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Ellensburg fire destroys 200 homes and 10 business blocks on July 4, 1889.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5111 : Printer-Friendly Format

On the evening of July 4, 1889, a devastating fire sweeps through Ellensburg, destroying approximately 200 Victorian-era homes and leveling structures on 10 business blocks.

The fire began in a high wind at about 10:30 p.m. in a grocery store and quickly spread to the frame buildings nearby. Despite a valiant effort by townspeople to fight the fire using the town's limited mid-summer water supply, the morning of July 5 saw Ellensburg in ruins. The Ellensburg National Bank and the City Hotel survived the blaze.

A tent city sprang up. Like many towns destroyed by fire, Ellensburg quickly rebuilt, this time using less flammable materials. The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad three years earlier meant that building materials could be brought in quickly by rail instead of laboriously by wagon. The demarcation "1889" on many of Ellensburg's historic buildings is a testament to this period of mass reconstruction.

George and Jan Roberts, Discovering Historic Washington State (Baldwin Park, CA: Gem Guides Book Company, 1999), 136; Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington's Past: A Guide To History, Revised Edition (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 124; The Ellensburg Washington Community website (http://www.ellensburg-wa.com).

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People surveying ashes of Ellensburg fire, July 1889
Courtesy Yakima Valley Museum (Image 2002-802-274)

4th Street, Ellensburg, 1900s

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