Seattle Construction- 1890


Provide an accurate description of a construction job site in 1890 to better understand what the job site for a four-story building would look like for a novel.

Early Findings

1890 Construction Facts

  • In 1855, the Bessemer Method, created by Sir Henry Bessemer in England, made the production of steel more efficient. It allowed for the creation of steel with good tensile strength, however, wrought iron continued to be the more prevalent choice for iron-based building of the period. By 1879, inventor Sidney Thomas mastered a method to remove phosphorous from steel increasing its quality and its possibilities. His “Basic Process” meant that steel could finally be produced more cheaply so, it’s production rapidly grew. His method became popular in Europe and, by the 1880s, steel quality became more consistent.
  • Balloon framing was replaced by platform v(or Western) framing by about 1890. In that technique each floor of a building was erected as a unit and set atop each other. Platform framing is used to this day (although now more commonly of metal construction). Construction with light wood frame could be carried out without the kinds of skills required in stone and brick construction.
  • It is estimated that in the first half of 1889, Seattle was gaining 1,000 new residents per month; in March alone, there were 500 buildings under construction, most of them built of wood.
  • The Great Fire of 1889, in downtown Seattle, changed building ordinances, requiring new buildings to be constructed from brick and stone.
  • Pioneer Square was one of the neighborhoods that was rebuilt using brick and stone, using the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.

Articles- 1890s

  • Chronicling America has over 24,000 results for the 1890s. Ten pages of results were researched and provided the following articles.
  • Plans for a new depot were shared with a picture.
  • "Seattle's Phenominal Growth Is Shown By New Buildings"
  • The Denny Hotel was being constructed. The article shared a description and photos.
  • The Library of Congress has multiple listings, and after a brief search, the articles are not all duplicates of the Chronicling America archives.
  • This research shares a complete listing of all the buildings under construction after the fire.
  • King County shared multiple ways to access research on detailed plans and descriptions, although most required a library card or in person visit. (pg. 52)

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