Winter 2014 Issue - What Happened in Redmond 104 Years Ago?
THE HOTEL WALTHER FIRE
In 1910 there were three hotels in Redmond. The Hotel Redmond built in 1899-1900 on the south side of the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks, a lodging house on Leary Way built in 1903 where Gerk’s Ski and Cycle is today, and the largest of the three, the Hotel Walther built in 1889 as the Valley Hotel and remodeled and expanded between 1903 and 1906. The Hotel Walther was located on Gilman Street, was three stories high and had a saloon.
In 1910 Redmond was still small compared to the towns around it. It had dirt streets, wood sidewalks, and false front wood buildings. Looking west on Cleveland from Leary Way, the town ended just before the Stone House and looking East from the same spot, Cleveland ended at 164th Ave NE. At this terminus there was a large tree in what would be the center of Cleveland today. Because the town was not incorporated, it was not on the water system and had no organized fire fighters and no firefighting equipment. Like many rural towns of this period, Redmond had never had a major fire. Then came the afternoon of March 13, 1910...
It was a sunny day and not very cold. Sometime between noon and one o’clock a fire started in the chimney of the Hotel Walther and quickly spread throughout the third floor. Although the third floor was full of lodgers everyone made it out safely. Residents in town and men and women returning from church responded. The men formed a bucket brigade and the women worked the well pumps. As the situation worsened a call for help went out to the neighboring towns including Seattle. Kirkland’s volunteer firefighters arrived nearly exhausted having dragged their chemical engine and hose cart four miles. The bucket brigade and Kirkland firefighters fought the fire for hours to literally save the town from complete destruction. Three photographs of the fire were taken by Winfred Wallace, a local photographer. Analysis of the fire and ash in the photographs show that the third floor burned intensely hot so one can imagine how difficult it was to fight the fire.
When it was clear the hotel could not be saved, the bucket brigade and Kirkland firefighters concentrated their efforts toward saving the surrounding buildings. In order to do so and to save the town, they decided to dynamite the hotel and two other buildings that were on fire. Redmond people, whose names will never be known, set the dynamite and the hotel, a pool hall, and one other building were detonated. The progression of the fire was checked and the town saved. The blast was so heavy that it was reported to have shattered every window in town. The noise was even heard in Kirkland. The fire was finally extinguished in the early morning of March 14 over twelve hours after it began.
No one was injured; much of the hotel furniture was saved as well as lodger’s baggage. Sadly while the hotel was insured for $2,000 the property loss was estimated at $10,000.
Mary Walther rebuilt the Hotel Walther later in 1910 on the northeast corner of Leary Way and Cleveland Street. In 1912 she sold the hotel to Henry Evers who renamed it the Grand Central Hotel which in later years would become known as the Redmond Hotel Café. The building is still stands today and features the Eastern Pearl restaurant and US Nails salon.
Photographs by Winfred Wallace - March 13, 1910.
Seattle Times - March 14, 1910, page 8.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - March 14, 1910, Page 2.
The Star - March 14, 1910, page 2.
Interview with City Fire Marshall - March 6, 2013.
Real Property Assessment Rolls 1905, 1910, 1915.
Warranty Deed - H.S. Reed to Mary Walther dated May 12, 1908.