Foundation of 1883 Main Building Uncovered

Today workers uncovered the original foundation of McDonogh's Main Building, an expansive brick structure constructed in 1883 and destroyed by fire in 1928. They made the discovery while digging to expose underground pipes needing repair.

Also uncovered was a terra cotta ornament from the old facade, along with a rusty ice skate blade. These and several bricks, including one inscribed "Grafton, West Virginia," were taken to the Archives.

The Main Building's footprint was close to where the Allan Building stands now. Its main entrance was located at approximately the center front window of the Kiplinger Library.

According to an article published in The Week, November 3, 1928, the fire was detected in the basement linen room of Main Building in the early morning hours of October 23. It spread through the walls to the roof, destroying classrooms and dormitories. By noon the next day, only the north end remained standing.

All the boys got out safely, alerted by a bugler's fire call. Teachers managed to fling the boys' Sunday uniforms and overcoats out the dormitory windows before fleeing. Also saved were the most valuable sets of books from the library, a marble bust of Col. William Allan, the safe, some school papers, and portraits of "the men who had built up McDonogh."

Despite the disaster, school remained in session that year. Carpenters quickly outfitted the gym with 150 wooden bunks. Classes took place in Jane Bay dorm rooms until temporary spaces were erected a few days later.

"No one complained, and everyone seemed to think our fire, like the Baltimore fire of 1904, would soon be regarded as a blessing to McDonogh. For it cleared the way, we hope, to a larger and more efficient plant."

Allan Building replaced "Old Main" in 1929.

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McDonogh School | 410.363.0600 |
8600 McDonogh Road | Owings Mills | Maryland | 21117