A century has passed since the Snohomish County courthouse burned down

EVERETT — A spark floated from across the street and ignited the Snohomish County Courthouse roof.

Flames quickly engulfed the French chateau-style building and burned it to the ground. Buildings around town soon erupted in flames, and everyone in Everett worried their homes could be next.

On Sunday, historians and politicians plan to mark the 100th anniversary of that tremendous fire, which destroyed the original courthouse and traumatized the young port city.

“It was a scary time,” said David Dilgard, a historian with Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room. Nearly everybody in the mill town was living in a house that could burn down.

Sunday’s events start with a courthouse tour at 10 a.m. and conclude with a 2 p.m. talk by Dilgard. Relatives of August Franklin Heide, the architect who designed the 1897 courthouse that burned down and the Spanish Mission-style building that rose in its place, planned to travel from out of state to attend.

The Everett Fire Department dedicated a chapter to the courthouse fire in its 1992 book “The Fire Boys: 100 years of Everett Firefighter History.” The department had never seen so many fires burning at once, nor has it since, said Everett fire Capt. Kenneth Dammand, the book’s managing editor.

At the time, The Everett Herald reported flames roaring down from the courthouse roof through the floors, one by one, fanned by a strong northwest wind.

“There was little hose and little water to combat the blaze,” the paper wrote. “County officials and clerks scrambled like mad men endeavoring to rescue valuable county books.”

In the end, a dozen buildings were destroyed and three others were damaged. Losses were estimated at $150,000. No one was killed.

The fire started at J.K. Healy’s blacksmith shop about 3 p.m. A spark fell through the floor and ignited a pile of hay. The wooden building at 3014 Wetmore Ave. was quickly consumed. Embers that the wind carried across Wetmore set the moss on the courthouse roof ablaze.

Once county workers realized there was no saving the building, they removed furniture from the lower floors. Court records made it through because they were kept in fireproof vaults.

Firefighters came from Snohomish, Seattle and Marysville to help but arrived too late to do much good, according to reports. Without more equipment, firefighters were unable to spray water beyond the second floor of the four-story building.

The blaze spread to a fire station on Wetmore Avenue, but fire crews were able to save most of the building and kept flames from spreading to the business district.

Other structures weren’t as fortunate. A barn near Hoyt and Hewitt avenues caught fire. More buildings followed.

Everett fire chiefs had been asking for more equipment and more men. The 16-man department had three fire wagons, one ladder truck and one pumper, a 1906 Ahrens-Continental Steamer. The pumper that was used to help put out the courthouse fire is still on display at the Station 5 at Madison Street and Beverly Boulevard.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com.

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