Monday, September 18, 2017

Tuesday Treasures

Tom the backroads traveller hosts this weekly meme. 

October 2008 - Seattle Washington

This is from back before I was blogging!

The Seattle Underground is a network of underground passageways and basements in downtown Seattle that was ground level at the city's origin in the mid-19th century. After the streets were elevated these spaces fell into disuse, but have become a tourist attraction in recent decades.

The tour begins at Doc Maynard's historic bar. The bar you see in this picture was manufactured over a hundred years ago in Chicago and travelled here by ship around Cape Horn to Seattle.

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. With the subsequent drop in water pressure none of the hoses were effective and the Great Seattle Fire destroyed 31 blocks.

Image result for seattle great fire

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.

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.

The three Schwabacher brothers' only sister, Barbetta (Babette) Schwabacher (January 3, 1836 – January 7, 1908), married the brothers' business associate Bailey Gatzert in 1861. The couple headed in 1869 for Seattle—then a town of barely 1,000 people—where Gatzert established a branch of Schwabacher Bros. & Company. Gatzert would go on to become Seattle's first (and, as of 2009, only) Jewish mayor. Schwabacher Bros. & Company became Seattle's first wholesaler, with a business opened October 11, 1869 Schwabachers' 1872 Seattle shop at Front Street (now First Avenue South) and Yesler Way was the city's first brick building. Under Gatzert's direction, the company also constructed a warehouse, a grist mill, and Schwabacher's Wharf.
While Schwabacher's Wharf survived the Great Seattle Fire, their retail store did not. Within 16 days, they had erected temporary one-story brick building at Front Street (now First Avenue) and Madison Street.

Korn building, one of the oldest in Seattle.

A dusty corner of the old Moses Korn Mercantile Emporium.



  1. I have heard of this at some point. I'd enjoy visiting that.

  2. ...Jackie, it's great to hear that these old areas are of interest and are being used. Thanks for sharing and please dtop back again.


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