It seems that many acts of destruction (human or otherwise) seem to acquire the seemingly inappropriate prefix of “great”, and the tremendous fire that swept through Seattle on June 6, 1889 is no exception. Like the fires that consumed other cities such as Chicago and London, the Great Seattle Fire was the cumulative product of a number of factors working in the favor of such an incendiary blaze. The summer in Seattle had been a rather dry one when a glue pot boiled over in Victor Clairmont’s woodworking shop in downtown Seattle that fateful afternoon. The fires spread quickly, Seattle’s water supply was more than problematic, and some 15 hours later, 25 city blocks had been completely destroyed. Out of this tragedy came a drive to rebuild, and Seattle went on to become the most successful metropolis in the Pacific Northwest. The photographic documentation of the aftermath of this event is offered here online in a lovely collection created by the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections initiative. Here visitors can browse through a number of collections that contain images from the likes of photographers William F. Boyd and Ashael Curtis. The Prosch Seattle View collection is definitely worth a look, as it contains 26 rather dramatic views of the urban landscape during this tumultuous time.
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