The establishment was a lively saloon that nightly turned a brisk trade, but one night around the turn of the century it was engulfed in flames. The very next day, the proprietor set up a tent alongside the ruin. Business kept running as usual to meet demand and the almighty dollar continued to trade hands.
The near instantaneous resurrection of Fred’s Place is a testament to the entrepreneurial impulse that exemplifies Kent in the most basic sense, and a symbol of the community’s ability to persevere and its citizens to reinvent themselves just as they had done after the devastating failure of the hops crop.
The story of Fred’s Place Julia’s family knew well. The saloon’s manager lived across the street from Julia’s grandparents and was a dear friend to them. Moreover, the family collected photos of the building and of the fire engine, which were taken by local photographer and shopkeeper Walter Clark. Danny drew upon these vintage images as source material for his painting, just as he did the family’s oral history of the event. The firefighting force, he learned, was made up of volunteers, largely farmers, and Julia’s grandfather was among them. Volunteers were in competition to be the first to hitch their team to the fire engine for the sake of earning a three-dollar bonus. In the painting, Danny shows the fire raging though the building and a firefighter racing to hitch his team to the engine to put it out and earn the few extra bucks.
Fire at Fred’s Place depicts a specific event in the course of another successful Kent business.