St. Paul, MN State Capitol Building Fire, Mar 1881

State Capitol Fire, St. Paul Minn 1860; destroyed by fire 1881

A State Capitol Burned.

Destruction of the State House of Minnesota.

A St. Paul, Minn., dispatch dated Tuesday night says: A 9 o'clock this evening, while both house of the Legislature were in session, fire was discovered in the dome of the Capitol, and in two hours nothing remained of the building but brick walls and smoking ruins. The alarm was given in the Assembly and Senate none too soon. When the doors of the Assembly were thrown open and the fury of the "Fire" raised, it followed by a blinding cloud of smoke, and many members rushed for windows, while the occupants of the gallery rushed out through the halls, Speaker Rice was with difficulty kept from escaping from a window of the second story on which the chambers are situated. However, the members all got out safely, and plucky clerks and members saved all the important papers. In the Senate about the same scenes occurred, but it being a small body, there was less excitement, and all got out safely.

The fire [illegible] the dome. The building was in the shape of a Maltese cross, of brick, two stories and roansard roof, with a dome up the centre. There are all sorts of rumors as to the origin of the fire, the prevalent one being that it must have been the work of an incendiary, as there were no gas or steam coils in the upper portion, where the fire started, in a blaze. In a short time after the first discovery, the flames broke through the roof of the west wing, and gradually appeared in the roofs of the other sections The woodwork, which was dry and old, burned like tinder. Owing to the fire burning downward, the contents of the executive offices on the lower floor which were not in vaults were saved. The records of the Supreme Court were all saved, although the valuable and extensive law library is lost. The rooms of the State Historical Society were in the Capitol, and the society is reported to have lost a fine library of several thousand volumes and valuable relics. The library of the Supreme Court was extensive and valuable.

In the vaults of the State Treasurer were over $2,000,000 in bonds of the trust funds of the State, and special efforts were made by the firemen to save these vaults from severe heat, as they are old, and fears were expressed by a few that they might not be against the terrible heat. Within an hour after the flames first appeared the entire roof had fallen in, the upper floors soon followed, with loud detonations, which caused a little panic among the thousands of spectators, who were the more excitable from the prevailing reports of powder in the basement. The Capitol had been built in sections, the first part being erected in 1853, with two additions since. The new market hall is being fitted up for use of the Legislature. The building was worth $100,000, and according to the policy of the State, was uninsured.

Trenton State Gazette, Trenton, NJ 3 Mar 1881


The first [Minnesota State Capitol] was destroyed by fire in 1881...