Nova Scotia Archives

Halifax and Its People / 1749-1999

The Queen Hotel Fire, Hollis Street, Halifax, 2 March 1939

The Queen Hotel fire was the greatest Halifax disaster since the 1917 Explosion; 28 people died in the inferno. The Halifax Daily Star ran this photograph on 3 March 1939 with the caption:

The above picture presents a general view of what is left of the Queen Hotel on Hollis Street, which was levelled by fire yesterday morning.... Note where the hotel wall has collapsed, barely missing one of two automobiles that never will be claimed. Their owners are among the missing. Great difficulty was met by firemen attempting to raise the giant aerial tower and ladder in the foreground.
The Hon. M.B. Archibald, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, was subsequently appointed a one-man commission to investigate fire prevention, fire suppression and the safeguarding of human lives in Halifax, with particular reference to the Queen Hotel fire. His report (Journals and Proceedings of the House of Assembly 1940), noted that:
There was a scarcity of ladders of sufficient length to reach to the upper floors of the building.... [The] aerial ladder is twenty years old, and from the evidence of the firemen and the Chief of the Department, it is apparent that the ladder is unsafe. It cannot be utilized to complete extent. Men using this ladder are warned by the Chief of the Fire Department that they do so at their own risk.... The presence of overhead live wires, combined with the failure to provide the Fire Department with more efficient, up-to-date and speedy wire cutting apparatus, greatly hampered the fire fighters during this fire, and interfered with the work of rescue of occupants of the hotel.

Photographer: attributed to Roy Tidman, Halifax Daily Star staff cameraman

Date: 2 March 1939

Reference: John F. Rogers Nova Scotia Archives 1995-370 no. 6  / neg. no.: N-9453

Nova Scotia Archives —

Crown copyright © 2022, Province of Nova Scotia.