PHOTOS: When Washington became a state in November 1889, that wasn’t the only big news story that year.
In the final spring and summer of Washington’s territorial era, big fires ravaged major sections of downtowns on both sides of the Cascades, from Seattle, to Ellensburg, to Spokane. Seattle’s fire struck on the breezy, blue-sky afternoon of Thursday, June 6, 1889. It was caused by an accident at a carpenter’s shop at what’s now First and Madison. John Back tried to extinguish a pot of burning animal-based glue by dousing it with water, but the flames spread to the sawdust and other combustibles on the floor of the shop, and then on to much of the rest of Seattle.
It had been a warm and dry spring, and the wooden buildings in the young city had seasoned like cordwood and were highly flammable.