I Can Smell the Books

It is one of the most beautiful libraries I have every seen…and I’ve seen a lot.  Set in the back of the Canadian Parliament building, the Library of Parliament that remains today is the last bit of the building that burned in 1916. It was saved by the quick thinking of, well, Wikipedia tells the story much better than I can:

A fire alarm was raised in the Centre Block on 3 February 1916, at 8:37 pm; something had been seen smouldering in a wastepaper basket in the Reading Room, but, as this was not terribly unusual, a clerk was called to assist. However, by that point, the fire had progressed beyond control in the wood-panelled and paper-filled room. The House of Commons was in session that evening, and was interrupted by the chief doorkeeper of the Commons calling for evacuation; some women in the gallery, unaware of the urgency, attempted to reclaim their fur coats from the coat check, and perished. Others, meanwhile, formed a human chain to carry furniture, files, and artwork out of the burning structure; the portrait of Queen Victoria in the commons chamber was rescued from flames for the second time. A half-hour after the fire started came the first of five explosions,[46] and, shortly after midnight, the large bell in the Victoria Tower crashed to the ground; it had tolled each hour until midnight, when, after ringing eleven times, it ceased to function.[46] When the fire crews thought that the inferno had been quelled, flames emerged in the Senate chamber. Within twelve hours, the building was completely destroyed, except for the Library of Parliament, spared by the closing of its heavy metal doors, and the Cabinet immediately moved to meet at the nearby Château Laurier hotel.[47] The parliament itself relocated to the Victoria Memorial Museum Building while the new Centre Block was constructed.[48]


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