Fire guts Times and Denny buildings at 2nd Avenue and Union Street in Seattle on February 13, 1913.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 8/07/2002
  • Essay 3916

On February 13, 1913, the printing plant of The Seattle Times at 2nd Avenue and Union Street is gutted by fire. The adjoining Denny Building also suffers major damage. No lives are lost but businesses suffer a combined loss of $400,000. The cause of the fire is never determined.

Where There’s Smoke…

The fire started shortly before 4:00 a.m. Newsboys sleeping and hanging out on the stoop of the building were the first to see smoke, and one called in an alarm while the others warned those inside. The alarm was sounded at 3:57 a.m., and firefighters arrived within 19 minutes.

By then, flames engulfed the upper floors of the four-story building. A 4-11 alarm was sounded which brought in fire companies from around the city. Nine engines, 3 trucks, 2 chemical companies, 1 tower, and 23 hoses were used to fight the flames.

Three hours later the Times Building and Denny Building were a shambles. Everything above the second floor in the Times Building was destroyed, and the bottom floors were flooded. The Denny building suffered severe damage in its top floors. Its roof was gone.

Hot Off the Press

The Seattle Times presses were in the basement, but were damaged by water. Until their repair, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer chipped in and offered the services of their presses. That evening’s edition of the Times made it out on time.

Editors and reporters suffered greatly. All of their notes, photographs, and records had burned to ashes, and their typewriters, printing supplies, and typesetting machines were blobs of twisted metal. Insurance covered the loss of equipment, but the loss of files going back to 1881 was incalculable.

Other businesses suffered also. George Bartell of the Bartell Drug company lost $75,000 worth of overstock that was stored in the Denny Building. Architects Bebb & Mendel lost plans for new buildings, as well as an extensive library.

The cause of the blaze was never determined. Times managing editor C. B. Blethen hinted that the fire may have been caused by radicals, and used the fire to fan the flames of red-baiting patriotism. A large sign was placed on the wrecked building, claiming that the American flag flew over the building throughout the fire, and that “no jealous attack could injure the Times standard.”


“Flames Wreck Times Plant; Fire Causes $400,000 Loss,” The Seattle Times February 13, 1913, pp. 1-3; “Loss in Times and Denny Block Fire $247,000,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer February 14, 1913, p. 8; Sharon A. Boswell and Lorraine McConaghy, Raise Hell and Sell Newspapers: Alden Blethen & The Seattle Times (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1996), 215-217.

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