Historic home goes up in flames on UConn’s Storrs campus

Historic home badly damaged by fire at UConn
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 7:07 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 1:56 PM EST
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STORRS, CT (WFSB) - Firefighters were called to a building fire on the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus Friday morning.

UConn’s alert system reported around 6 a.m. that the fire was at Storrs and Oak Hill roads.

UConn deputy spokesperson Michael Enright provides a little background on the historic home that was significantly damaged by a morning fire.

UConn told people to avoid the area.

“That’s the house everyone walks by, no matter if you’re in your car or you’re just walking with your friends, you always see this house,” said Noemy Sigua, a UConn student.

A fire was reported on Storrs and Oak Hill roads on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus...
A fire was reported on Storrs and Oak Hill roads on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus the morning of Jan. 20.(UConn)

University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the building was the school’s historic Whitney House on Route 195 in front of Mirror Lake.

A historic building caught fire on the UConn Storrs campus on Jan. 20, the university reported.
A historic building caught fire on the UConn Storrs campus on Jan. 20, the university reported.(UConn)

Reitz said the Whitney House dates to around 1800. It was reported by the university that it may have been the oldest structure on campus. However, she said it appears to have been built on materials moved there from an earlier structure elsewhere. It was once the home of Edwina Whitney, an early librarian and instructor when the institution was the Connecticut Agricultural College.

The building was not being used.

The university said it had been used for many purposes in the time that it owned it, including as the International House in the 1960s and home of the Rainbow Center in the 1990s and early 2000s. Though not in use at the time of the fire, it was regularly maintained.

“It’s been used for a lot of different things over the years: Residential [and] offices,” Michael Enright, UConn’s deputy spokesperson, told Channel 3. “Fortunately, the good news with the fire right now is it was not occupied at the time. There were no university offices in it, so we’re thankful for that.”

The house was nearly fully engulfed at one point. The damage was said to be extensive.

“There’s significant damage,” Enright said. “The fire department has to do their work. The building inspectors have to do their work. It’s premature to say anything right now, but it is safe to say there’s significant damage to the home.”

“It’s kind of sad seeing this house go by,” Sigua said. “Especially since it’s the oldest one. It’s like a piece of history that’s gone from the university.”

The fire was under control as of around 8 a.m., but crews continued to locate and knock down hot spots within the walls and other parts of the building.

No injuries were reported.

Reitz said fire crews were expected to be on scene for much of the day.

Route 195 was expected to be closed along the east side of the campus. Drivers were asked to find other routes or follow detours on site.

The University’s class and work schedules were not affected.

Refresh this page and watch Eyewitness News for updates.

Firefighters responded to the fire around 6 a.m. on Friday.
Firefighters continued to check for hotspots at a historic home on the UConn Storrs campus.
UConn’s alert system reported around 6 a.m. that the fire was at Storrs and Oak Hill roads. This is raw video recorded on the scene.