Roofing contractors this morning (Feb. 26) accidentally started a fire that resulted in a large emergency response but caused only minimal damaged to the historic Woodhull House on the Lawrenceville School campus in the 2500 block of Route 206 (Main Street/Lawrence Road).
Built in the late 19th century as one of the private boarding school’s student dormitories, the Queen Anne-style building is in the process of having its roof replaced, according to Jennifer Szwalek, the school’s director of communications.
The roofers were soldering pieces of copper flashing when they accidentally ignited one of the building’s dormers, township fire officials said, noting that the roofers quickly formed a “bucket brigade” to carry pails of water up a ladder to keep the flames in check until firefighters arrived.
Dispatched at 9:44 a.m., the township’s daytime duty crew of career firefighters and volunteer firefighters from Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville fire companies relieved the roofers of suppression efforts and extinguished the remaining smoldering fire. The blaze was officially declared under control at 10:07 a.m.
“All the students were in exams this morning and the building was only occupied by the house custodian, who evacuated immediately. No other evacuation was necessary,” Szwalek said.
She said actual fire damage was minimal, but there was some water damage that ran into a student’s bedroom and the housemaster quarters.
Lawrenceville School’s website offers these details about the building’s history:
Built in 1885 as one of the original Circle Houses, Woodhull House was named for Henry Woodhull Green, brother of school benefactor John Cleve Green. The house was destroyed by fire in 1892 but was completely rebuilt in the same year. As a result, the house flag is black and gold with a phoenix in the center. The phoenix is a mythical bird said to be perpetually reborn from the ashes of its previous existence.
While Lawrence Township firefighters were busy on the Lawrenceville School campus, firefighters from Pennington Borough and Princeton relocated equipment and manpower into Lawrence Township as a precaution to stand by in case another emergency occurred.