Seattle Now & Then: Seattle Fire Ruins Redux

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The ruins left by Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, included a large neighborhood of warehouses and factories built on timber quays over the tides.  Following the fire the quays were soon restored with new capping and planking.  A close look on the far-right will reveal some of this construction on the quays underway.  (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)
THEN: The ruins left by Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, included a large neighborhood of warehouses and factories built on timber quays over the tides. Following the fire the quays were soon restored with new capping and planking. A close look on the far-right will reveal some of this construction on the quays underway. (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)
NOW: Nearly completed before the Great Fire, the Gilmore Building’s foundation served as a firewall, stopping the spread of the Great Fire to the north.  Soon renamed the Arlington Hotel, and later the Bay Building, the structure was razed in 1974 for development of Harbor Steps.
NOW: Nearly completed before the Great Fire, the Gilmore Building’s foundation served as a firewall, stopping the spread of the Great Fire to the north. Soon renamed the Arlington Hotel, and later the Bay Building, the structure was razed in 1974 for development of Harbor Steps.

Of the few photographs taken during the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, and the hundreds more recording the ruins, this one is not typical.  Positioned far north of the more sensational ruins around Pioneer Square, the photographer looks south from the Front Street (First Avenue) boardwalk about sixty feet south of University Street. Although no caption accompanies the original print, the photographer would have surely known that “where the fire was stopped” would have been an appropriate description for it.

Another look at the Gilmore Block's fire-stopping foundation, looking south from the Front Street (First Ave.) boardwalk above it.
Another look at the Gilmore Block’s fire-stopping foundation, looking south from the Front Street (First Ave.) boardwalk above it.  The still-smoldering ruins suggest that this is the earlier of the two scenes.

The most obvious ruin here (in the featured “then” photo but also in a smaller part in the photo directly above) is the north façade of the Northwest Cracker Company’s brick quarters, standing, somewhat, behind the leaning power pole.  Johan Haglund (“keep clam” Ivar’s father) worked there.  On the day of the fire, Haglund and his co-workers left before the destruction reached the cracker factory, which was located one lot south of the southwest corner of Front and Seneca.  Like many others, Haglund wound up on First Hill watching through the night as more than thirty blocks of Seattle were destroyed.

Looking southeast and
Looking southeast to “front st. from docks” with the cracker factory’s brick ruin right-of-center.  Left of center is a short bridge on Front Street built in 1876 over what was left of the Seneca Street ravine, which was once a native cemetery.  Repair on the docks is underway, lower-right,   The Stetson-Post ” terrace homes (or apartments) at the northeast corner of Marion and Second Avenue appear far right breaking the horizon.

To the north side of the cracker factory and Seneca Street, the fire’s rubble is mixed with generators of the Seattle Electric Light Company, which shared the northwest corner of Front and Seneca Streets with Puget Sound Ice Company.  In the featured “then” photo at the top, the scorched tree that rises to the scene’s center is a puzzle.  The leaves on its crown were, it seems, merely scorched and not consumed.  Perhaps it was this defiant tree that was most appealing to the photographer.  Or was it, perhaps, the new foundation for the Gilmore Block (lower-right), on which construction had recently begun. It was that foundation that stopped the fire’s northerly advance along the shoreline.  Off shore bucket brigades successfully doused the fire on Railroad Avenue where (here just out of frame to the right) its two railroad trestles crossed open water.

A detail from the 1888 Sanborn real estate map, which shows the development than along the waterfront and Front Street at the foot of University Street.  The footprint for the cracker factory is sketched bottom-center, and the two trestles south of the Schwabacher dock are show off shore.  It was there that the off-shore advance of the fire was stopped by a bucket brigade of more than two hundred volunteers.
A detail from the 1888 Sanborn real estate map, which shows the development then along the waterfront and Front Street at the foot of University Street. The footprint for the cracker factory is sketched bottom-center, and the two trestles south of the Schwabacher dock are shown off shore. It was there that the  advance of the fire was stopped by a bucket brigade of more than two hundred volunteers.  Work on the Gilmore foundation has not yet begun in the ’88 map.
Looking down
Looking south to the city from a building on the west side of Front Street between Pike and Union Streets before the fire in 1888.  From this prospect, the open water and two trestles from which the off-shore fire was stopped appear on the far right.  Beacon Hill is on the horizon.   The dark dock reaching far into Elliott Bay is the King Street Coal Bunkers.  The  cluster of small warehouses grouped to the far side of Henry Yesler’s mill pond, stand on his namesake dock.
The fire ruins looking south
The fire ruins looking south over Union Street.  Arthur and Mary Denny’s home is far-left.  First floor planking on the Gilmore Dock, at the southwest corner of Front and University, is underway.  Both Front Street and its bay-side sidewalk have been repaired and the Front Street cable railway is again operating.  Gilmore’s waterfront warehouse is also going up on the far right.  Its west facade will face Railroad Avenue which is also being repaired with new pilings and planks.

On June 10th, or four days after the fire, The Post-Intelligencer reported that “slabs and sawdust are still burning and sending clouds of smoke over the town.”  The following day the paper noted that “photos of the fire are already being sold on the street.” 

1889 ruins along Front Street looking north from near the foot of Cherry Street.  The central tower of the Stetson-Post terraced apartments appear on the top-right corner.
1889 ruins along Front Street looking north from near the foot of Cherry Street. The central tower of the Stetson-Post terraced apartments appear near the photograph’s top-right corner.

WEB EXTRAS…

…Extras, read all about it! Paul?

Jean, count them, Ron Edge has put up six links with past features that for the most part relate to the Great Fire of June 6, 1889, especially the waterfront north of Columbia Street.    Those are followed by a few more older features pulled as scanned Times clippings from our archive of the same.

THEN: Looking west from First Avenue down the University Street viaduct to the waterfront, ca. 1905.  Post Office teams and their drivers pose beside the Arlington Hotel, which was then also headquarters for mail delivery in Seattle.  (Courtesy, Gary Gaffner)

THEN: The Hotel York at the northwest corner of Pike Street and First Avenue supplied beds on the American Plan for travelers and rooms for traveling hucksters. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The driver, lower left, leads his team towards First Avenue up a planked incline on Madison Street.  (Courtesy MOHAI)

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The central waterfront in 1890 photographed from the King Street coal dock.  The Gilmore Block is at the center of the scene with its corner tower still under construction.  The foundation for the Denny Hotel marks the horizon on Denny Hill.
The central waterfront in 1890 photographed from the King Street coal dock. The Gilmore Block is at the center of the scene with its corner tower still under construction. The foundation for the Denny Hotel marks the horizon on Denny Hill.  Yesler’s Wharf is far right.  Only a few post-fire tents can  found. The Hotel York at the northwest corner of Pike and Front (First Ave.) shows its south facade on the far left.

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First appeared in Pacific,
First appeared in Pacific August 30, 1998.

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First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 12, 2000.
First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 12, 2000.

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The day after.
The day after. DOUBLE-CLICK to ENLARGE

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The Gilmore Block, aka Arlington Hotel, aka Bay Building at the southwest corner of University Street and First Avenue.
The Gilmore Block, aka Arlington Hotel, aka Bay Building at the southwest corner of University Street and First Avenue.
Anders Wilse's look out of a back window in the Arlington and and Over the University Street viaduct to the Schwabacher and Post Street wharves in the late 1890s.
Anders Wilse’s look out of a back window in the Arlington Hotel over the University Street viaduct to the Schwabacher and Post Street wharves in the late 1890s.

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THE GARDEN OF ALLAH

A performance at the Garden of Allah on a lower floor of First Avenue in the Bay Building.
A performance at the Garden of Allah on a lower floor of First Avenue in the Bay Building.
First appeared in Pacific, February 1, 1998
First appeared in Pacific, February 1, 1998
Frank Shaw's record of the Bay Building ruins, not from fire by the Harbor Steps developers urge to eventually construct the so-named development that has taken its place.  The last of the top portion of the University Street viaduct is seen on the left.  Shaw took this on March 11, 1975.
Frank Shaw’s record of the Bay Building ruins, not from fire by the Harbor Steps planners urge to eventually construct the so-named development that has taken its place. The last of the top (east) portion of the University Street viaduct is seen on the left. Shaw took this on March 11, 1975.
A Daily Intelligencer report on the condition of the same block published on January, 18, 1880.  (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
A Daily Intelligencer report on the condition of Front Street in the block north of University Street,  published on January, 18, 1880. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

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THE FIRE TRAVELS NORTH

DOUBLE-CLICK TO ENLARGE

The part of the Post-Intelligencer's report on the June 6, 1889 fire printed the day after.  These inches described the fire's advance north along Front Street from the site of its ignition at the foot of Madison Street.
Part of the Post-Intelligencer’s report on the June 6, 1889 fire printed the day after. These column inches described the fire’s advance north along Front Street from the site of the fire’s ignition at the foot of Madison Street.

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