P.O. Box 226. Law Offices of Charles Sharp.
Telephone 511. Sharp & Hughes, Robert M. Hughes.
Take the Elevator. Columbia Building, Granby Street,
Rooms 504-6. Fifth Floor
Norfolk, Va. November 26th, 1895.
Mr. Armistead C. Gordon,
I have been intending to write to you on the subject
of the University fire for some time, but my engagements in court
lately have been very engrossing and I have not had the opportunity
The late fire at the University was the second one which has
occurred since I left there in 1877. It surprises me that they
did not have there the slightest semblance of a fire organization.
The people present at the fire told me that the greatest trouble was
the lack of a head. I understand that everybody was boss; that
what one professor ordered another countermanded; and that this
is really accountable for the failure to save the books.
I take the liberty of suggesting for the consideration of the
Board that they organize some form of fire department. You have
a superintendent there and, doubtless, at least a dozen servants,
and they should be required to have a regular fire drill and some
simple fire apparatus. If no other good were accomplished by
it, it would at least have the advantage of putting somebody in
charge at the fire and preventing interference by anybody else.
The fire at the Medical Hall several years ago, it seems to me,
ought to have taught them this, but, as apparently it has not, I
think the Board of Directors ought, as a guardian of the University,
to move in the matter. I do not know a steamboat, a hotel, a wharf
or a transfer company, or manufacturing plant around here which does
not have an organization like this, and that although we have a
splendid fire department here. Many a fire is taken in time and
extinguished before the arrival of the department, or kept under such
control that the efforts of the department are certain to be
successful. How a great institution like the University, with its
corps of permanent residents and employees, could have been all this
time without something of the sort, passes my understanding.
The superintendent during the fire, I understand, instead of taking
charge and managing things according to some system, was chiefly
engrossed in throwing dynamite at a structure that any engineer
ought to have known would not be affected by it. The lack of such
an organization among the authorities there, faculty and others,
is so surprising that it almost looks like imbecility.
I say these things with great reluctance, as you know the place
is not only full of personal friends, but relatives; but my love
for the University is greater efen [sic] that [sic] these, and I therefore write
to you making the suggestions for what they are worth. I rely on
you, however, not to use my letter in any way which would cause
me to lose any of the friends I have there.
Robt. M. Hughes