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Iowa History Daily: Iowa Capitol Fire of 1904

Iowa History Daily: On January 4, 1904, the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines caught fire. Resulting from work to convert gaslights to electricity, the fire swept through the chambers of the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa House of Representatives.

Although workers completed initial construction on the iconic five-domed capitol building gracing the eastern bank of the Des Moines River in 1866, by the early 1900s upgrades necessitated a new phase of construction. Installation of a new copper roof, re-guilding the golden dome, and electrical work constituted major projects for the restoration.

While electrician H. Frazer worked on conversion from gas to electric in Committee Room Number Five adjacent to the House Chamber, a candle used by the worker to light his way while drilling through walls to run wiring started the fire. By 10:00 a.m. the alarms sounded and a race to save the capitol commenced.

Governor Albert Cummins, local fire firefighters, and local citizen volunteers all pitched in to get the fire under control over the next eight hours. An engineer named Crampton Linley bravely crawled through attic areas to close heavy doors separating the wings of the building, likely saving the structure. The next day, while inspecting the damage, Linley fell to his death when the ceiling of the House Chamber collapsed beneath him. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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