Great care was taken to provide proper ventilation in the building's fifteen rooms, and when equipped UT boasted that "the laboratory is probably the best in the South and will compare favorably with others elsewhere in the country."  One small room upstairs was allotted to the fledgling chemistry library. Some 500 volumes were in the collection at that time, a facility of which the chemists were justly proud.
The labs were remodeled in 1901 and 1910, to keep the facilities up to date, but the space crunch afflicted the new building almost from the start, as the student body grew steadily after the turn of the century.
Old Chemistry Laboratory, viewed from northeast
Main Laboratory, on the ground floor.
Chemistry was and is a volatile science. Brick floors and walls had been incorporated into the building to reduce the ever-present fire hazard, and separate storerooms were on each floor to hold dangerous chemicals out of harm's way. But it was probably inevitable that the Old Chem Lab met a fiery end.
Early in the morning of October 16, 1926, a short circuit in the building's old wiring started a blaze that was accelerated when it reached stored chemicals, resulting in a series of colorful explosions. Firefighters, under the energetic direction of Dr. Harry Lochte, labored valiantly to save what they saw as the department's most prized asset: the library. Flames were held at bay while firemen ventured into the building to remove or cover the books and journals, which were irreplaceable. Some were thrown out of the windows in damp or singed condition, but the bulk of the library was saved. It was fortuitous that Drs. Felsing and Lochte had insisted that the library be moved from its dangerous room on the second floor down to a room near the ground floor east exit -- a move only carried out in the summer of 1926.
Unfortunately, the rest of the building and its contents were a total loss. Over $150,000 worth of instruments, research notes, and equipment was destroyed, and the Department of Chemistry found itself homeless.