It was just before 7 p.m. on April 25, 1935, when Salem residents noticed smoke coming from the Oregon State Capitol building. The city fire department arrived on the scene in minutes, but their equipment couldn’t reach the source of the blaze somewhere in the basement. Firefighters fought from a distance as flames engulfed walls and jumped floors. Just an hour after firefighters arrived, the iconic bronze dome topping the building crashed to the ground.
Hundreds, then thousands, of residents gathered to watch as the fire burned throughout the night.
When morning came, all that remained was a skeleton of broken walls enclosing a mass of blackened debris.
The Oregon State Capitol was gone. By the time the smoke cleared, the fire had caused nearly a million dollars worth of property damage and destroyed priceless state records. It also left one firefighter dead. Eighteen-year-old Floyd McMullen had been a college student working at the east Salem firehouse in exchange for lodging.