Sigma Nu House Fire
Feb 1, 1965
421 N Woodland Blvd, Deland, FL, USA
I think it was the second or third year that I was working at Stetson. I lived at a house that was about half a mile from the campus and the old Sigma Nu fraternity house. It was located roughly where the Stetson library is. That street used to run all the way through. I had just gotten in bed, and I hear all of these sirens, so I thought they are getting closer and closer, and I was about a mile and a half from the campus, and I thought, “Gosh, it sounds like they had stopped on the campus.” So I ran out, grabbed some jeans and a shirt, and I actually had slippers on, so I ran out to the car and headed toward the campus. It was the old Sigma Nu house which was two and a half stories and housed about 15 or 20 guys. It had caught on fire, and it was at a great time. There were no students there fortunately. I was one of the first people there, and then a couple of others Stetson faculty members who lived in the area came by, and the business manager had gotten an immediate call, and he was about a mile away. He showed up and the President at that time was Ollie Edmunds, the man for whom the Edmund’s center is named. And Ollie was a dual Stetson graduate. He got the under and a law degree from Stetson and ended up being a judge in dupult county, and a lot of people still called him, ‘Judge.’ When he got out of the law practice and became the President of Stetson, he lived in the current President’s house which, at that time, was 150 yards from the Sigma Nu house. I was one of the first people there, because I only lived about four blocks away. A couple of other people drifted, and we were watching that fire. It was an early 20s, 1919-1920, structure. It was framed with stucco. It was a fire trap. Fortunately, there were no students there. It was the summer time. The fire trucks were there, and essentially, the fire men would just put water on the fire and the ashes, and here came President Edmunds. He had cut across from the President’s house into that area between Elizabeth Hall and the music school and came caddy-corner across to where we were. Again, the Sigma Nu house was where the library is now and a little further down in the parking lot area. His hair was all disheveled, and he had a bathrobe on and slippers, and of course, the fireman were just essentially putting water on the ashes. Ollie, we had all called him Ollie, Dr. Ollie Edmunds, and Ollie came up. The Dean of Men at that time was standing right next to me, and he said, “What in the world happened? What in the world happened?” He said, “Dr. Edmunds, we don’t know what happened, but you know that was an old building. It could have been an electrical short or whatever.”
He said, “Well, you know since we are building fraternity row, we were going to tear it down any ways,” and Ollie Edmunds background was law, and he said, “Yeah, but we weren’t going to burn it down!”
I’ll never forget that. All of us started laughing when he said that. It was sort of a tragedy even though there were no students there at that time. That could have been a real disaster. But they think it was an electrical short that started the fire, and that house was built in the 20s. It was old and was good tinder. The fire took it over quickly.