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Oregon bookstore destroyed by fire

May 3, 2010 |  8:29 am

Greatnorthwestbooks Firefighters responded to a blaze at the Great Northwest Bookstore in Portland, Ore., Sunday afternoon, the Oregonian newspaper reported. Rare books, archives and a stock of more than 100,000 books are thought to have been destroyed.

Not as well known as Powell's across town, the Great Northwest Bookstore nevertheless has a long history. Owner Phil Wikelund opened his used-book store in the 1970s. The bookstore moved once in 1990, and then to its current location in Portland's Lair Hill neighborhood in 2003. 

The Great Northwest Bookstore had gone from being a walk-in business to one that largely sold books online; it had more than 40,000 books listed with the used-book website AbeBooks. The three-story former church, built in 1890, provided ample storage space for the stock, which included some valuable works from the history of the West.

Wikelund and two friends who were in the building tried and failed to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher, officials said. Wikelund told the Oregonian that he had let his insurance lapse because of financial difficulties and that he may leave the used-book business for good.

Authorities are not expected to be able to enter the site until later Monday; the cause of the blaze may not be determined until later this week.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The Great Northwest Bookstore before the fire. Credit: Great Northwest Bookstore

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