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Fire hits historic UNC building

Sprinklers kept an early morning fire from spreading in a 19th-century building at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, fire officials said.

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Gerrard Hall
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — An early-morning fire hit a 19th-century building at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Saturday, but automatic sprinklers kept the fire from spreading, fire officials said.

The Chapel Hill Fire Department responded to an automatic fire alarm in Gerrard Hall, 160 E. Cameron Ave., at 3:14 a.m. Crews found a fire inside the building, but the sprinklers had already partially extinguished it, Assistant Fire Marshal Tommy Gregory said in a release.

Firefighters laid down a supply line and contained the blaze at its place of origin before putting it out.

Gregory said that fire caused an estimated $50,000 worth of damage to Gerrard Hall, mostly at the point of origin. The first floor sustained smoke and water damage.

UNC maintenance workers have started cleaning up and restoring the fire alarm and sprinkler system.

The UNC public-safety department was investing the cause of the fire.

Gerrard Hall is a UNC landmark, built between 1822 and 1837 and used as a chapel through the 1800s, according to the University's Web site.

The hall's small auditorium is still used for speeches and other events and has hosted Presidents Polk, Buchanan and Wilson and poets George Moses Horton and Langston Hughes. A scene in the Robin Williams movie "Patch Adams" was filmed there.

The hall was named after Maj. Charles Gerrard, who left 14,000 acres of land to the university at his death in 1797.


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