Ninety-two years ago today, a disastrous fire broke out in one of Salem’s most important buildings. Faulty electrical wiring was blamed for the fire that nearly destroyed Salem High School, located then on Broad Street. Flames broke out just after midnight on January 19, 1931—curiously, it was the day mid-year exams were set to begin. The fire spread through classrooms and laboratories, bringing the roof crashing down. A large dome fell into the library, ruining what books were not already charred. Athletic equipment was about all that was saved.
At an assembly at the Salem Theatre the very next day, the approximately 400 students learned the temporary locations of their classrooms and where they’d be taking exams: most at the Courthouse, Roanoke College, or at one of Salem’s churches. The fire heated up plans to build a long-desired new high school. Andrew Lewis High School opened on College Avenue in 1933. The school building on Broad Street was renovated with the help of insurance. Today, the building is Salem City Hall.
The Salem Museum’s Champions Gallery has a jersey on display that was rescued from the fire, as well as more stories from Salem High School’s history. The Salem Museum is located at 801 E Main Street and open Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.