MacLean’s hosted Jennifer Ditchburn’s Canadian Press article noting the centenary this Wednesday of the fire that destroyed the old Canadian parliament buildings in Ottawa.
It’s difficult to imagine the scale of the trauma, the wartime anxiety, the shock, the anger, that would have engulfed the nation 100 years ago when the seat of the federal government went down in flames.
Seven people died that bitterly cold night on Feb. 3, 1916, when the old Centre Block burned down — the building that saw figures like Macdonald, Bowell, Tupper and Laurier pass through its halls and sit in the Dominion’s first House of Commons.
“The grand old tower put up a magnificent fight for survival. Standing while the support seemed to have burned away, it sent a solid pillow of twisting, billowing gold up into the winter night,” Ottawa Citizen reporter Charles Bishop wrote.
“Finally, it came down, crashing into the concourse in front and with it, carrying the huge, old clock which had stayed illuminated and kept on striking to the last.”
On Wednesday, the House of Commons will mark the tragedy by displaying the wooden mace that was first used as a replacement after the fire. The House will also hear the names of the victims read out, including Nova Scotia MP Bowman Brown Law.