Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Burning down the House

Clearing the rubble

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Parliament Building in Ottawa, 3 February 1916.

Thanks for the tip from Frank Rockland, author of Fire on the Hill, who writes:
Suspicion that it was German sabotage began almost immediately. Supposedly, the Providence Rhode Island Journal had informed the United States Department of Justice three weeks prior that the German embassy had ordered attacks on the Canadian Parliament Buildings, Rideau Hall, home of the Governor General, and Canadian munitions plants.
But sabotage and arson were ruled out:
The fire was likely accidental. Going through the archives and newspapers there are regular reports on fires being started by improper disposal of trash, such as glowing embers from fireplaces and careless smoking.

The Reading Room, where the fire started, was a fire hazard as newspapers were hanging from racks on the varnished pine walls. While the library staff had put up No Smoking signs the signs were frequently ignored. There had been recent construction so there is also a strong possibility of an electrical fire was the source that destroyed the Centre Block and the lost of seven lives.
The destroyed building was constructed during the 1860s, initially to be the capital for the pre-confederation Province of Canada. When he saw the new parliamentary buildings under construction, George Brown called them "a capital worthy of a great people" and declared, "A hundred years hence the people will fancy the men of their day were giants in imagination."
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