Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Great Seattle Fire
As with so many of the fires that destroyed cities during this period, the origin of the Great Seattle Fire is clouded in legend. An early newspaper report claimed that the fire began with a glue pot spilled by one James McGough. Although the Seattle Post-Intelligencer corrected the story within weeks, to this day James McGough's glue pot remains as much a legend as Mrs. O'Leary's cow. (Apparently, the fire was indeed started by a tipped glue pot, but in a different part of the building than the unfortunate McGough's paint store.)
The fire burned 29 city blocks (almost entirely wooden buildings; about 10 brick buildings also burned). It destroyed nearly the entire business district, all of the railroad terminals, and all but four of the wharves. Despite the massive destruction of property, nobody died in the fire, although there were a few fatalities during the cleanup process.
Seattle rebuilt from the ashes with astounding rapidity. The fire had done a fine job of cleansing the town of rats and other vermin; a new zoning code resulted in a downtown of brick and stone buildings, rather than wood. In the single year after the fire, the city grew from 25,000 to 40,000 inhabitants, largely because of the enormous number of construction jobs suddenly created.
Still, south of Yesler Way, the open city atmosphere remained. The most famous figure in this wide open district would be the flamboyant madame Lou Graham , who arrived in Seattle in 1888 and made herself a force to be reckoned with in the city's politics until her premature death in 1903.
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