|Great Ellensburg Fire|
Historical poster of brick buildings erected in Ellensburg since the Great Fire
|Cost||$2 million (1889)|
($56.9 million in 2019 dollars)
|Date(s)||July 4–5, 1889 |
10:30 p.m.–3:30 a.m.
The Great Ellensburg Fire, also known as the Independence Day Fire, was a fire that destroyed homes and the business district of Ellensburg in 1889, during the same summer that major fires damaged Spokane, Vancouver, and Seattle, all major cities in the Washington Territory.
The fire department responded promptly, but strong northeast winds prevented them from halting the advance of the conflagration.
The fire lasted from 10:30 P.M. to 3:30 A.M. the next morning, and destroyed over 200 homes and buildings, including 10 blocks in the heart of the city of 4,000. Nearly half of the destroyed buildings had been constructed in the previous two years. Observers who had toured Seattle after its recent fire said the Ellensburg fire destroyed more property in less space. Losses were estimated to be more than $2,000,000 (equivalent to $52,070,755 in 2018).
The sole surviving building in the downtown area was the Lynch block. Built by John Nash in 1888 for $20,000, it is still standing. The city courthouse survived, being upwind from the flames. The city rebuilt the downtown area rapidly in the following months.
The timing led to suspicion that it was related to the holiday fireworks, although the owner of the grocery store where the fire began speculated that it was started by Indians in revenge for a white man beating an Indian woman. A contemporary news account claimed local citizens found red cards with "You have no pity – we show no mercy" written on them in their yards the next morning. The director of the Kittitas County Historical Museum says the list of possible causes for the fire includes "errant fireworks, insurance fraud, faulty electric lights, striking miners, vagrants displaced by the Seattle fire, disgruntled Native Americans, disgruntled Chinese, even a disgruntled circus that had tried and failed to set up their tent on the edge of town in the high winds that were blowing that day."
- "ELLENSBURG IN ASHES". The New York Times (July 6, 1889).
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- Caveness, Andrew. (2009). Ellensburg. Ellensburg Public Library. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub. pp. 32–42. ISBN 9780738571546. OCLC 612461590.
- "Disastrous Fire". Aspen Weekly Times (July 6, 1889).
- "Sea of Fire - Washington 1889: Blazes, Rails and the Year of Statehood - Legacy Washington". WA Secretary of State. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "The Ellensburg Fire". Daily Evening Bulletin (San Francisco, CA) (July 6, 1889).
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- Eberhart, Cory J.; Storlie, Debbie (1976). The Building of Ellensburg. Eberhart, Ellensburg. OCLC 2491765.
- "Fires devastated Seattle, Ellensburg and Spokane in 1889". MyNorthwest.com. 2018-06-06. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Disastrous Fire at Ellensburg, Washington Territory". Atchison Daily Champion (84). July 6, 1889.
- "Ominous red cards are key to mystery of the Ellensburg Fire". MyNorthwest.com. 2018-07-04. Retrieved 2019-07-21.