A historic building on the Plymouth State University campus was saved from serious damage after an apparent lightning strike started a fire on Oct. 20.
A barn adjoining Holmes House was hit just before 5 p.m. when a violent electrical storm moved through the region.
University Police Lt. Pete Chierichetti arrived at Holmes a few minutes later to unlock a basement room. He smelled smoke and noticed emergency lights on. Chierichetti, a volunteer firefighter in Wentworth, discovered that the smoke was coming from the attic and immediately called the Plymouth Fire Department.
The Plymouth firefighters responded without delay and extinguished the blaze within 10 minutes. Damage was limited to a barn wall and interior hallway and is estimated at $10,000, according to the Plymouth Fire Department.
“We were very lucky, very fortunate that a police officer was there to call it in,” said Captain John Olmstead of the Plymouth Fire Department.
“We are grateful to the Plymouth Fire Department for their fast response and effective work in putting the fire out,” said PSU President Sara Jayne Steen. “Older buildings can go up very quickly, and we are pleased that no one was hurt and the damage was kept to a minimum.”
Holmes House has a long and rich association with the University’s various academic institutions. The 170-year-old structure once served as faculty housing for Holmes Plymouth Academy, the first educational institution on the site where PSU stands today. Dr. Ernest Silver, the eighth president of Plymouth Teachers College, lived in the house from 1944–49. The house was purchased by the University System of New Hampshire in 1989 from Dr. Silver’s 101-year-old widow, Gertrude Shaw Silver. Since then, it has been used for Residential Life staff offices.—Bruce Lyndes
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