched but water was played continuously on the section nearest the burning dormitory and no emergency developed after the initial scorching.

“All manner of student belongings were stacked in the driveway area; including tape recorders, skis, tennis rackets, hi-fi units and suitcases.

“The old dormitory was originally the chauffeur’s quarters and garage for the historic Paul Smith’s Hotel and was built around the turn of the century. As a dorm it was composed of a garage and workshop on the ground level and students rooms in the upper part.

“The old dorm was a blackened cider pile about two hours after the alarm went in. An investigation into the probable cause was being conducted today. No estimate of the cost of the damage was available by press time.”