The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 was thoroughly documented in primary sources, but a timeline of how it consumed downtown had never been visualized. I pieced together first-hand accounts and maps from the city archives to create one, while also placing it in the context of other major fires in 19th-century America. The resulting interactive website was inducted into the Seattle Public Library's collection, and the spread was published in the May 2016 issue of Arcade Magazine.
Research and design
The project involved three stages.
Primary and secondary research. Documents from the Seattle Municipal Archives and the University of Washington libraries, as well as interviews with experts on history and architecture, revealed much about the circumstances of the fire — and about the limitations of what can still be discovered about the event.
Building a narrative. A visualization of the fire’s path did not exist. I decided to create one by comparing witness accounts with pre-fire maps and directories. I also expanded to discuss the constant threat of fire in 19th-century America, and the ways in which Seattle rebuilt itself into a modern city after the fire.
Design and development. Having selected a website as the medium, I designed it and hand-coded it it in the browser.
I was later given the opportunity to adapt the visualization for ARCADE Magazine, a Seattle-based architecture and design magazine, for their May 2016 issue, “Visiting the Past, Designing the Future: Reflections on Influence.” I did so with guidance from Prof. Karen Cheng at the University of Washington.