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Looking back in Poulsbo

One correction before we continue with the look at the first decade of Poulsbo city government. The mention of Borg’s Drug Store in our last article should properly have been Boyd’s Drug store.

The second half of the period from 1908-17 continued the building and rebuilding of the city. In 1912 the city finished the survey for a city cemetery. The city council believed the Fordefjord Church cemetery on the hill near town was nearly used up, and they were concerned about seepage from the cemetery into the town’s water supply. The site of the present day Poulsbo City Cemetery was chosen, being “beautifully located” and making “just a nice little walk out from town. There is a well that can be used for watering plants. It will have places for nice lanes or avenues.”

In 1912, 18-inch sewer pipes were laid in the ravine downtown to contain the creek and the ravine was filled forming today’s intersection of Jensen Way and Front Street. But in 1913, a city waterworks was still being proposed and voted down. The town was more excited about the opening of the new baseball park at the present site of Christ Memorial Church than a public waterworks.

By summer 1914, the stage was set for tragedy in Poulsbo. In July of that year, the Grand Trunk dock in Seattle burned with the fire boat right there. Then, on Aug. 7, 1914, the Kitsap County Herald reported: “Poulsbo had quite a fire scare Tuesday night. The woods down by the old red mill caught fire at about 10 p.m. The alarm was given and Poulsbo’s whole fire force turned out with buckets and anything else they could obtain. They had a hard fight of it but by 11:30 all the danger was past. With the woods as dry as they are it certainly would have been a serious matter if it were not gotten under control. Practically all of Poulsbo would have burned. Later on it caught again and Melvin Matson fought it alone for four hours until he had it out. It seems as if it were almost necessary to have someone stay up and watch every night during this dry weather.”

On Sept. 4, the Herald reported the following, almost as an omen: “A great fire destroyed over half of the business section of Shelton, in Mason County, a short time ago. This brings home to Poulsbo what would happen here if a fire should really get started. It is about time that we have water and not only for fire protection, for it is badly needed for the houses as well as for sanitary purposes.”

But the waterworks didn’t come soon enough, for just more than one week later on Sept. 14, 1914, fire started in the middle of the night, at the Olympic Hotel Annex, and spread over the town burning eight businesses to the ground. Fire buckets and stand-by steamer pumps were no match for what the dry summer weather could produce.

We began this peek at the decade 1908-17 by naming it a period of building and rebuilding. Between 1914-16, $40,000 worth of new businesses were built on Front Street … all in brick and cement.

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