Elon University to commemorate 100th anniversary of ‘rising from the ashes’ throughout 2023

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, the university kicked off a year-long commemoration of the transformative 1923 fire that devastated the campus and proved to be a defining moment in Elon’s growth and evolution during the past century.  

Elon University is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the devastating fire that transformed its campus and proved to be a defining moment in the university’s history. Throughout this year, the university will host a wide variety of events to celebrate the resilience and innovation that have been central to the university’s history since that day in 1923.

On Jan. 18, 1923, an early-morning blaze destroyed Elon’s Administration Building, also called Main Building, as well as most of the college’s records, books and furnishings. The disaster could have meant the end of Elon College, which was founded just 34 years earlier, but the resilience of the college’s students, faculty and staff along with the resounding support of the Alamance County community and friends of the college laid the foundation for a new Elon.

Classes were held the very next day at other locations on campus and in the community, and within weeks, a plan to build a bigger and better Elon was underway, as supporters kicked off a fundraising campaign for new buildings and a more robust endowment.

The ruins of the Administration Building following the early morning fire of Jan. 18, 1923.

With the theme “Rising from the Ashes: A Century of Innovation,” Elon is planning a series of events for members of the university community and local residents to learn more about the legacy of the 1923 fire and to celebrate how Elon has not only recovered but thrived. To mark the anniversary of the fire, the university has shared a video offering an overview of the fire and launched a website — www.elon.edu/1923 — with resources about Elon’s resurgence and details of upcoming events planned as part of the year-long commemoration.

At the time of the fire, Elon had only a few dozen students enrolled. Today, Elon has more than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six schools, a campus of more than 650 acres and an alumni family of more than 38,000. The university recently concluded its historic Elon LEADS campaign that generated $260 million for university priorities and positioned the university for continued growth and innovation in the decades ahead.

The groundbreaking in March 1923 for Alamance Building, the first new building to be built at Elon College following the devastating fire on Jan. 18, 1923.

This morning, Elon welcomed members of fire departments in Alamance County to The Inn at Elon for a community breakfast to say thank you for the service they provide to residents and businesses throughout the county. President Connie Ledoux Book visited the Town of Elon Fire Department to offer a special “thank you” to the department, which was founded in the wake of the fire at the college.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Elon will host a special College Coffee on Phi Beta Kappa Plaza with commemorative items for attendees as the spring semester gets underway. Other events throughout the year include a campus conversation focused on the fire and rebuilding on Feb. 3, a panel discussion about the last century of innovation at Elon on Feb. 28. A large event that will highlight the “Century of Innovation” at Elon is planned for this fall, with details to come.

The university’s 1923 Commemoration website contains more information about the fire and the rebuilding as well as a list of observances planned throughout the year that will be updated as more details are finalized.