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We’ve written before about the evolution of Bascom Hall since its construction in 1859, including the 1916 fire that caused its last major transformation. Before the fire, Bascom Hall sported an ornate dome to command the attention of campus. After all, it was called Main Hall at the time. No one seems to know what caused the fire that destroyed this dome on October 10, 1916. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to blame faulty wiring, unregulated building codes, or even the haunted history of Bascom Hill. We can tell you what ended the fire, though: a massive student effort and a giant water tank. Photos documenting the disaster show hundreds of UW students bringing water to slow the fire’s spread. The main building and its two wings were ultimately saved when the ceiling of the burning dome collapsed into an old water tank held in the dome itself. To quote the Badger Herald, “University of Wisconsin students watched their future burn brighter than ever before.”

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UW Homecoming week is October 25–30. Learn more about all the in-person and online events — and continue the tradition.