HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – A two-alarm fire that broke out Monday afternoon at the Administration Building on the Hampton University campus is believed to have been electrical in nature, a source close to the university said, though no one has yet to publicly confirm the cause.
The source told 10 On Your Side’s Michelle Wolf that the fire was an electrical fire, as staff heard crackling and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until a student ran down the hallway yelling, ‘There’s a fire.’
Hampton fire officials and Hampton University spokesperson James Parker told 10 On Your Side Tuesday the cause of the fire had not been determined. It is unclear if smoke alarms were working in the building at this time.
The fire was called in at 3:19 p.m. Monday at 610 Huntington Ave., the location of Palmer Hall, also known as the Administration Building.
A Hampton University spokesperson said all administrative staff and personnel were evacuated from the building safely, and there were no reported injuries.
University president Darrell K. Williams held an internal town hall for faculty, staff and students Tuesday.
Williams held the internal town hall for family, staff and students in the Student Center Ballroom and said he was happy with the concern students expressed for administrators.
“As president, I was very proud of the way the Hampton family responded when one portion of the campus was experiencing a bit of a crisis,” Williams said in a news release.
The town hall, with more than 400 people in attendance, featured safety updates from the campus police chief, fire chief and vice president for administrative services, who stated things were “business as usual.” There were also updates from several other university officials.
“We will work diligently to restore our beloved A Building,” Williams said, “and we encourage our Hampton family to continue to support each other as only Hamptonians know how to do.”
On Monday, Hampton City Fire Department responded to the report of a fire at Palmer Hall, known as the Administration Building, on the campus of Hampton University. All administrative staff and personnel were evacuated safely from the building.
“First and foremost, we are thankful that everyone in the Administration Building, students, faculty and staff are safe,” Williams said. “Our students in particular were never in any danger. The Hampton University community would like to thank the Peninsula first responders and our own Hampton University Fire and Police Departments for their rapid and decisive action.”
The university also said Student Counseling Center staff would be available to support people impacted.
The university said in a statement Monday evening that while the fire was under control, first responders remained on the scene to determine the fire’s cause and assess damage as the investigation continues. The university said it would provide updates as soon as they are available.
The campus stayed open and operations continued as normal Tuesday.
Students, including senior CJ Johnson, crowded together as they watched the scene unfold.
“I’ve actually never seen a fire that big in person,” Johnson told 10 On Your Side.
Johnson said he was just inside Palmer Hall a day prior and he’s sad to see the building’s rich history go up in smoke.
“It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. More people outside,” Johnson stated.
Freshman Ryan Grimes said he’s happy everyone is safe.
“I hate seeing a building burn down,” Grimes said. “Everybody’s really united. I’m glad to see everybody’s in good spirits, happy, healthy and safe.”
The university said it was awaiting an official update on the cause of the fire from Hampton Division of Fire & Rescue, and that the rest of the campus would stay open for business as usual until further notice.
Chopper 10 flew over the building as it burned Monday afternoon. Video showed ladder trucks hosing the fire on the roof of the building, and dozens of people gathered near the scene of the fire, which appeared to be contained to the administrative building on the campus.
Smoke from the fire, however, could be seen for several miles and was billowing over parts of the campus.
Firefighters were on multiple ladder trucks working to hose the fire from different parts of the roof.
According to Hampton University graduate and historian Veronica Alese Davis, the building was originally built in 1882 and known then as the Marshall Building, and was last renovated in the 1990s. It housed the library museum, classrooms, the principal’s office and the treasurer’s office. There was an addition to the building in 1916.
The People Savings Bank, which was the first Black bank on the Peninsula, was located in the building.
Davis said Hampton students built the buildings.
“They were the ones that laid each bricks, that way they would take it more seriously,” Davis said. “That’s why for generations after generations that came after them they held this campus in such a high regard. They built each one of these buildings. It was built by Blacks for Blacks.”
The new portion is called the Palmer Building and that was built in 1916, which housed 23 offices, two vaults, second floor, and a museum.
“The question is weather or not those vaults are still there and if anything in there was damaged,” Davis said.
Davis prays the building will be restored.
“I just don’t want them to tell me that that they are going to have to demolish the building.”
She is hopeful Hampton University alumni will support the new president and students on campus.
“We are a family here,” Davis said. “The employees are family, our students are family.”
On Tuesday, Williams held a private campus town hall. The HU president also went back to the administration building to assess the damage, according to a now-deleted social media post. The damaged building is home to his office among others campus leaders, according to the university’s website.
Counseling is available for Hampton University students following the fire.
Check with WAVY.com for updates.