1916: Fire destroys Parliament Buildings
• The destruction could have been worse were it not for a quick-thinking Parliament employee. By promptly closing the heavy metal doors that separated the Parliamentary library from the rest of the Centre Block, librarian Connolly MacCormac was able to save the priceless collection of books. The ingenious design of the Library, specifically the iron doors, acted as a fortuitous fire barrier.
• Many eyewitnesses claimed that immediately after hearing the clock tower chime at midnight, it was overtaken by flames and crashed to the ground below.
• Since the source of the fire was unknown and Canada was involved in the First World War, a debate erupted over whether arson or an accident had been the cause. A German conspiracy was initially suspected. "The fire was put!" declared Montréal Mayor Médéric Martin. Even when it was later reported that an unattended cigar had been the culprit, the controversy continued. The Toronto Globe wrote, "unofficial Ottawa declare, 'the Hun hath done this thing.'"
• After the fire, the Victoria Memorial Museum - today the location of the Canadian Museum of Nature - was chosen as the interim site for Parliament. But creating a permanent home quickly became top priority. So, despite their wartime concerns, rebuilding began immediately in July 1916. The new structure, designed by John Pearson and Jean Omer Marchand, was finished by 1922. The Peace Tower was completed in 1927.
• On Sept. 1, 1916, the governor general of Canada, the Duke of Connaught, laid the cornerstone for the new building at a commemorative ceremony. "Let us hope," he declared, "that in the new Parliament Buildings that are about to spring up, many a speech will be made by many a distinguished man of the future, all for the good and advancement of Canada."
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: Feb. 2, 1966
Guest(s): Carl Dunning, Reg Sissons
Host: Mac Atkinson
Photo: D.A. McLaughlin / Library and Archives Canada / C-017502
Last updated: June 17, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
All Clips from this Topic
Exiled Dutch Princess Juliana gives birth in an Ottawa hospital durin...
Flames engulf Parliament burning it to the ground
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien roughs up a protester.
Pierre Trudeau fulfils his long-time goal of patriating Canada's const...
When the wilderness guide and painter disappeared, was it an accident ...
Seven sovereigntists unite to defend Quebec's interests.
"I had the most inspirational day of my life today," says an emotional...
The NHL's top draft pick rejects Quebec and returns to the minors.
Survivors remember the worst battle of the First World War.
American President Franklin Roosevelt addresses the nation following t...