The Great Fire of 1911

Disastrous Fire Visited Snohomish Tuesday read the headline in Friday’s issue of the Snohomish County Tribune. Old news by then, but the subhead led the reader to the facts they were looking for, Thirty-five Business Places Wiped Out – Total Loss $150,000.

The fire broke out in the basement of a restaurant on the south side of First between avenues B and C, referred to as Block 2 in those days. The entire bunch of buildings were flimsy structures, all frame buildings, the paper noted in its June 2, 1911 issue. The buildings were built on poles, some 10 to 20 feet long in order to bring the structure up to street grade from the riverbank below. Looking down on Kla Ha Ya Park from First Street today, will make this situation clear.

In thirty minutes after the fire was discovered it had leaped across the street to the old Blackman building in which were located the Post Office, the Penobscot Hotel and other business places, which burst into flames so rapidly that the hotel guests barely had time to escape by the rear entrance, many of them losing all their baggage, reported the Tribune.

Not a breath of wind was stirring [otherwise] the entire business portion of the city would have been wiped out. Heroic efforts on the part of our splendid volunteer fire department kept the flames confined, the hometown paper boasts, that it was hot where they were working may be judged from the fact that part of their fire hose was burned in two while in use.

No deaths or even serious injuries were reported. One rumor on the street as reported in the paper was that three intoxicated men sleeping over the Owl saloon were burned to death; later it was found they had left before the fire.

This is just a hint of the kind of detail David Dilgard includes in his slideshow talk about the dramatic event, and he will be giving his presentation – Marking 100 Years Since the Great Fire of 1911 — at the Upper Case Books at 611 Second Street on Thursday, May 26th at 6:30pm – but I suggest you show up at 6 for an espresso and a seat. David is co-founder of the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library and his popular slideshow talks are always free.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, May 18, 2011.

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The photographer William Douglas came to Snohomish with the intention of capturing the Wiseman airplane flight on May 7th, the subject of our past two articles. However, Douglas was still in town when the fire broke out early on the morning of May 30, 1911, and captured the dramatic images that accompany this story.

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Thanks to all who showed up for David’s slideshow talk at Upper Case Books. An overflow turnout had store owner Lorraine and her employee TJ scrambling for chairs.