COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WUSA) -- Anne Turkos, the University of Maryland archivist, calls it one of the most significant events in the 156 year-history of the College Park campus. No, not Monday's move to the Big Ten athletic conference, but a huge fire almost exactly 100 years ago that burned much of the University to the ground.
"By dawn the next day there was a pile of smoldering ruins," Turkos said.
It was November 29, 1912. The College Park campus consisted then of only about 200 students, all men, and only a handful of buildings, two of of which burned completely to the ground when a massive broke out around 10-thirty at night.
"They lost all the dormitory space, they lost the dining hall, the chapel, the library," according to Turkos.
One hundred years later, the cause of the fire is still not known. Some people theorize that it was started by faulty electrical work in one of the buildings that burned down while others believe that oily rags in one of the buildings simply self-combusted.
Turkos says while it's true that we don't know the cause, we definitely know the effects of the fire, details of which are described in a plaque right in the middle of campus.
"We had a chance to kind of reinvent ourselves and re-examine the direction that the university was going to go in,"Turkos said.
According to Turkos, after University administrators got over the initial shock of losing much of the campus, over the next few years, they rebuilt the school, making it bigger and better than before.
"Many people have kind of laughingly said it was like a Terrapin rising from the ashes," Turkos said.
The fire caused about 250-thousand dollars worth of damage. The equivalent of nearly six-million in 2012 dollars. Fortunately, no one was killed.