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What Seattle looked like in the 1890s Through Spectacular Historic Photos

Upon the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in Everett in 1893, Seattle’s city center underwent rapid redevelopment, leading to explosive growth. Timber and coal were the city’s primary industries, but fishing, wholesale trade, shipbuilding, and shipping also contributed to its expansion and population growth. As gold was discovered along and near the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory and Alaska in 1897, Seattle became a boomtown. The city became the premier outfitting point for prospectors because of its proximity to the Klondike and its established shipping lines. Alaska was considered to be the personal property of Seattle and Seattleites for a long time.

The city’s population increased from 3,533 in 1880 to 80,671 at the end of the 19th Century. According to one estimate, Seattle gained 1,000 new residents per month during the first half of 1889; in March alone, there were 500 buildings under construction, most of the wood structures. On June 6, 1889, a devastating fire that leveled the buildings on 116 acres in the city’s business district slowed but did not stop the city’s growth. The fire did not result in fatalities, but it caused millions of dollars’ worth of property damage.

Below are fascinating historical photos that show what Seattle looked like in the late-19th Century. Also, check Seattle in the 1880s and 1870s.

#1 2nd Ave. looking north from Yesler Way, Seattle, 1899

2nd Ave. looking north from Yesler Way, Seattle, 1899

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#2 2nd Avenue from James Street, looking north, Seattle, 1890

2nd Avenue from James Street, looking north, Seattle, 1890

Shows Butler Hotel and the Bailey Block on the left, Oriental Block on the right; electric streetcar on 2nd Ave., cable car on James Street.

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#3 Church choir, 1890

Church choir, 1890

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#4 Buildings and grounds at Leschi Park on Lake Washington, Seattle, 1890

Buildings and grounds at Leschi Park on Lake Washington, Seattle, 1890

Colonial Block. No. 21 From in front of the Colonial Block, just north of Columbia, south along Second Street.

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#5 1st Ave., looking north from Pioneer Square, 1890

1st Ave., looking north from Pioneer Square, 1890

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#6 Celebration honoring volunteers of the First Washington Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Pioneer Square, 1899

Celebration honoring volunteers of the First Washington Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Pioneer Square, 1899

The First Washington Volunteer Infantry Regiment, led by John H. Wholley, was mustered for the Spanish American War but fought in the insurrection in the Philippines instead.

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#7 Cherry Street, February 18, 1921

Cherry Street, February 18, 1921

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#8 Child standing near Hunters Pride shelter looking across Green Lake from the southeast end, 1896

Child standing near Hunters Pride shelter looking across Green Lake from the southeast end, 1896

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#9 Children bathing in Green Lake, 1895

Children bathing in Green Lake, 1895

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#10 Building at the end of a pier, possibly Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, October 1890

Building at the end of a pier, possibly Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, October 1890

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#11 1st Ave. decorated at night, 1899

1st Ave. decorated at night, 1899

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#12 1st Ave. from about Pike St., 1895.

1st Ave. from about Pike St., 1895.

Building with tower in center is the Arlington Hotel located at 1512 1st Ave.

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#13 1st Ave. S. looking north from Main St., Seattle, 1899

1st Ave. S. looking north from Main St., Seattle, 1899

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#14 1st Avenue from Cherry St., looking north, Seattle, 1890.

1st Avenue from Cherry St., looking north, Seattle, 1890.

Shows Sullivan Building (712 1st Ave.) at right, Starr-Boyd Building (1st Ave. and Cherry St.) at left; cable car of the Front Street Cable Railway turning onto 1st Ave.

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#15 1st Avenue from Cherry St., looking north, Seattle, 1890

1st Avenue from Cherry St., looking north, Seattle, 1890

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#16 2nd Ave. and Bell Street, 1890

2nd Ave. and Bell Street, 1890

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#17 Central School, Madison Street between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave., 1899

Central School, Madison Street between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave., 1899

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#18 Cigar concession stand in men’s restroom, Westlake Square Comfort Station, September 18, 1917

Cigar concession stand in men's restroom, Westlake Square Comfort Station, September 18, 1917

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#19 Colman Block, 811 1st Avenue, 1898

Colman Block, 811 1st Avenue, 1898

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#20 Columbia Street from 1st Ave., looking east, Seattle, 1891

Columbia Street from 1st Ave., looking east, Seattle, 1891

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#21 Columbia Street, 1890

Columbia Street, 1890

Shows West Street House at Columbia northeast corner West.

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#22 Bell’s Hotel, 1898

Bell's Hotel, 1898

Bell's Hotel (also often called the Hotel Bellevue or the Bellevue House) at 2330 1st Ave. (intersection of 1st and Battery Sts). The Hotel survived the Great Fire and stood at this location until 1937.

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#23 Bicycle along the Lake Washington bicycle path, 1899

Bicycle along the Lake Washington bicycle path, 1899

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#24 Bon Marche, Nordhoff and Co. department store, probably 1896

Bon Marche, Nordhoff and Co. department store, probably 1896

Probably in Belltown at the corner of 1st Ave. and Cedar St. The Bon Marché was founded in 1890 and moved downtown in 1896.

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#25 Bon Marche, Nordhoff and Co. department store, 1896

Bon Marche, Nordhoff and Co. department store, 1896

The Bon Marché was founded in 1890 and moved downtown in 1896.

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#26 Covered facility for picnics at Ravenna Park, 1898

Covered facility for picnics at Ravenna Park, 1898

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#27 Crowds at the waterfront near the foot of University Street, Seattle, 1898

Crowds at the waterfront near the foot of University Street, Seattle, 1898

Shows unidentified steamships at dock, and possibly the Klondike-Chicago Transportation and Trading Company.

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#28 Eshelman duplex, 1899

Eshelman duplex, 1899

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#29 3rd Ave. and Pine St., looking southeast, 1891

3rd Ave. and Pine St., looking southeast, 1891

Shows the First Methodist Protestant Church at 3rd Ave. and Pine St. in foreground

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#30 3rd Ave. from University Street, looking north, Seattle, Washington, 1890

3rd Ave. from University Street, looking north, Seattle, Washington, 1890

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#31 Children standing outside I.O.G.T. Hall (International Organization of Good Templars), 1897

Children standing outside I.O.G.T. Hall (International Organization of Good Templars), 1897

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#32 Argens and Schuck Gun and Locksmith store, 1896

Argens and Schuck Gun and Locksmith store, 1896

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#33 Art studio interior showing men and women painting, 1890s

Art studio interior showing men and women painting, 1890s

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#34 Bend in the path with bicycle in distance, Seattle, 1897

Bend in the path with bicycle in distance, Seattle, 1897

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#35 Businesses at the northeast corner of 1st Ave. and Union St., Seattle, December 13, 1981

Businesses at the northeast corner of 1st Ave. and Union St., Seattle, December 13, 1981

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#36 Businesses at the northeast corner of 1st Ave. and Union St., Seattle, December 13, 1981

Businesses at the northeast corner of 1st Ave. and Union St., Seattle, December 13, 1981

James st. No. 28. Temporary buildings in front of Yesler Home, Third Ave. Court house

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#37 Cable car of the First Avenue Railway Co. on 2nd Ave., 1898

Cable car of the First Avenue Railway Co. on 2nd Ave., 1898

Also known as the Mercer Island Hotel and the East Seattle Hotel.

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#38 Car 1 of the Rainier Power and Railway Co. with investor David T. Denny, near Lake Union, Seattle, 1891

Car 1 of the Rainier Power and Railway Co. with investor David T. Denny, near Lake Union, Seattle, 1891

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#39 Coney Island Bathhouse on the beach at Duwamish Head, Summer 1899

Coney Island Bathhouse on the beach at Duwamish Head, Summer 1899

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#40 Cooper & Levy store, 104-106 1st Ave. S. near Yesler Way Seattle, 1897

Cooper & Levy store, 104-106 1st Ave. S. near Yesler Way Seattle, 1897

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#41 Coppin waterworks, 1895

Coppin waterworks, 1895

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#42 Corliss P. Stone residence at 1120 N. 35th Street, 1891

Corliss P. Stone residence at 1120 N. 35th Street, 1891

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#43 Crowd gathered around dog team near waterfront, Seattle, 1898

Crowd gathered around dog team near waterfront, Seattle, 1898

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#44 Crowd with hose cart at scene of fire, 1895

Crowd with hose cart at scene of fire, 1895

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#45 David Judkins’ house, 522 Depot St. (later Denny Way), Seattle, 1890s

David Judkins' house, 522 Depot St. (later Denny Way), Seattle, 1890s

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#46 David T. Denny Residence at Republican St. with dog, possibly “Curly,” on the front porch, 1890

David T. Denny Residence at Republican St. with dog, possibly "Curly," on the front porch, 1890

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#47 Dearborn Street regrade, September 18, 1909

Dearborn Street regrade, September 18, 1909

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#48 Dredging operation for the Seattle and Lake Washington waterway, July 29, 1895

Dredging operation for the Seattle and Lake Washington waterway, July 29, 1895

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#49 Electric streetcar of the Seattle Consolidated Street Railway, 1894

Electric streetcar of the Seattle Consolidated Street Railway, 1894

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#50 Electric streetcar of the Seattle Consolidated Street Railway, 1894

Electric streetcar of the Seattle Consolidated Street Railway, 1894

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#51 Housing on First Hill, 1890

Housing on First Hill, 1890

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#52 Ice skaters on Lake Union, 1890

Ice skaters on Lake Union, 1890

A view of Lake Union frozen over from Fremont.

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#53 James Street and Yesler Way from Pioneer Square, 1894

James Street and Yesler Way from Pioneer Square, 1894

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#54 East side of 1st Ave. between James St. and Cherry Street, Seattle, 1890.

East side of 1st Ave. between James St. and Cherry Street, Seattle, 1890.

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#55 Eastlake from south Lake Union, 1895

Eastlake from south Lake Union, 1895

Shows Eastlake to the left, Wallingford and Fremont in the distance, and Queen Anne to the left.

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#56 Eighth grade class standing on steps of the Denny School, Seattle, 1899

Eighth grade class standing on steps of the Denny School, Seattle, 1899

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#57 Exterior of Mayor William D. Wood house, 1890

Exterior of Mayor William D. Wood house, 1890

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#58 Fire fighters battling the fire at the Schwabacher Brothers’ building, Seattle, June 27, 1892.

Fire fighters battling the fire at the Schwabacher Brothers' building, Seattle, June 27, 1892.

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#59 Firloch Club house, 1890

Firloch Club house, 1890

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#60 Holyoke Building, Spring St. southeast corner of 1st Ave., 1890

Holyoke Building, Spring St. southeast corner of 1st Ave., 1890

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#61 Interior of classroom showing school children seated at desks, 1890

Interior of classroom showing school children seated at desks, 1890

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#62 Leschi Park Pavilion, 1890.

Leschi Park Pavilion, 1890.

Pavillion, Leschi Park

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#63 Madison Street, 1893

Madison Street, 1893

Shows the freight Office of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway at the foot of Madison Street.

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#64 Mutual Life Building, 1893

Mutual Life Building, 1893

Located at 1st Avenue, Northwest corner Yesler Way.

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#65 View SW from 32nd Avenue, 1898

View SW from 32nd Avenue, 1898

Thirty-second Avenue. South. 1898."

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#66 First Baptist Church, 4th Ave. and Cherry Street, 1890s

First Baptist Church, 4th Ave. and Cherry Street, 1890s

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#67 First house built between Park Junction and Woodland Park, 1899

First house built between Park Junction and Woodland Park, 1899

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#68 First Methodist Episcopal Church, Columbia St. and 2nd Ave., 1890

First Methodist Episcopal Church, Columbia St. and 2nd Ave., 1890

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#69 Fremont and Lake Union looking west from Capitol Hill, 1893

Fremont and Lake Union looking west from Capitol Hill, 1893

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#70 Fremont and Lake Union seen from Queen Anne, 1893

Fremont and Lake Union seen from Queen Anne, 1893

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#71 Green Lake, 1890s

Green Lake, 1890s

The possibility is strong that this is Green Lake as Mr. McDonald's residence was on that lake. The only other alternative is, of course, Lake Washington.

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#72 Guy C. Phinney with group in Woodland Park on road to Green lake, Seattle, 1893

Guy C. Phinney with group in Woodland Park on road to Green lake, Seattle, 1893

Woodland Park prior to its acquisition by the City of Seattle in 1900. Guy C. Phinney standing to the right beside the big tree

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#73 Lake Union and Seattle from the south, 1890

Lake Union and Seattle from the south, 1890

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#74 Lake Union from Denny Regrade neighborhood, 1895

Lake Union from Denny Regrade neighborhood, 1895

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#75 Lake Union from Eastlake, 1890s

Lake Union from Eastlake, 1890s

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#76 Leschi Park looking toward Lake Washington, 1890

Leschi Park looking toward Lake Washington, 1890

Shows ferry dock to the left; Lake Washington Cable Railway Co. tracks to the right.

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#77 Leschi Park on Lake Washington, Seattle, 1890

Leschi Park on Lake Washington, Seattle, 1890

Shows Leschi terminal for the Lake Washington Cable Railroad Company at the foot of Yesler Way, sidewheel steamboat docked at boathouse, and pavilions.

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#78 Looking north on 1st Ave. from James St. showing July 4th parade, Seattle, 1890

Looking north on 1st Ave. from James St. showing July 4th parade, Seattle, 1890

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#79 Looking north on 1st Ave. from James Street, 1890.

Looking north on 1st Ave. from James Street, 1890.

Shows Pioneer Building and the Hotel Seattle to the right; James St, front right, being raised to reduce the grade between 1st Ave. and 2nd Ave.

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#80 Looking north on 2nd Avenue from Yesler Way, Seattle, Washington, 1890

Looking north on 2nd Avenue from Yesler Way, Seattle, Washington, 1890

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#81 Looking south from 2nd Ave. and Cherry Street, Seattle, 1890s.

Looking south from 2nd Ave. and Cherry Street, Seattle, 1890s.

Shows tent city on the left, and Standard Theatre, Butler Hotel, and Occidental Hotel under construction.

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#82 Logging operation showing a sawmill, 1899

Logging operation showing a sawmill, 1899

Shows railroad tracks and oxen in foreground.

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#83 Fremont looking north from Queen Anne, 1890s

Fremont looking north from Queen Anne, 1890s

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#84 Fremont lumber mill operation, possibly the Bryant Lumber Mill, 1895

Fremont lumber mill operation, possibly the Bryant Lumber Mill, 1895

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#85 Front Street (now 1st Ave. S.) looking north from James Street, 1897

Front Street (now 1st Ave. S.) looking north from James Street, 1897

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#86 George Conn, wife, and son Neil standing outside Judge William D. Wood house, 1897

George Conn, wife, and son Neil standing outside Judge William D. Wood house, 1897

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#87 Looking west from 7th Ave. and Columbia St. after a snowfall, Seattle, 1890

Looking west from 7th Ave. and Columbia St. after a snowfall, Seattle, 1890

Shows Central High School, between 6th Ave. and 7th Ave. and Madison St. and Marion St. to the right.

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#88 Madison St. from vicinity of 1st Ave., 1893

Madison St. from vicinity of 1st Ave., 1893

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#89 Man and woman with baby carriage near front porch of residence at 1428 23rd Ave Seattle, 1890

Man and woman with baby carriage near front porch of residence at 1428 23rd Ave Seattle, 1890

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#90 Man in horse-drawn carriage at Woodland Park, 1899

Man in horse-drawn carriage at Woodland Park, 1899

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#91 Man with bicycle on the Lake Washington bicycle path, 1899

Man with bicycle on the Lake Washington bicycle path, 1899

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#92 Man, probably John Soule, on steps of Soule home, 1353 32nd Avenue, 1890s

Man, probably John Soule, on steps of Soule home, 1353 32nd Avenue, 1890s

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#93 Mary Soule and her sister Mrs. McAlpin in front of Soule residence, 1353 32nd Ave. S., Seattle, 1899

Mary Soule and her sister Mrs. McAlpin in front of Soule residence, 1353 32nd Ave. S., Seattle, 1899

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#94 Men standing near railroad car loaded with large piece of timber for the Chicago World’s Fair, 1893

Men standing near railroad car loaded with large piece of timber for the Chicago World's Fair, 1893

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#95 Menstanding on the first through streetcar on Madison Street, Seattle, 1890

Menstanding on the first through streetcar on Madison Street, Seattle, 1890

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#96 Merry-go-round, West Seattle beach, 1899

Merry-go-round, West Seattle beach, 1899

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#97 Military unit on parade, 1890

Military unit on parade, 1890

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#98 Mill at Salmon Bay, 1890s

Mill at Salmon Bay, 1890s

Shows the Northern Pacific Railroad trestle in foreground, unidentified lumber or shingle mill to the right.

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#99 Montlake Ditch, 1890

Montlake Ditch, 1890

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#100 Moran Brother’s Shipyard showing steamboats for the Klondike under construction, 1898

Moran Brother's Shipyard showing steamboats for the Klondike under construction, 1898

No. 671.Moran Bro's Co. Shipyard, Seattle. Building 12 Yukon Steamers.

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#101 Moran Brothers Co. shipyards building steamboats for service in the Klondike gold rush, 1898

Moran Brothers Co. shipyards building steamboats for service in the Klondike gold rush, 1898

Twelve Yukon River steamers built by Moran Bros. Company.

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#102 Neil Conn with bicycle and George Conn with cow standing in front of William D. Wood house, Woodlawn Avenue, 1897

Neil Conn with bicycle and George Conn with cow standing in front of William D. Wood house, Woodlawn Avenue, 1897

Judge Woods home in 1897. Prof. Conn and Neil in foreground. The log cabin in the center was the first building built at Green Lake. The sign which says Woodlawn Ave. is No. 72nd St. The gate is now the N.E. corner of 72nd and E. Green Lake Way.

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#103 Northeast corner of Front and James St., Seattle, showing Henry L. and Sara Yesler on porch of their house, Seattle, 1859

Northeast corner of Front and James St., Seattle, showing Henry L. and Sara Yesler on porch of their house, Seattle, 1859

Probably between Second Avenue between Cherry and Columbia.

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#104 Panorama from Denny Hill, 1890

Panorama from Denny Hill, 1890

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#105 Panorama looking northwest, 1890

Panorama looking northwest, 1890

Shows the First Methodist Episcopal Church on Marion St. and 3rd Ave. at center left

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#106 Panorama looking northwest, 1890

Panorama looking northwest, 1890

Shows the Rainier Hotel to the right between 5th Ave. and 6th Ave., Marion St. and Columbia St.

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#107 Panorama of the waterfront north from Main St., Seattle, 1892.

Panorama of the waterfront north from Main St., Seattle, 1892.

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#108 Passengers aboard the steamer Roanoke leaving for the Klondike from a Seattle dock, June, 1898

Passengers aboard the steamer Roanoke leaving for the Klondike from a Seattle dock, June, 1898

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#109 Pioneer Square showing the Pioneer Building, Seattle, 1891

Pioneer Square showing the Pioneer Building, Seattle, 1891

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#110 Pioneer Square, March 14, 1899

Pioneer Square, March 14, 1899

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#111 Pitts Grocery Store, Broadway & E. Pike St., Seattle, 1890

Pitts Grocery Store, Broadway & E. Pike St., Seattle, 1890

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#112 Plummer Block at 3rd Ave. and Union Street, 1891

Plummer Block at 3rd Ave. and Union Street, 1891

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#113 Plymouth Congregational Church and 3rd Street, Seattle, 1890

Plymouth Congregational Church and 3rd Street, Seattle, 1890

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#114 Post Building, northeast corner of Yesler Way and Post St, 1891

Post Building, northeast corner of Yesler Way and Post St, 1891

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#115 Rainier School and school children posed in front of entrance, November 27, 1899

Rainier School and school children posed in front of entrance, November 27, 1899

Rainier School, Seattle. No. 27R. Class Nov. 27, '99. Wilse 811 2nd Ave.

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#116 Reindeer with entrance to Woodland Park in background, Seattle, 1898

Reindeer with entrance to Woodland Park in background, Seattle, 1898

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#117 Residence at 5707 Kenwood Place N., 1895

Residence at 5707 Kenwood Place N., 1895

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#118 Residence at the northwest corner of NE 45th St. and Brooklyn Avenue, 1898

Residence at the northwest corner of NE 45th St. and Brooklyn Avenue, 1898

Dean Henry and Bertha Landes' home in 1899. The Hotel Deca now occupies this corner.

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#119 Residence, Green Lake district, 1890

Residence, Green Lake district, 1890

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#120 Residential area of Seattle looking west, 1899

Residential area of Seattle looking west, 1899

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#121 Revenue cutter McCulloch, 1898

Revenue cutter McCulloch, 1898

The U.S. Revenue cutter McCulloch aided the U.S. Navy during the Spanish American War and participated in the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines

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#122 Saloon interior showing men standing at the bar, Occidental Ave. and Washington St., 1895

Saloon interior showing men standing at the bar, Occidental Ave. and Washington St., 1895

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#123 Sami reindeer herders of the Lapland-Yukon Relief Expedition, 1898

Sami reindeer herders of the Lapland-Yukon Relief Expedition, 1898

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#124 Schoolchildren in front of temporary building for Queen Anne School, top of Queen Anne Hill, Seattle, 1890

Schoolchildren in front of temporary building for Queen Anne School, top of Queen Anne Hill, Seattle, 1890

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#125 Schwabacher’s Wharf, foot of Union Street, 1890

Schwabacher's Wharf, foot of Union Street, 1890

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#126 Seagrave House, 224 Virginia Street, Seattle, 1890

Seagrave House, 224 Virginia Street, Seattle, 1890

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#127 Seattle city hall and police headquarters, 3rd Ave. south of Jefferson Street, 1896

Seattle city hall and police headquarters, 3rd Ave. south of Jefferson Street, 1896

The Yesler Mansion is in the background where the present County City Building now stands.