Monday, June 13, 2016

Tuesday Treasures - Seattle

October 2008 - Seattle WA

Tom hosts Tuesday's Treasures.

A blogger mentioned Seattle's Underground city the other day and it reminded me that I had never done a post on it as it was in my pre-blogging days.

We spent a few days in Seattle before moving to a VI timeshare Terrell Creek Birch Bay in Washington. I believe VI sold this resort in 2009.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the following information.

Seattle's first buildings were wooden. On June 6, 1889 at 2:39 in the afternoon, a cabinetmaker (Jonathan Edward Back), accidentally overturned and ignited a glue pot. An attempt to extinguish it with water spread the burning grease-based glue. The fire chief was out of town, and although the volunteer fire department responded they made the mistake of trying to use too many hoses at once. They never recovered from the subsequent drop in water pressure, and the Great Seattle Fire destroyed 31 blocks.

We gathered on Pioneer Square and took the tour with a knowledgeable guide who led us below to city to explore the underground.

While a destructive fire was not unusual for the time, instead of rebuilding the city as it was before, the response of the city leaders was to make two strategic decisions: first, that all new buildings must be of stone or brick, as insurance against a similar disaster in the future; and second to regrade the streets one to two stories higher than the original street grade. Pioneer Square had originally been built mostly on filled-in tidelands and, as a consequence, it often flooded. The new street level also assisted in ensuring that gravity-assisted flush toilets that funneled into Elliott Bay did not back up at high tide.

Remnants of an old bank.

The Schwabacher building was originally built in 1892.

For the regrade, the streets were lined with concrete walls that formed narrow alleyways between the walls and the buildings on both sides of the street, with a wide "alley" where the street was. The naturally steep hillsides were used, and through a series of sluices material was washed into the wide "alleys", raising the streets to the desired new level, generally 12 feet higher than before, in some places nearly 30 feet.

At first pedestrians climbed ladders to go between street level and the sidewalks in front of the building entrances. Brick archways were constructed next to the road surface, above the submerged sidewalks. Skylights with small panes of clear glass (which later became amethyst-colored because of manganese in the glass) were installed, creating the area now called the Seattle Underground.

Looking down at the glass skywalks built above the previous street level which supports the current sidewalk.

Up and down we went.

Doc Maynard's Saloon

In 1907 the city condemned the Underground for fear of bubonic plague, two years before the 1909 World Fair in Seattle (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition). The basements were left to deteriorate or were used as storage. Some became illegal flophouses for the homeless, gambling halls, speakeasies, and opium dens.

In 1965, local citizen Bill Speidel realized there might be interest (and profit) in the subterranean ruins. He established "Bill Speidel's Underground Tour" and took customers on a tour of what was left underneath Pioneer Square, paying rent to the building owners for the privilege of doing so.
Some old buildings above ground.


  1. I had no idea about this! Terrific shots!

  2. Never heard of this before. It sounds like a wonderful thing to do when I finally make it to Seattle. Great shots!

  3. great post! i think i have seen this on ghost adventures...these undergrounds are so interesting!

  4. Thanks for sharing this very special treasures from Seattles underground.

  5. Wonderful article about Seattle. I have never been there but always felt like I would like to. I love history and this was a welcome lesson. The most famous underground spot in Ky. is Mammoth Cave. It is a wonder.

  6. This is something I never knew. How very interesting.

  7. Fascinating buildings and story.

  8. What a great collection Jackie. The signs and the architectural details are wonderful. Thanks for sharing at Tuesday's Treasure and I look forward to more treasures from your travels.

  9. Interesting history. Love the photos of the old buildings. I wish there were more like that around here.

  10. I never heard about this past history of Seattle. How fascinating and fantastic!!! Thanks for sharing the photos and history.


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