NEW YORK — The fire-ravaged Main Building on Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus will easily require months of repairs before it will be safe enough for students to return to class there.
That was the word from Brooklyn fire officials Friday night after an early-morning four-alarm blaze swept through the historic structure earlier in the day. Thirty-nine fire engines were called to the scene at 2:13 a.m., with 168 firefighters battling the blaze for two hours. A team of fire marshals is currently investigating the cause, according to Jim Long, director of public information for the Brooklyn Fire Department.
The most substantial damage was found on the fifth and sixth floors of the building, which houses art studios, among other things. That area must be cleared up and structurally stabilized before students will be allowed to return. There is also extensive water and smoke damage throughout the building, Long said.
The fire did not spread beyond the school’s campus on Willoughby Avenue in Clinton Hill, but two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Late Sunday, the school said its South Hall would reopen Monday and that all classes normally held in the Main Building had been relocated.
“The six-story building’s roof and its sixth floor were gutted. The fifth floor was badly damaged by the fire and there is water damage throughout the building,” the school said. “The historic Main Building, which was built in 1887, houses fine art classes and studios in addition to administrative offices.”
Long declined to estimate how long the investigation will take, noting that in addition to gathering evidence on the scene and submitting some of that for further testing, fire marshals will be conducting interviews among other things.
Pratt’s 25-acre Brooklyn campus is of historic significance. The school’s Main Hall and South Hall, as well as the library and Memorial Hall, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They are also part of a national historic district that consists of 36 buildings built between 1885 and 1936.
When Pratt’s library opened in 1888, it was not only for students but also the general public, making it the first free public library in Brooklyn. Architect William Tubby of Brooklyn saw to it that the decor was done by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company.
Many relatives of Pratt founder Charles Pratt turned up last fall at the school’s 125th anniversary gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. There, the school’s president, Thomas Schutte, and chair Bruce Gitlin helped raise more than $1 million for scholarships with the help of 500 guests including Juan Montoya, Karim Rashid, Pamela Auchincloss, Stefan Sagmeister and Kurt Gutenbrunner.