June 6, 2009, marks the 120th anniversary of Seattle’s Great Fire, which started in a cabinet shop on 1st and Madison and demolished 64 acres of the downtown business district in one day. In the wake of the disaster, which the city’s poorly developed, privately-held water system could not contain, Seattle voters voted 1,875 to 51 to install a municipal water system, thus founding Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).
SPU soon developed the Cedar River Watershed, which provided water as well as electricity to most of the city. After more than a hundred years, this watershed is still the primary source of clean drinking water to the city.
From 1889 to 2009, low cost power, water, and other public utilities have fueled business growth in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
For more information on the Great Fire, the Cedar River Water Supply, and the history of Seattle Public Utilities, visit Historylink, a free online encyclopedia of Washington state history.