Seattle Fire photograph collection, June-August 1889  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Title
Seattle Fire photograph collection
Dates
June-August 1889 (inclusive)
Quantity
96 photographic prints (2 boxes) ; various sizes
Collection Number
PH0684
Summary
Photographs of the Seattle Fire on June 6, 1889, ruins after the fire, businesses in tents and temporary buildings about a month after the fire
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Permission of Visual Materials Curator required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Additional Reference Guides

Languages
English


Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

The Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889 began a little after 2:00 p.m. in Clairmont's woodworking shop at Madison Avenue and Front Street (now First Avenue), and quickly expanded to the adjacent Denny Block building. At the time Seattle's water system had limited capacity, and the volunteer fire department found the water pressure insufficient for fighting the fire. By 4:00 p.m. a four-block area was in flames. The fire, driven by wind from the northwest, continued to spread. Only Elliott Bay on the west and vacant lots on the north and east contained the fire until a bucket brigade saved the Boston Block at Second and Columbia. At about 6:30 p.m. the new Occidental Hotel at Yesler Avenue and James St. caught fire, and it became clear the flames would spread to the wooden frame buildings south of Yesler. On the east, citizens used wet blankets, mops, and buckets to save the King County Courthouse and Henry Yesler's home along Third. During the evening, however, all of Seattle south of Yesler Avenue and west of Fourth Street burned except for the Oregon Improvement Company dock. The tide flats that were then south of King St. stopped the fire's spread south.

After the fire, the burned areas were guarded and patrolled by members of the Washington National Guard from Seattle, Tacoma, and Port Townsend until June 11, 1889. After the Guard left, however, thousands of scavengers and souvenir hunters began searching the ruins, causing one company to resume the 24-hour watch. The commander called for reserves from Vancouver in southern Washington Territory to relieve the exhausted militia, and Company H of the First Regiment arrived on June 15. Martial law was never in effect, and the National Guard turned looters over to the regular civil courts. On June 18, the Seattle police swore in special policemen to take over from the National Guard.

By a month after the fire many businesses had set up shop in whatever temporary locations they could find. Many set up canvas tents where their buildings had stood. Some merchants had time to save equipment and merchandise during the spread of the fire, and others restocked from shipments and relief that poured in from all over. The City of Seattle took several actions to prevent a recurrence: it purchased the formerly private water company and improved water pressure and pipes, decreed that all new buildings in the business district had to be made of stone or brick, and established a professional fire department.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

While photographs of the Seattle Fire appear in many Seattle-related photograph collections, this collection represents the most complete compilation of views of the fire and its aftermath. It contains photographs that document the downtown business district during the day of the fire, June 6, 1889, days immediately after the fire, and the rebuilding after the fire including businesses in tents and temporary structures. Many of the photographs were made by William F. Boyd, David R. Judkins, and D.T. Smith.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

"Front Street" and "Commercial Street" are now known as First Avenue.

Since the Seattle Fire of 1889 was an important event in the city's history, photographs of the fire and ruins were widely distributed and have come to the collection from a variety of sources. Many photographers were active in the Seattle area at the time so it is often difficult to identify the creator of each image, but the photographer is noted when known. Photographers later would often copy original photographs and put their name on them, further obscuring the true creator of the image.

A number of the photographs have advertising on the back for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found." It is probable that all these photographs were made by William F. Boyd.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format.

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions might exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact the repository for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

June 6, 1889: The FireReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/1 1a-b
 Beginning of the fire, looking south from rooftop near Second Street and Union Street
Smith, D.T (photographer)
2 different copies of the same image. Neither are originals. 1a includes the writing on the mount: "An early view of the fire, while yet confined to the block in which it originated, from Pike Street." 1b is a copy made by Asahel Curtis.
June 6, 1889
Views south on Front Street, from Spring Street
Box/Folder item
1/2 2 June 6, 1889
1/3 3
 Frye's Opera House catching fire, with Minneapolis Art Studio on the right and a large crowd of people gathering in the street
William F. Boyd (photographer)
This photograph was copied many times over the years by various photographers who cropped it in different ways and often put their own names on it. This version is the uncropped original image.
June 6, 1889
1/4 4
 Frye's Opera House catching fire, with Minneapolis Art Studio on the right and a large crowd of people gathering in the street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
June 6, 1889
Views south on Front Street, from Madison Street
Box/Folder item
1/5 5
 Beginning of the fire, showing firefighters battling the blaze, at the southwest corner of Front and Madison
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
June 6, 1889
1/6 6
 Beginning of the fire, from a rooftop near Madison Street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
June 6, 1889
1/7 7
 Beginning of the fire, from a rooftop near Madison Street, with large crowd of people in the street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
June 6, 1889
Box/Folder item
1/8 8a-b
 Goods piled on the dock near the Seattle, Lakeshore & Eastern Railway Depot as smoke from the fire fills the background
Smith, D.T (photographer)
2 different copies of the same image. 8b has writing on front reading: "S.L. and E. Depot, the Burning of Seattle from the Docks."
June 6, 1889

Ruins after the fireReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Ruins of the Occidental Hotel
Box/Folder item
1/9 9
 At Front Street and Yesler Way, near Pioneer Square
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
June 7, 1889
1/10 10
 At James Street and Yesler Way
Boyd and Braas (photographer)
1889
1/11 11 1889
1/12-13 12-13 1889
1/14 14a
 Ruins of the hotel
There are four photographs on one board. 14b is listed following item 17 and 14b-c are listed following item 35.
1889
1/15 15 1889
1/16 16 1889
Ruins of the Merchants National Bank
Box/Folder item
1/17 17
 Ruins of the bank at Front Street and Cherry Street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
1/14 14d
 Looking southwest toward Front Street showing ruins of the bank
There are four photographs on one board. 14a is listed following item 13 and 14b-c are listed following item 35.
1889
1/18 18
 Ruins along Front Street, with view of the bank
Judkins, David R (photographer)
1889
1/19 19 1889
1/20 20 1889
Ruins of Frye's Opera House
Box/Folder item
1/21 21 1889
1/22 22
 Ruins at Front Street and Marion Street
Boyd and Braas (photographer)
1889
1/23 23 1889
1/24 24 1889
Ruins of the Dearborn Building
Box/Folder item
1/25 25 1889
Ruins of the Northwest Cracker Factory
Box/Folder item
1/26 26 1889
1/27 27 1889
1/28 28 1889
Ruins along Front Street and waterfront
Box/Folder item
1/29 29 1889
1/30 30
 Front Street looking west from between Columbia and Cherry Street
Boyd, William F (photographer)
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
1/31 31 1889
1/32 32
 Looking south on Front Street from Columbia Street, showing a trolley
Copied (probably by Asahel Curtis) from an original photograph.
1889
1/33 33 1889
1/34 34 1889
Ruins along Yesler Way
Box/Folder item
1/35 35a-b
 Looking east from Yesler Wharf on Elliott Bay
Boyd, William F (photographer)
2 copies of the same image. 35b is a slightly cropped version of 35a. Mount of 35a reads: "From the bay, after the fire."
1889
1/14 14b
 Looking south across Yesler Way from near James Street
There are four photographs on one board. The 14d is listed following item 17 and 14a follows item 13.
1889
1/14 14c 1889
1/36 36 1889
Ruins along Commercial Street
Box/Folder item
1/37 37 1889
1/38 38 1889
1/39 39 1889
Other ruins
Box/Folder item
1/40 40
 Ruins in front of the Boston Block
On the southwest corner of Second and Columbia Street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
1/41-42 41-42
 People inspecting ruins along Cherry Street
The backs of both photos have advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
1/43 43 1889
1/44 44a-44b
 Ruins of buildings
2 copies of the same image, cropped slightly differently.
1889
1/45 45
 Ruins of buildings
Rutter, Thomas (photographer)
1889

Temporary Structures and RebuildingReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Along Yesler Way
Box/Folder item
2/1 46 1889
2/2 47 1889
2/3 48a-b
 Looking south showing tents along Yesler Way and construction of the Standard Theatre and other buildings
Boyd and Braas (photographer)
2 slightly different copies of the same image. 8b is a cropped image of 8a. Writing has been added to the front of 8b, which reads: "Rebuilding after the fire, looking south from Second St."
August 1889
2/4 49 1889
2/5-6 50-51
 Looking past James Street, showing tents along Second Street and Yesler Way
The backs of both photos have advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
Along Commercial Street
Box/Folder item
2/7 52
Looking north on Commercial Street, showing a small crowd and a guard with safes
Smith, D.T (photographer)
1889
2/8 53a-b
 Looking south on Commercial Street past Dexter Horton Bank, showing a member of the Washington National Guard and 5 men
2 copies of the same image, cropped slightly differently. The mount of 53a has caption that reads: "Old Commercial St--now 1st Ave South--the big fire"
1889
Near Front Street and Waterfront
Box/Folder item
2/9-10 54-55
 Lumber and ruins along Front Street
The backs of both photos have advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/11 56a-b
 Looking east on Cherry Street from Front Street
2 copies of the same image. Photo 56b is a copy made by the photographer McManus, who copied many images of the Seattle fire taken by other photographers and added his own inscription to them. Photo 56b has writing on the front that reads: "Looking up Cherry St. from First, Seattle Wash July 1889, ©McManus 1912." It also has text on the back with the title "June 6, 1889-June 6, 1919 Vision Plus Spirit."
1889
2/12-13 57-58
 Waterfront with reconstruction along Front Street
The backs of both photos have advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/14 59
 Looking north on Front Street from Cherry Street
Copied from an original photograph.
1889
2/15 60
 Looking east from Front Street and James Street, showing tents along Second Street and Henry Yesler's mansion on Third Street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/16 61 1889
2/17 62 1889
Tacoma Relief Bureau
Box/Folder item
2/18 63
 Large line of people in front of the Tacoma Relief Bureau tent near Third Street and Union Street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
The Boston Block
Box/Folder item
2/19 64
 Looking northeast from Commercial Street and Jackson Street showing the Boston Block and tents
This is a modern copy of a photograph that Asahel Curtis copied. The original photographer is unknown. Curtis copied many images of the fire.
1890
2/20 65a-b
 Looking north on Second Street showing the Boston Block and street traffic
2 copies of the same image, cropped slightly differently.
1889
The Washington National Guard
Box/Folder item
2/21 66
 Members of the Guard in front of the old Armory Building
Smith, D.T., and Bart (photographer)
June 17, 1889
2/22 67 1889
2/23 68
 Members of the Guard and other people in the Bureau of Found Goods at the Denny Residence at Third Street and Union Street
Curtis, Asahel (photographer)
This is a modern copy of a photograph that Asahel Curtis copied. The original photographer is unknown. Curtis copied many images of the fire.
1889
2/24 69
 Looking east from wharf showing two members of the Washington National Guard
Curtis, Asahel (photographer)
This is a modern copy of a photograph that Asahel Curtis copied. The original photographer is unknown. Curtis copied many images of the fire and included them in his collection.
1889
2/25 70
 Member of the Washington National Guard among ruins
Copied from an original photograph.
1889
2/26 71 1889
Tents and temporary housing for businesses and general rebuilding
Box/Folder item
2/27 72
 Temporary buildings and a streetcar trolley
Copied from an original photograph.
1889
2/28 73
 Looking west on Main Street showing tents
Boyd, William F (photographer)
1889
2/29 74a
 Seattle Daily Pressstaff in a tent
Boyd and Braas (photographer)
June 7, 1889
2/29 74b
Post Intelligenceroffice on Columbia street after the fire
June 6, 1889
2/30 75 1889
2/31 76 1889
2/32 77 1889
2/33 78 1889
2/34 79
 Businesses housed in tents and street traffic
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/35 80
 Tents and street traffic
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/36 81 1889
2/37 82
 People and tents along a street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/38 83 1889
2/39 84
 People and lumber along a street
The back of the photo has advertising for businesses that were in the fire. The caption reads "A Few of the Survivors and Where They May Be Found."
1889
2/39 85a-b circa 1889

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Fires--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Great Fire, Seattle, Wash., 1889--Photographs
  • Temporary Buildings--Washington (State)--Seattle--1880-1890--Photographs
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)--History--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Boyd, William F., b. 1848 (photographer)
    • Judkins, David R (photographer)
    • Smith, D.T (photographer)