Today is the 100th anniversary of a real life historical mystery that remains unsolved. It has all the makings of a great historical novel, an unsavory American businessman sends a message a Canadian reporter that the Germans were planning to blow up Ottawa government buildings. United States authorities also received the tip. The message, for unknown reasons, reaches the authorities seven days later. Too late to save a building that was a national treasure.
It is all too easy in this age of terrorist bombings to imagine the anxiety and war fears 100 years ago. The US had not yet entered WWI, but the shock and anger spread across the border. By dawn on Feb. 4, seven people were dead, and the old tower of the Ottawa Capitol building came crashing down.
One of the witnesses described the golden flames shooting and twisting into the winter sky. The grand old tower stood while its support system crumbled and fell around it. Finally, it crashed onto the concourse, taking with it the old clock still glowing and chiming as it fell.
There are a number of theories about what happened. The official inquiry came to no firm conclusions. All we can do is look at the facts and speculate about the parts we don’t know. I tend to lean toward the bombing side of the argument, others think arson, but whatever the cause it makes for a great story just waiting to be told.