A few minutes after midnight on April 7, 1920, the lights began to blink and go out at the Lincoln Hotel on Fourth & Madison Streets in downtown Seattle. The desk clerk and the night watchmen smelled smoke, and they began telephoning the rooms and going along the hallways to rouse guests to flee the fire. But before they could get very far, the heat and smoke of the rapidly-spreading fire forced them to leave the building, and they watched as flames shot up the central courtyard and began to consume the upper floors. There were more than 300 people staying in the hotel.
When the fire department arrived there was little they could do to save the building, as the streams of water directed at the fire were not enough to quench the raging inferno. Firemen commenced to rescue guests who were still inside the hotel.
As crowds watched from the sidewalk, Fireman Carl R. Dooley climbed a fire department ladder as far as it would go, up the exterior wall to the fifth floor of the hotel. Then Dooley continued climbing up by using an extension pole called a pompier or hook ladder, to reach a woman who was frantically waving for help out of a seventh-floor window.
Dooley lowered the woman with ropes to Police Officer Phil McNamee, a former fireman, who pulled her in through a fifth floor window. Then Dooley climbed back down himself. Fireman Dooley and Patrolman McNamee received commendations from the Mayor of Seattle for their heroism on the day of the Lincoln Hotel fire, having rescued a number of people.
Copyright notice: the text and photos of this article are protected under Creative Commons Copyright. Do not copy without permission.
The Dooley family in Washington State
Carl Dooley was born in 1889 in Fall City, eastern King County, the fourth of seven children and the first to be born in Washington State. Carl’s father Gideon Dooley was a Civil War veteran from Illinois who resolved to go Out West and take a land claim which would be given to him for his war service. The Gideon Dooley family traveled to Washington with the families of two of Gideon’s brothers. Carl had two male cousins close to him in age, who grew up in Skagit and Snohomish counties. One cousin, Charles W. Dooley, would come to live in Seattle and serve with Carl in the Seattle Fire Department.
We can imagine that as an active boy growing up on his parents’ Fall City farm in the 1890s, Carl Dooley might have liked to climb trees or fearlessly jump from the roof of the chicken house. Carl grew to be a confident and ambitious person who resolved that farm life was not for him, and that he would make his way in the Big City. While still a teenager Carl came to the City of Seattle and obtained a good job as a telegraph lineman. The lineman’s practice of climbing ladders and holding steady while stringing wires stood him in good stead when, in 1913, Carl applied for a job with the Seattle Fire Department.
Carl Dooley’s life in Seattle
At age 24 in 1913 when he entered service with the Seattle Fire Department, Carl Dooley had already packed a lot of living into his life. At age 21 in 1911 he had married sixteen-year-old Josephine Kane, stepdaughter of Martin Conroy who would later become commander of the West Seattle Police Precinct. The young couple lived with the Conroys in the 1500 block of Alki Avenue, overlooking the waters of Puget Sound.
Carl and Josephine had a daughter, Leona, in 1912, but after another year it became apparent that Josephine did not want to stay tied down at home with a baby. She left Leona in the care of her parents while she went in search of another life, and from then on, Martin and Mary Conroy raised their granddaughter.
In 1914 Gideon Dooley died, and Carl arranged for his widowed mother Frances and his youngest sister Gladys, age 17, to come and live with him in Seattle. The three of them got an apartment together in the Wallingford neighborhood, where they were still living in 1920 at the time of the Lincoln Hotel fire.
Carl Dooley’s job changes
At every stage of a major life change, Carl Dooley seemed to react by changing occupations. He had been working as a telegraph lineman until his wife Josephine left him. In 1913 Carl applied for a new job with the Seattle Fire Department and then moved out of his in-law’s house.
We may wonder if Carl kept in touch with his ex-wife Josephine or if he knew of her whereabouts. In 1917, just days after Josephine married someone else, Carl enlisted to serve in the First World War. He spent the next two years as a wagonmaster for the America troops fighting in France. The personnel records of the Seattle Fire Department have preserved Carl Dooley’s letter thanking his home fire station for the care packages of candy, gum, toothpaste and shaving cream which were sent to him.
After the Fire
Carl Dooley returned from the war and rejoined the Seattle Fire Department in 1919. During the Lincoln Hotel fire of 1920, Carl Dooley showed that at age 31, he still had the strength and steadiness to climb ladders and rescue people from a burning building. Carl Dooley would continue to serve with the Seattle Fire Department until 1923, but as often happens after a “peak” experience, his career as a fireman declined after the Lincoln Hotel fire.
In the three years following the fire, Dooley twice received demerits for mistakes made at work, such as misreading the fire alarm and going to the wrong address. He was twice “written up” for being late to work. The second late report, filed in February 1923, told that Carl Dooley had gone to Georgetown in south Seattle to take delivery of a car he had just bought, intending to drive it to work that day. The car was not ready, so after waiting for a while Dooley left the car dealership and arrived late to work at the fire station.
Dooley’s car purchase signaled an impending change of occupation for which he would use a car to make sales calls. In March 1923 Carl Dooley tendered his resignation from the fire department to begin working as a salesman for his brother Willard’s washing machine business. In his resignation letter, Carl Dooley wrote, “I am taking up another line of work with a very good company.”
Ads for Willard Dooley’s washing machines had been appearing in the newspaper since 1920, so Carl probably thought the business would continue to be successful. But by 1926 the City Directory listings for both Carl and Willard showed that the business had ended and the two brothers had each found other occupations.
A new marriage and a new life
At age 36 in 1926, Carl Dooley took a new wife, Mary Noel. We don’t know for sure where they met, but we may speculate that Carl met Mary where she worked as a saleslady at the Frederick & Nelson department store at Fifth & Pine Streets in downtown Seattle. Carl and Mary had each been married once before, and they were close in age. They seemed to have started a happy new marriage, as they stayed together for the rest of their lives.
As was typical for Carl Dooley with a life change like that of a new marriage, Carl then changed jobs. He and Mary left Seattle and moved out to Sand Point Way NE in northeast Seattle, which was outside of the city limits at that time.
Dooley’s Restaurant on Sand Point Way NE
Carl and Mary had discovered a growing business opportunity near the then-new Sand Point Naval Air Station. The naval base had slowly begun to be developed in the 1920s. At first, Carl and Mary Dooley operated a “canteen” meal service inside of the base. Then the couple built a restaurant at 7305 Sand Point Way NE directly across from the entrance gate of the naval base, where they could serve the public as well as Navy personnel who might come by for a meal. Dooley’s restaurant was very successful as it was the only one in that stretch of Sand Point Way NE in the 1920s.
In 1933 as part of the gradual ending of Prohibition, Congress passed a provision to allow the selling of a weak beer containing 3.2% alcohol. This was intended to ease the public back into consumption of alcoholic beverages. In April 1933 Carl Dooley’s restaurant was one of the first in King County (outside of the Seattle City Limits) to apply for a license to serve what was known as three-two beer. After Prohibition officially ended in January 1934, Dooley’s became a restaurant with a bar.
In 1936 Carl Dooley once again made the front page of Seattle newspapers in an account of an attempted robbery at his tavern. There was no indication that the newspaper reporter made the connection that this same Carl Dooley was the fireman of 1920 fame.
Dooley’s Tavern on Sand Point Way NE was at somewhat of a disadvantage in its isolated location, in that would-be robbers thought it would be an easy mark. They failed to reckon with the boldness and bravery of proprietor Carl Dooley.
In the early morning hours of October 8, 1936, two men broke into Dooley’s Tavern. At his house a few feet behind the tavern, Carl Dooley was awakened by an employee whose job it was to clean the building in the morning, and who had seen that intruders were inside the tavern. Dooley arose, got a shotgun and fired at the two robbers as they tried to exit the back door. One man escaped into the wooded hillside but Dooley captured the other one, whose pockets were found to be full of stolen packs of cigarettes.
The story of the attempted tavern robbery made the front page of the Seattle Times newspaper that day, no doubt supporting the kind of wild-west reputation which northeast Seattle, with its roadhouses and armed citizens, had in the 1930s.
Carl and Mary Dooley retire in 1942
Carl and Mary Dooley sold their restaurant and tavern in 1942 and moved to a house on NE 95th Street in the Wedgwood neighborhood. Since their new residence was not far from the Fiddler’s Inn tavern (on 35th Ave NE at NE 94th Street) we may guess that in his retirement years, Carl Dooley may have strolled over to the Fiddler’s to chat with proprietor Walt Haines and tell stories of the old days.
Some of the anecdotes I have heard about Fiddler’s Inn include accounts of sailors from the Sand Point Naval Air Station coming to the tavern, which did not seem likely to me considering the distance involved. Now I wonder if it was actually the tales of Carl Dooley’s tavern at Sand Point which accidentally and mistakenly became attached to and part of the lore of Fiddler’s.
We don’t know exactly why Carl and Mary Dooley sold their tavern in 1942 when they were only 53 years old. We may speculate that they were just tired and wanted to sell while they could, or it may be that they were having health problems, since we know that Carl Dooley was only 61 when he died on October 31, 1950.
In the newspaper on November 1, 1950, Mary Dooley posted a loving notice of the death of her husband, describing Carl as “one of the heroes of the Lincoln Hotel fire of 1920,” and mentioning his later life as proprietor of Dooley’s. In addition to Mary, survivors included one of Carl Dooley’s brothers, three of his sisters and his daughter Leona.
Because of his service in the First World War, Carl R. Dooley is buried in the veterans section at the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in north Seattle.
Later years of Dooley’s Tavern
Though it had new owners as of 1942, Dooley’s Tavern retained its original name for several more years. The new owners continued to have trouble with robberies. Newspapers reported break-ins at the tavern in the 1940s and 1950s.
In the 1960s the tavern was renamed Point Inn, and in the 1970s its various succession of names were the In-Crowd Tavern, then The Scoop, then Bogey’s in the 1980s.
Today there is a condo building at the former site of Dooley’s Tavern at 7305 Sand Point Way NE. Other small stores which grew up nearby, including a small grocery and a luncheon diner are also gone, except for a 7-Eleven store with gas pumps located a little to the south at 7215 Sand Point Way NE.
Many thanks to Tom S., the inquirer who set me out on the search for the story of Carl R. Dooley, and thanks to the archivists and librarians who helped me with research.
Bureau of Land Management: website showing the land claims of Gideon Dooley and his brothers when they came to Washington in 1889.
Census and city directories: In addition to the census which can be accessed on-line via the Seattle Public Library website, at the downtown library I used the old city directories to trace Carl Dooley’s residential and occupational listings. Old directories and phone books are available on the 9th floor of the downtown library in the genealogy department.
Fifty Years of Fighting Fires, Northwest Mutual Fire Association, 1939, Seattle. 614.8 Sa58F, Seattle Room, Seattle Public Library (downtown).
Find A Grave: this wonderful resource, run entirely by volunteers, contains genealogical info, locations of graves and photos of gravestones. I used this resource to help trace the migration of the Gideon Dooley family to Washington State, and find family photos. Memorial page for Gideon Louis Dooley (20 Dec 1846–28 May 1914), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5105824, citing Fall City Cemetery, Fall City, King County, Washington, USA. Maintained by Carolyn Farnum (contributor 10411580) .
Fire Department Personnel Records: Seattle Municipal Archives, City Hall, Seattle. Record Series 2802-06, Box 41 Folder 4, Carl R. Dooley, 1913-1923. Accessed March 19, 2018.
History of the Pompier Ladder, from the Hook & Irons blog.
Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA. Property records and photos for Dooley’s Tavern and other adjacent buildings on Sand Point Way NE. Accessed March 28, 2018.
Washington Digital Archives: dates of birth, death and marriage.
“Fire destroys Seattle’s Lincoln Hotel, killing four, on April 7, 1920,” HistoryLink Essay #10162 by Alan Stein, 2012.
“Frederick & Nelson opens its new store at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street in Seattle on September 3, 1918,” HistoryLink Essay #2900 by David Wilma, 2000.
“Sand Point Naval Air Station: 1920 to 1970,” HistoryLink Essay #2249 by David Wilma, 2000.
“Seattle First National Bank Building is dedicated on March 28, 1969, “HistoryLink Essay # 1197 by Alan Stein, 1999. The building is now known as Safeco Plaza at 1001 Fourth Avenue. It is on the west side of Fourth Avenue across from the Seattle Public Library.
Newspaper articles (in chronological order):
“Hotel Lincoln Destroyed in Early Morning Blaze,” Seattle Daily Times, April 7, 1920, page 1 and several pages following.
“Two are Honored by Caldwell: City Executive Calls Conference to Decide on Suitable Recognition for Fireman C.R. Dooley and Patrolman P.P. McNamee,” Seattle Daily Times, April 8, 1920, page 1.
“Rescued from Fire in Life Belt, Woman Tells of Her Experience,” Seattle Daily Times, April 11, 1920, page 1.
“Twelve Beer-Vending Licenses Issued by Commissioners,” Seattle Daily Times, April 14, 1933, page 5. The twelve applicants listed were restaurants, golf clubhouses, and dance halls in King County outside of the Seattle City Limits, including Dooley’s at 7305 Sand Point Way NE.
“Two Trapped in Looting Tavern on Sand Point, Proprietor Shoots at Man as He Leaps from Window and Dashes for Woods,” Seattle Daily Times, October 8, 1936, page 1.
“Funeral to be Conducted for Carl Dooley,” Seattle Daily Times, November 1, 1950, page 39.