(Photos courtesy of Washington State Digital Archives)
1889 turned out to be a great year for Washington, as it was the year it gained statehood. But it also was a year marked by a tragic event in Seattle.
June 6 marks the 125th anniversary of what is known as the Great Seattle Fire. The blaze started at 2:30 p.m. in a paint and woodwork shop at the corner of Front Street and Madison Avenue. Due to a combination of a dry spring, windy afternoon and inadequate water supply, the fire eventually swept across 120 acres of Seattle’s business district and waterfront. Within a year of the fire, the damaged area had been nearly rebuilt.
The summer of 1889 saw other notable fires in Washington. In June of that year, much of Vancouver’s business district was wiped out when it was struck by a series of fires that were thought to be arson. On July 4, Ellensburg’s business district was destroyed by fire. And on August 4, a blaze burned down 30 blocks of downtown Spokane, destroyed the Howard Street Bridge over the Spokane River and set log-booms on the river alight.
Our Digital Archives has several photos of the Great Seattle Fire, including these two shots. The top photo shows the southwest corner of First Avenue and Madison Street during the blaze. The bottom photo captures the fire’s aftermath, showing the west side of First Avenue between Yesler Way and Columbia Street. The photos are found in the State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990.