Local News

Fire in UNC building ruled arson

Posted November 12, 2008 3:40 p.m. EST

— Campus police have determined a weekend fire inside a historic University of North Carolina building was set.

Randy Young, the spokesman for UNC Police, said Wednesday that investigators are handling the fire at Gerrard Hall as an arson case. He declined to provide details of the evidence they have collected to support that allegation.

The Chapel Hill Fire Department responded to an automatic fire alarm in Gerrard Hall, at 160 E. Cameron Ave., at 3:14 a.m. Saturday. The sprinkler system inside the 19th-century building kept the fire from spreading, authorities said.

The first floor of the building sustained about $50,000 in fire, smoke and water damage, authorities said.

The UNC landmark was built between 1822 and 1837 and used as a chapel through the 1800s, according to the university's Web site.

A small auditorium is still used for speeches and other events and has hosted presidents Polk, Buchanan and Wilson as well as comedian Robin Williams, who filmed a scene for his movie "Patch Adams" there.

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