It may come as a surprise to some that Washington Adventist University, previously known as Columbia Union College, had more structures on campus than it does today. One such structure was Columbia Hall, an administration building dedicated on February 20, 1919. It occupied the space on Flower Avenue, across from Sligo Church that is now used as a parking lot.
Columbia Hall lives in infamy as the structure that was destroyed by a devastating fire on February 19, 1970. Approximately 35 fire trucks and 150 firemen joined forces to fight the blaze, which kept them busy from 9:30 that evening till 9:30 the next morning.
Memories of Columbia Hall are kept by the students, faculty, staff of WAU of that era and until recently, one of the firefighters who attempted to save the building more than 42 years ago.
Robert “Robs” Kimball was a volunteer firefighter of Chillum/Adelphi Fire Department. Although unsuccessful in putting out the fire, he managed to salvage a display case with Columbia Union College’s name imprinted on it—a gift to the institution six years earlier from the class of 1964. Heavily encased in metal, it survived the blaze and eventually found a home at Kimball’s mother’s house, where he lived.
Kimball recently passed away and in March, 2012, his brother, Charles, found the sign in the basement of his mother’s home and called the WAU’s Alumni Office. A team from the University visited the house where the late fireman had been using the case to display his firefighting memorabilia, and brought it back to the campus.
It is now housed in the lower level of Weis Library along with other Columbia Union College memorabilia.