The author of a new book about the history of Parliament Hill has discovered a startling connection between the 1916 fire that consumed the original Centre Block of the national legislature and the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping of 1932.
The unlikely link between the two events was the notorious American detective Gaston B. Means, whose name emerged shortly after the Ottawa fire as a source of information suggesting the First World War-era blaze may have been started by German saboteurs.
Then, about 15 years later, the North Carolina-born Means gained much wider attention — in fact, infamy — for an outrageous con job in which he stole $100,000 in ransom money that was intended to rescue the kidnapped child of legendary American aviator Charles Lindbergh.
Yet researchers who've written about the two notable moments in Canadian and U.S. history have never made the connection that Means was involved in both, says newly published author Don Nixon, a retired government engineer who spent much of his career managing Parliament Hill building projects for the federal Public Works Department.