Monday, May 17, 2010

Take me to the Underground; Seattle Underground Tour

We have all heard, “What if walls could talk?” Well, after my trip to Pioneer Square, in Seattle, WA, I think “What if the underground could talk?” We would hear stories dating back to 1800’s, of old banks, hotels and sewing shops. These businesses are all one story beneath businesses that are laid on top. Seattle, of course, is a city overflowing with history, and Pioneer Square is a full on contributor.

Settled in 1852, Pioneer Square was just like any other city neighborhood. Commerce and the city folks kept it alive with their shops, handy work, hardwork and ingenuity. Then, a fire changed everything in 1889. This wasn’t just any fire. This one, uncontrollable, ravaged 25 blocks of the city. Yes, 25 blocks…think about that.

This fire that destroyed Pioneer Square became known as the “great fire.” But at the time the firefighters were rushing to tapped out water supplies, who would have ever thought a destructive fire would revamp the area and land it on the national register of historic places? Work had to be done of course.

Following the fire, rules were set that the new city would be built upon the old city. New brick structures replaced wood and shop owners were going back in business, one story higher. The original Pioneer Square was soon forgotten, and eventually even the remodeled Pioneer Square would join the forgotten ranks.

You see, Seattle was a stopping point for thrill seekers and adventure goers on their way to Alaska for the Yukon Gold Rush. Trashing the city and bringing in a sort of grime, many of the distinguished businesses moved uptown. Pioneer Square was no longer a place for commerce or community.

Business owners had no interest in opening or reopening business here because traffic was slowing and the neighboring buildings were in threat of getting torn down. After the public showed an interest in touring the underground and seeing the original city the government started to act.

Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act. I am a fan. There is a certain mentality that revolves around newer is better. To me, the fact that someone stepped up to realize that buildings can age well with the right care, keeps history and the stories behind these walls alive.

Without preserving this area, it would have most likely been torn down and rebuilt into a modern state. And don’t get me wrong, I love modern architecture. But walking around the historic Pioneer Square, looking up at the brick buildings and handcrafted woodwork gives me a good feeling knowing history won’t escape.


  1. This post really took me back several years - gad, actually a few decades - when I lived there. Always enjoyed looking at the old buildings during the day, and at night enjoyed the traditional "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In" (I think that was the music) "march" when the band led all willing particiants out of their pub and into another close by pub, making a circle around the establishment and then exiting and going back to their pub.
    Great fun. Seattle is a great city.

  2. What else do you recommend to see there?! Any hidden gems?