Seattle's Elmer H. Fisher: The Man, The Myth, The Legend...

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
3,489
Reactions
12,526
Let us begin by trying to understand a thing or two about the architect, Elmer H. Fisher. There has to be tons of information on the local hero-architect. He is considered the most prolific of the architects involved in rebuilding the city for designing almost half of the major downtown buildings between 1889 and 1891. It should be easy to find some information, right? So who was he? Where did he study? Where did he come from?

To be clear, I do not question his existence as a human. There are plenty of records to indicate that he existed. I merely find a lot of suspicious circumstantial evidence suggesting that quite a few of the 19th Century Seattle buildings were not built when reported. I also doubt they were built/designed by the people who allegedly authored those buildings.

Apparently, Elmer Fisher was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, around 1840. Fisher claimed to have been born in Scotland and moved to Massachusetts at age 17 where he received an architectural apprenticeship in Worcester. This now appears to be untrue according to the City of Seattle's research. He also claimed to have lived in Minneapolis, Denver and Butte before moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1886. Fisher came to Seattle in 1889 before the Great Seattle fire devastated the city. (Wikipedia).

Where did Mr. Fisher study to become an architect? The answer is we do not know. The most prolific of the architects has no traceable education history that I could find. As a matter of fact there is only one available photo of such an established figure. FYI, Photography existed for over 50 years in 1890.

FisherDWW.JPG

The only existing picture?
Now let us look at his documented architectural achievements? According to the above sources Mr. Fisher operated between 1886 and 1891. During this 5-6 year time span he designed and/or built at least 48 buildings (I think he has a few more. I did not cross reference Canadian buildings between the two sources. I simply did not count Canadian building in the Source 1): Source 1 and Source 2. Quite a pace there. It's like 8 buildings on average a year, non-stop for 6 years straight. None before 1886 and none after 1891.
  • USA: at least 26 buildings
  • Canada: at least 22 buildings
Here is what Seattle.gov Historical Site states about Elmer H. Fisher:
Elmer Fisher’s life remains something of a mystery, since the recent discovery that it is unlikely that he was really from Scotland, as he stated and none of the accomplishments he claimed, outside of his work in British Columbia, can be corroborated; however, after the Fire of 1889, he was the most prolific architect in Seattle. He is credited with almost half of the major buildings in downtown Seattle between 1889 and 1891.
I am not an architect, but the achievements sound unrealistic. Let us see if Google can help: What Tools Does an Architect Use? I am not going to copy and paste the entire article. Once we take out CAD software, it leaves us with the traditional drafting board. I am sorry, have you seen some of the buildings designed by Mr. Fisher. Take a look at the design and ornaments of those buildings. Show me an architect who can do eight of those buildings a year. I do not know about plans required for the 94 foot tall building to be built in 1890, but a simple 3 story, 12 unit apartment complex in 2018 requires at least:
  • Foundation plan
  • Floor plans with electrical
  • Elevations
  • Cross sections
  • Firewall and other details
  • Roof Plan
  • Floor framing plans for each floor
  • Ceiling framing Plan
  • Rafter plan
Any architects out there? Can you match Mr. Fisher's achievements?

The END: like many other young architects of his generation, Fisher abandoned his practice in 1891 as the tide of reconstruction ebbed. He became the proprietor of the Abbott Hotel, but lost this and other real estate investments during the economic crash of 1893. Fisher’s attempts to reestablish his practice failed, both in Seattle and in Los Angeles. He died in 1905, an architectural draftsman and carpenter. (Link)

The finale is pretty said. Elmer Fisher went from designing and building structures listed as National Historic Landmarks to building chairs, tables and whatever else carpenters used to make back in the day. All of this sounds like some sad fiction novel.

Not bashing on Mr. Fisher here. It is not his fault he might have gotten appointed as the great after-fire architect. Something weird and strange is hidden in the 19th Century.
PI-Fire-1.jpg
Hidden between the Great Seattle Fire, and the speed of rebuilding, and inconsistency of damage reports (25 blocks / 33 blocks / 50 blocks / 64 blocks), and the full report about the fire published by Seattle Post-Intelligencer the very next day after the disaster, lies the mystery of the 19th century.

PI-Fire.jpg

I shall revisit...
 
Last edited:
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
3,489
Reactions
12,526
normal people are stupid, like that
Normal people just think within the constraints of what they were taught. I was just as "stupid" not that long ago. When you start asking questions, and find no answers, that's where it starts. Majority will shrug it off though. A few will keep on digging.
 

Arc314

Member
Messages
20
Reactions
62
This historical information about Elmer H. Fisher refutes 'the City of Seattle's research.' Fires seem to follow Mr.Fisher, as records show that he joined Athol Lodge in 1872, ironically the building burned down in 1876. StarAthol Records show Mr.Fisher living in Victoria B.C Canada by February 1886-1887.The Great Vancouver Fire began on June 13,1886. Great Vancouver Fire Records show Mr.Fisher worked in Seattle 1887-1891.He relocated from Port Townsend,Wa back to Seattle in 1888.The Great Seattle Fire occurred on June 6, 1889.The strange history of Mr.Fisher : Elmer H. Fisher (Architect)
 
Last edited:
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
3,489
Reactions
12,526
This historical information about Elmer H. Fisher refutes 'the City of Seattle's research.' Elmer H. Fisher (Architect)
I've seen this UW article before. Even contacted Los Angeles AIA. Below is their answer. Bizarre that they have no info on one of their vice presidents

AIA_request_1_1.png

The City of Seattle Archives also has no information.

Seattle_Micro_12.jpg

As far as plans of the Pioneer Building go. Those are mere sketches. You cannot construct a building using these. Plans do not exist.

1.png2.png3.png5.png6.png
7.png8.png4.png9.png9-1.png10.png
Out of all the buildings he built (allegedly ~50), the above pictures are the only thing relating him to architecture? No documents?

Not sure which refuted part you mean. PCAD UW research in itself, shows, that they do not know who the guy was.

This Fisher guy is why I initially started looking into this vast area of hard to explain things. This line here was the best:
apparently could not get work as an architect, and was forced to make a living as a carpenter and construction supervisor
Apparently an architect able to design something like below was the most common profession of the time, and nobody had any use for it.

800px-Seattle_-_Pioneer_Building_-_1900.jpg
 
Last edited:

in cahoots

Well-known member
Messages
91
Reactions
389
most of fishy Fisher's buildings from then have been altered or destroyed

edit: the mansion of Henry Yesler, founder of Seattle who commissioned most of Fisher's Seattle buildings, became home to the Seattle Public Library after his death in 1892...

and the mansion burned down
 
Last edited:
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
3,489
Reactions
12,526
Seattle Public Library (Link 2) is an interesting topic in itself. The one built in 1906 was taken down in 1957, they say. Its floor cracked, or something like that. That one was pretty impressive.

Try to explain why there are trees in some photos where the building looks old, and none in the photos with the newer looking building. Does it mean they chose to bury the building after they built it, or is it the back side? Should probably be a separate topic. Too bad the building does not exists any more.

Additionally, I think this is supposed to be the same building, but it does look different. One door in some, and three doors in the other photos.

Seattle_public_library_2.pngSeattle_public_library_7.jpgSeattle_public_library_3.jpgSeattle_public_library_4.jpg
Seattle_public_library_6.pngSeattle_public_library_1.jpgSeattle_public_library_5.jpg
 

Arc314

Member
Messages
20
Reactions
62
Years ago on a late Night walk in Pioneer Square, I became "entranced" by a few particular buildings. I stood or sat if possible, in front of them for hours.It was a cold,windy weeknight, during late Autumn and there was almost no one around.I sensed a profound resonance of perceptible energy that felt magnetic and a vaguely audible 'hum' that was coming from these buildings. The memory of this Night was forgotten. After recent research, I realize now, the buildings which so attracted me... were all 'built' by Elmer H Fisher.

Fisher, Elmer H. (1840-1905) (biography in preparation) E.H. Fisher and Fisher & Wilson List of Buildings in Canada
 
Last edited:

humanoidlord

Well-known member
Messages
648
Reactions
655
Years ago on a late Night walk in Pioneer Square, I became "entranced" by a few particular buildings. I stood or sat if possible, in front of them for hours.It was a cold,windy weeknight, during late Autumn and there was almost no one around.I sensed a profound resonance of perceptible energy that felt magnetic and a vaguely audible 'hum' that was coming from these buildings. The memory of this Night was forgotten. After recent research, I realize now, the buildings which so attracted me... were all 'built' by Elmer H Fisher.

Fisher, Elmer H. (1840-1905) (biography in preparation) E.H. Fisher and Fisher & Wilson List of Buildings in Canada
you felt atmospheric eletricity, in the past many buildings were made to harness that energy
 
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
3,489
Reactions
12,526
Top