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January 03, 2014

Christopher Ryan: Conflagration at Elgin’s Queen Mary Apartments

A weekly feature by Christopher Ryan, a local photographer, blogger and researcher. It appears every Friday on our blog.

Front entrance of the Queen Mary Apartments, 413 Elgin St. Source: Christopher Ryan, December 2013.

The Queen Mary Apartments at 413 Elgin were constructed in 1912-13, during what was something of a boom period for apartment construction in Centretown. Along with the Elgin Apartments, the Mackenzie, the Kenniston, and the Warrington Apartments, Queen Mary began to fill with tenants as soon as the doors opened in November 1913. 

As with a number of buildings of this vintage that I have attempted to research, I have been unable to locate an architect. It was, however, owned by Sol Coplan and Oscar Petigorsky [Petergorsky]. 

It was in November 1913 that the building made its first headlines. Unlike a number of other buildings, however, these headlines weren’t to announce the opening or list the amenities. In this case, it was because the building had caught fire. 

On November 27, The Journal described the heroic rescue of his child by Ottawa football club outside wing, Bert Stronach. Bert and his wife were the first tenants to occupy the building and were eating their dinner when the fire broke out. It turns out that paper hung in the basement furnace room ignited. 

Fire shot up the ventilation shaft and quickly filled the entire building with smoke. While Stronach’s wife safely escaped, he entered his child’s room to retrieve him. Braving the smoke, he was nearly overcome before he made it down the three flights of stairs.

The first responder to the fire was Chief Graham, who was unaware that the building was yet occupied. This was owing to the fact that there was still some scaffolding erected as workers were putting the finishing touches on the apartment. Once it became apparent that the fire was larger, Graham called in a second alarm and entered the building to retrieve Stronach and his child on the ground floor.

Fortunately, the fire brigade was able to get the fire under control and save the new apartment. The damage was covered by insurance and assessed at $1500. 

-- Photos & text by Christopher Ryan

See also: Ottawa Apartments Guide
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