Parliament - Tragedy on the home front - Did you know that... - Canada and the First World War - Library and Archives Canada
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Fire of the Parliament Buildings  --  4 February 1916
On the evening of February 3, 1916, a mysterious fire engulfed the elegant Gothic-Revival Centre Block of Parliament Hill. The intense flames consumed the building rapidly with the interior of the central tower collapsing just after midnight. While most were able to safely exit, the Ottawa Citizen reported that seven people were known to have perished in the blaze. The Parliamentary Library, and the priceless collection of books within, was fortuitously saved through the closing of heavy metal doors which separated it from the rest of the original Centre Block.

Many of the newspapers of the day playing to public fears of German conspiracy immediately published that the fire was a deliberate act of sabotage. The Toronto Globe reported that while "officially" the cause of the fire was a carelessly left cigar, "unofficial Ottawa, including many Members of Parliament, declare ‘the Hun hath done this thing.’”

The Victoria Memorial Museum, now the home of the Canadian Museum of Nature, was chosen as the site for Parliament until the structure could be rebuilt. On September 1, 1916, the Governor General of Canada, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, laid the cornerstone for the new Centre Block. This act was one of Connaught's last as Governor General as he soon left Canada to a command in the British forces.

Parliament Building Fire. Taken at 12:30 AM, a few minutes before the tower fell on February 4, 1916
Firemen spraying water on the Centre Block, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Ontario, February 4 1916
Centre Block, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Ont. February 4, 1916 after the fire which started the night before
Fathers of Confederation, 50th Anniversary Stamp of Confederation 1917
Speech Given by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught at the Re-Laying of the Cornerstone of the Parliament Building, 1 September 1916
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National Archives of Canada
Photographer: J.B. Reid
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