A local newspaper published an article on Monday, Feb. 2, 1959, about a building fire deliberately set the previous day on the Maryland State College campus. It reportedly read, in part:
"Princess Anne, MD - February 1 - (A) Scientifically controlled inferno this crisp, near cloudless Sunday morning began reducing DelCon Hall, a 67-year-old (condemned) wooden structure, to glowing embers and hot ashes while over 2,000 spectators looked on with mixed emotions."
For Maryland State, 1959 was a significant year: the fire-induced demolition of "DelCon" eliminated the last remaining physical symbol of the school’s early affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal church. An aerial photo† from the mid-1950s shows the structure was behind the south wing of the administration building (Maryland Hall), and faced Waters Hall in the center of what would become the Academic Oval.
A college yearbook appeared for the first time in 1959 and featured a one-page tribute to DelCon Hall. It apparently was ghost-written by education professor Waldo Kiah, son of Thomas H. Kiah, the institution's fifth principal. His account follows:
* * *
"The building … was not in reality one … but two buildings, Eliza Smith hall and DelCon hall. Smith hall, the older of the two, was erected in 1892*, as a charitable expression by Mr. Dexter Smith of Springfield, Mass. in memory of his daughter, Eliza.
"This structure has served its day and many generations in numerous useful, helpful ways. It was originally built to house women students. Instructional requirements demanded its first floor space … accommodate the home economics department; a sewing laboratory on the east side of the hall and a foods’ laboratory on the west side.
"This requirement robbed Eliza Smith Hall of eight of its dormitory rooms, and housing was a problem. After a few years of crowded living, the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Church came to the rescue of its Academy by appropriating approximately $8,000 for the building of a new dormitory for women students.
"With student labor, DelCon Hall was erected and occupied in 1915; a four-story, 44-room, full-basement building with its (own) individual heating system. This addition relieved the crowded living environment of the women students and made possible the admission of more.
"DelCon Hall received its name from the name of the (Methodist) Conference, which at that time was (the academy's) chief sponsor, DEL from 'Delaware,' CON from 'conference.'
"Near the end of the spring semester of 1943, Murphy Hall, a new dormitory for women, was completed and the ladies left these now-aging premises for more modern facilities, and the men students were moved from their improvised housing areas to the DelCon Hall unit. At the same time, the Eliza Smith Hall served as quarters for faculty apartments and rooms.
"Somerset Hall, a dormitory for men, was completed in 1949, and many of the men students moved to the new dormitory. The first two stories of DelCon Hall were still used for regular housing, and the third story was used to house visiting (sports) teams.
"At the opening of the fall semester, 1950, Harford Hall was opened to satisfy student housing, and DelCon Hall was renovated to accommodate faculty families and single faculty and staff members.
"In 1948, a shift was made in housing on the first floor of the Eliza Smith Hall, in order to accommodate the Music Department and this Music Department, with its facilities and activities, added warmth and gaiety for Eliza Smith Hall's last days.
"For those like Mr. Waldo Kiah, the author of this story, who (called) this their home, and who have travailed at Maryland State College for an extensive period, there was a feeling of remorse as flames ate into the vitals of a once-stalwart frame. "To see her succumb to the torrid fury of raging flames could not be called a moment of glee."
"Her frame went up in flame and smoke, but the memories and history of the service rendered will ever be an indestructible shrine in the hearts and minds of many men and women. Paraphrasing a portion of our … Alma Mater:
"And may her memory ever be
A sacred shrine whence men shall see
Her beacon light of truth."
†- A revealing caption for the aerial photograph in the 1959 yearbook reads: "B. B. D. H. and building 2 staff apartment houses." The acronym stands for "Before burning of Delcon Hall."
* - An 1893 Morgan College catalog stated Smith hall would be ready for occupancy for the fall term; a Nov. 1893 newspaper article confirms it was dedicated that fall.