[photo of Jock Harty Arena after the fire in March, 1924]

Jock Harty Arena after the fire in March, 1924

Queen's has had no major fires in its recent history. However, during a 25-year period in the early 1900s, there was an unlucky string of fires that destroyed three buildings, badly damaged three others, and changed the course of development at the university.

The first of these fires was in 1922 when Queen's old curling rink caught fire and burned to the ground. The rink was located just north of Jackson Hall and attached to the original Jock Harty Arena, which had just been completed. The arena itself was saved by students who patrolled its roof for flying embers. But the arena caught fire again in March of 1924 and burned in a matter of hours. Investigators blamed the destruction partly on the amount of wood used in the arena's construction and University officials responded by insisting on steel frames and minimal use of wood in all new buildings, a policy which has been maintained since.

The next fire struck a few months later when the Old Medical Building was hit by lightning in a summer thunderstorm. The resulting fire destroyed the building's newly-added third storey and gutted much of its interior. The building was rebuilt with a flat roof instead of a traditional pitched roof, minimizing the number of beams that would collapse on the interior during a fire.

[photo of the Students' Memorial Union after the fire in September, 1947]

Students' Memorial Union after the fire in September, 1947

Fire struck again in March of 1931 when a smouldering cigarette butt left in the women's washroom in Kingston Hall sparked a fire which tore through a large section of the building and left widespread smoke and water damage. Two years later, a short circuit caused a fire in Fleming Hall (Jemmett Wing), destroying the building's interior completely.

Ever increasing attention to fireproofing and stricter smoking regulations kept fire away for more than a decade. But in September of 1947, a blaze struck the Students' Memorial Union, a handsome limestone structure on the site of the present John Deutsch University Centre. The fire destroyed a large section of the interior and left the building, already scheduled for replacement, so weak that officials decided to tear it down.