Lightning silences College Hall bell

It was a dark and stormy night, and have you ever known a happy story to start that way?

A powerful storm and deafening claps of thunder early on Sept. 7 woke up people around campus and Mount Vernon. Within a few hours, a fire caused by a lightning strike had destroyed the cupola and bell on College Hall.

The strike also started a small fire in the roof and attic. Classes had to be rescheduled for one day, but damage to the interior of the building was minimal.

The college repaired the roof this fall, and will begin to rebuild the cupola and replace the bell in the spring.

President Jonathan Brand called the building and the story of its construction symbolic of the college and its mission. It was built in 1857, four years after Cornell’s founding, as the second building on campus.

“It was measured, dug, and built one story at a time by trustees, professors, students, and local craftsmen. It is the perfect emblem for Cornell’s sense of community—not just some empty unattained expression of hope but one that is enlivened by a true ‘roll-up-your-sleeves-all-together’ action,” Brand said. “The building is a treasured part of campus and is used not just for classes, but as a backdrop for Commencement and New Student Convocation, as well.”

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