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Hamilton's Business District
Swept By Fire This Morning

Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, page 1, April 16, 1925
Flames discovered at midnight; destroy Slipper store, Hardy store,
garages, hotels, private homes; citizens put up hard fight
and save much of town from threatened destruction
(Windmill post fire)
Rubble after the fire

      For the second time within a few months, the business district of Hamilton was swept by a disastrous fire, the loss from last night's blaze being estimated at about $100,000. The Slipper mercantile store, the Hardy hardware store, the hotel, apartment house and several private dwellings were burned before the blaze was subdued.
      About 19 buildings in the two blocks where the fire raged were destroyed. This morning, only a mass of smouldering ruins remained on the main business corner. The fire in September, which started in about the same place, destroyed several homes, but did not spread to the stores.
      The fire was first noticed about 12:30 Thursday morning, when Mrs. J. Belfry smelled smoke coming from the Hardy hardware store. She called Fred Slipper and others, who investigated and by this time the store was blazing. The fire seems to have smouldered for some time in the wall of the Hardy store next to the big Slipper general merchandise store. The flames spread rapidly, and by the time the town was aroused, the two stores were ablaze. Some of the books and business records in these stores were saved.
      The Slipper store is on the [northwest] corner of Maple and Cumberland streets and the Hardy store one door west on Maple street. The fire jumped to the D.C. Henry residence and an oil house next door on Maple street, and continued on to the house owned by George Cockreham and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. G.L. Swettenam. This family and the Henry family lost all their possessions.
      Then the fight on the north side of Maple street centered in the Belfry residence, to keep the flames from spreading farther west and wiping out the entire residence district. The men were successful and held the blaze there. The fire had burned the barns and sheds in the rear of the stores, ad spread on down Cumberland street, burning the J.L. Wall poolroom, the barber shop run by W.Z. Harrison, the Washington hotel, a big frame structure; and the Jacobin apartments on the corner of Cumberland and Nobel [streets], cleaning the entire block. The flames then spread west on Noble street, burning the Shannon garage. Another fight was made at the Shannon house, where the flames were finally stopped, checking the spread of the blaze on Noble street.

(Downtown Hamilton 1916)
      This photo take by George W. Wilson in August 1916 shows what downtown Hamilton looked like before the fire. We are looking north on Cumberland street, the main road from the old town by the river to the depot north of town. Fred G. Slipper's mercantile store is on the northwest corner. Note that it was by then called a mining store to reflect the role of the Slipper brothers in the Hamilton Coal and Development Co. Photo courtesy of Fred W. Slipper

Fire leaps to the south side of Maple
      The fire also had jumped across Maple street from the Slipper store, burned the Jacobin poolroom, Swettenam's storage garage in which were several cars; the moving picture theatre operated by Frank Jacobin; the George Paterson house occupied by the D. Dailey family; the J. Cochrane residence occupied by Mr. Cochrane and his daughter's family, Mr. and Mrs. D.W. Robinson; and then spread to the John Slipper residence where the blaze was halted after a hard fight.
      The Slipper house, the Belfry house and the Shannon house were the keys to the fire fighting. Had these houses gone, the entire town would have been wiped out. The Kellner house was also damaged by the flames, but was saved. The Hamilton State bank's brick building withstood the flames, although the big plate glass window was broken.

(Post fire #1)
(Post fire #2)
(Post fire #4)
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos. All four post-fire photos courtesy of Sue Flexer, granddaughter of Fred G. Slipper. Can any of you identify the houses or scenes in the photos?

Made fine fight
      The people whose stores or homes were destroyed saved little or nothing from the flames, which fanned by a strong northeast wind, spread rapidly in all directions. The fight continued most of the night. Alarms were sent to Sedro-Woolley and Mt. Vernon. Fire Chief Ropes, R. Simmonds, Fred Therkelson, Percy [Puss] Stendal, George Fritsch of the Sedro-Woolley fire department, went to the fire and did excellent work assisting in checking the flames. Mr. Ropes said that the city's new five gallon chemical was used with great success. The Mt. Vernon fire truck arrived after most of the blaze had been extinguished.
      The water pressure was not very good, as the tanks are kept supplied by electric pumps, and as soon as the poles started to burn, the current was turned off to prevent trouble with falling wires. The tanks had a good supply of water, but the pressure was low.
      Neighbors are caring for those who lost their homes and possessions. Most of them had little or no insurance, on account of the high rate. None of the merchants had anything to say yet as to their plans for rebuilding. The scorched sides of the Slipper, Shannon and Belfry houses show the remarkable efforts made to save them. The beautiful Slipper yard and garden is badly damaged, most of the fine lawn being destroyed. During all the excitement, nobody was hurt. People from all parts of the county were interested spectators of ruins all day Thursday.

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