A blast from the past: Great Seattle Fire Anniversary tours will be held Saturday, June 6.
Saturday marks the 126th anniversary of the Great Seattle Fire, commemorated with stories and tours of early downtown Seattle by local tour company Beneath the Streets.
On the afternoon of June 6, 1889, in a woodworking shop at First and Madison, a glue pot boiled over, quickly engulfing the building as it ignited wood chips and turpentine. Fire spread quickly to a nearby liquor store that exploded, setting the entire block on fire.
Water pressure was inefficient; some of the city’s water pipes were made of hollowed-out logs that burned in the flames. The wind rose and the Great Seattle Fire raged, destroying 25 blocks of downtown Seattle. Miraculously, no one died, and the next day, Seattle government and business leaders banded together to plan its future.
Great Seattle Fire Anniversary Tour
Time: every half-hour 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday June 6.
Cost; $10/June 6; $8-$15/daily.
Location: Beneath the Streets, 102 Cherry St., Seattle.
More info: 206-624-1237 or beneath-the-streets.com/FireSale.
Underground Tour: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, 608 First Ave., Seattle; $9-$19 (206-682 4646 or undergroundtour.com/index.html).
Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI): 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, until 8 p.m. Thursdays, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle: $14-$17, ages 14 and younger free (206-324-1126 or mohai.org/).
Rebuilding began immediately, with 465 brick buildings constructed within a year on streets raised up to 22 feet in places to level parts of our hilly city. Local government took over and modernized the water system and fire department, and the disaster proved to be only a brief setback in city history.
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In 1965 the ever-popular Underground Tour below Pioneer Square streets opened, helping promote restoration and revitalization of the historic area. Three years ago, a second company, Beneath the Streets, began offering tours of different sections of the subterranean passageways, including Saturday’s small-group, one-hour Great Seattle Fire 126th anniversary tours.
Reservations are recommended, with walk-ups accepted if space is available. If you can’t make it Saturday, not to worry: Beneath the Streets tours are offered several times daily through the summer season.
Also available anytime, the Great Fire Theater, part of MOHAI’s “True Northwest: The Seattle Journey” permanent exhibit, displays Great Fire artifacts, including the infamous glue pot, with film and photos bringing the event to life through song, complete with simulated flames.
Locals who remember the Great Seattle Fire giant mural that was on display at MOHAI’s original location from 1953 until its closing in 2012 may be interested to know that though the historic mural isn’t on display at MOHAI’s grand South Lake Union location. It joins a wealth of other local artifacts safely tucked away in museum storage.