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.
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.
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.
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.”
…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.
Two structures stand out in this 1907 look across Union Street into the old campus of the Territorial University. Both seem incomplete. The ornate one on top with the comely belfry is the Territorial University building itself, stripped of its columns while still awaiting its fate.
The lower structure, the palatial hut facing the sidewalk, resembles the warehouse set atop Noah’s ark in a Biblical illustration I remember. In the Bible, all the “animals two by two” were given accommodations. In this shed, however, the critters were mostly Methodists, more than three-thousand could be fit inside, and apparently were. There they would sing and preach — reinvigorating the local congregations, their own faith, and also naming and chastising selected Seattle sinners.
Apparently the tabernacle was pounded together in 1907 for the fall arrival of the evangelists Hart (the preacher) and Magann (the singer), noted on its signs. By then the landmark behind it – the University Building – was serving as temporary quarters for the Seattle Public Library. Bo Kinney, the library’s new circulation services manager, shares with us that the decision to move (by skidding) the territorial university from its original foundation, near the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Seneca Street, and ultimately to this site near Fifth Avenue and University Street, was first announced on March 3, 1905. The building was moved to lower the height of Denny’s Knoll and thereby allow for the extending of Fourth Avenue north from Seneca Street directly through the campus at the lower grade, and soon also on Fifth Avenue as seen in Jean’s repeat.
In early May of 1908 an appointed and, we imagine, enthused group of UW students started raising the ten-thousand dollars it was thought was needed to barge the original territorial university building to the new – since 1895 – campus north of Lake Union’s Portage Bay. There it was envisioned that Seattle’s grandest pioneer landmark would soon add its fame to the city’s first world’s fair, the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition. When this effort of preservation failed, some of the hardwood in the old school was turned into canes, which were sold as souvenirs, mostly to alums. It was figured that through the thirty-plus years of the school’s stay on Denny Knoll, about 5,000 young scholars had crossed beneath the Ionic columns of its main hall. The columns alone were saved and survive as the four white fluted landmarks that grace the University’s Sylvan Theatre.
Anything to add, Paul? With Ron Edge’s help, yes. Below are some “Edge Links” and then below that some other photographs and more that relate to this old knoll – Denny’s Knoll – that after the carvings or regrades of 1906-1910 is gone. I will also insert some “extras” into the week’s primary text, above. But not much. It is already thirty minutes past midnight, and my late start is, in part, your fault, or rather the delicious detraction of the marinated chicken with mushrooms, seasoned rice and those flowery green veggies that Nixon – or Regan – deplored. Thanks again for dinner, and the time spent with you and Don, your dad, was a delight.
Three Edge Links to pasts post for the reader’s enjoyment.
DENNY’S KNOLL, FIFTH AVENUE and UNION STREET from DENNY HILL