In 2016, I wrote the following blog post for my history blog, The Small Histories. I was thinking about it again recently and wanted to share it here as well – book lovers will appreciate it!
February 29, 2016: A few months ago, I visited Ottawa and went on a guided tour of Centre Block (which is one of our Parliament buildings, for those unfamiliar). It was very interesting to see all of it, but my favourite was the Library of Parliament. There were many gasps from my group when we walked in, and I was definitely one of those people.
I mean, just look at it!
In 1916, a fire broke out in Centre Block that razed most of the original building to the ground. The Library of Parliament and the northwest wing were the only parts of it that survived. According to our tour guide, a library clerk named Connie MacCormac shut the heavy iron doors before the fire could make its way down the narrow corridor to the Library. This quick thinking saved the Library from destruction – along with all of the books inside it.
I believe what you see here is mostly original. A smaller fire did break out in the Library in 1952, necessitating the replacement of the domed roof, the ceiling, paneling, and some books.
Still – not a bad job considering this gorgeous library is 140 years old!