On January 4, 1911, a fire in the dormitory portion of the Washington Duke Building destroyed the structure, just as students had started to return to campus for spring semester. In those days, candles and kerosene lamps were used to light dorm rooms.
The Washington Duke Building was one of seven buildings constructed in 1892 with funds donated by Washington Duke (father of James Buchanan Duke), as part of the relocation of Trinity College from Randolph County to Durham. At first, it was called the Main College Building and comprised fifty-six dormitory rooms, twelve lecture rooms and offices, and, on every floor but the first, "bathing" apartments. In 1896, it was renamed to honor Duke.
Today, the East Duke Building stands almost on the same site. All that remains of the former structure is the Ann Roney Fountain, which marks the former entrance to the building. While nearly forgotten as a campus structure, the Washington Duke Building's tower will be remembered: An East Campus dormitory currently under construction will include a tower that resembles the Washington Duke tower and will house the campus bell.
After the Fire
January 31, 2005