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News of Hill House Fire from Dr. Curtis

Dear Members of the Choate Rosemary Hall Community,

As many of you may know, Hill House was struck by lightning on Monday evening during a powerful summer storm resulting in a fire on the top floor of this historic structure. Thankfully, the building was saved due to the quick and professional response of our Community Safety Officers, Wallingford and supporting local fire departments, and our facilities team. As you can see on this map, fire damage was contained to a relatively small section of Hill House, but water damage was significant and impacted the whole of Hill House. Fortunately, the dining hall, West Wing, Hall, Library, and St. John were not affected.

Over the past few days we have taken stock of the damage and begun our planning for the future of this iconic campus building. So far this week, we have:

• restored power to the dining hall, West Wing, and Hall. These buildings were reopened for the final days of Summer Programs and will be fully functional for our community for the opening of school;

  • confirmed the extent of the damage and determined that we will not have access to Hill House for the 2019-20 academic year;
  • coordinated inspections and evaluations with our insurance carriers;
  • hired a restoration firm to remove all contents and debris. These professionals will pack up the belongings of our faculty residents until their permanent lodgings are determined. Another firm has been hired to remove and dry all papers and books from both offices and apartments;
  • met with local architects to determine alternative office locations on campus for the College Counseling and Dean of Faculty's Offices;
  • discussed with architects options for the future of Hill House, including the dormitory, offices, and common spaces it houses; and
  • investigated alternative housing options for Hill House residents for the upcoming academic year. We are still determining next steps, but at this point, we are considering a wide variety of options, including the use of existing campus buildings, temporary housing, and local host families. Returning students expecting to live in Hill House will be assigned alternate housing for the upcoming school year; the Deans' Office will be in touch with those families when the housing assignments have been made. The handful of incoming students who were slated to live in Hill House will receive their housing assignments, as all new students do, when they arrive on campus. Residents of nearby Hall, West Wing, and Library will not be affected.

I would like to close by conveying my immense gratitude for the overwhelming support that the School has received over the course of this week. In what was an unexpected and difficult moment, I was reminded of and awed by the strength, warmth, and devotion of the Choate Rosemary Hall community. Certainly, some things will be out of the ordinary when everyone returns to campus – and will likely be that way for some time – but I have no doubt that we will come through this challenge better than ever, and I look forward to getting the 2019-20 academic year underway.


Alex Curtis

Head of School