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INHM: Summer of Fire

Museum Collection 1007.4

Devastating fires swept Seattle, Ellensburg and Spokane Falls during the summer of 1889. In Spokane Falls alone, fire engulfed 32 downtown blocks. Cheney and Republic were also ravaged: “When daylight dawned, there was a scene of ruin and desolation that almost beggars description,” reported Cheney’s Morning Review. Republic’s fledgling fire department halted the spread of flames by blowing up buildings in the blaze’s path. Similar disasters devastated many Western towns built of wood in an era before full-time fire departments or extensive hydrant systems. Most commercial building owners rebuilt in sturdy brick and stone to avoid future losses.

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Opera Glasses

  After Spokane’s fire in that hot August of 1889, property owners had to obtain written passes to retrieve their belongings from the “burnt district.” With pass in hand, Daniel Dwight gathered souvenirs of the businesses that had operated in his three-story Falls City Block on the southwest corner of Riverside and Post: the Exchange National Bank, Bonne & Lindsay’s grocery, Dr. Hauver’s dental office, the Falls City Opera House, and his own real estate office. Dwight soon rebuilt his Falls

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Melted poker chips

   City Block; new construction like this provided work for a host of talented architects and a large labor force. Daniel Dwight’s collection of melted souvenirs included a stack of poker chips, a cluster of nails, and opera glasses from the top floor opera house. The Inland Northwest History Moment is a collaboration of Spokane Public Radio and the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC), in celebration of 100 Stories, the museum’s centennial exhibition. 

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Nails from the "Burnt District"

  More Resources: A Night of Terror, Devastation, Suffering and Awful Woe: The Spokane Fire of 1889 by Edward Nolan, Eastern Washington State Historical Society, 1989