This week in 1951, clerk set fire to Michigan building, destroying thousands of records

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  • Published: 02/11/2021 12:00 AM

Michigan’s Lewis Cass building made headlines last summer when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer renamed it the Elliott-Larsen building. But this week 70 years ago, Michigan’s oldest standing state office building was in the news for something else entirely: a massive fire lit by a state employee who hoped it would help him avoid the Korean War. It was lunchtime on Feb. 8, 1951 when firefighters from five different cities began pumping an eventual five million gallons of water through 19,100 feet of hose to try and quell the roaring blaze, which was set in the “M” (presumably for mezzanine) and seventh floors of the building. At that time, the new(ish) building housed many state departments as well as the Library of Michigan. Valuable papers, blueprints and reports were stored there by nearly every department with offices in the state office building.


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