Monday, January 22, 2007
Vancouver-Seattle Tour: Day Six
We take the #21 Bus to Pioneer Square and do some shopping at Magic Mouse Toys, 603 1st Ave where I can't resist buying a tiny model of a BMW Isetta.
Next we buy our tickets for Bill Speidel's Underground Tour :
a leisurely, guided walking tour beneath Seattle’s sidewalks and streets. While you roam the subterranean passages that once were the main roadways and first-floor storefronts of old downtown Seattle, Tour Guides regale you with humorous stories our pioneers didn’t want you to hear. It’s history with a twist! The [90 minute] tour begins with a seated introduction inside Doc Maynard’s Public House, a restored 1890s saloon. Then you walk outside through historic Pioneer Square to three different sections of Underground—about three blocks in all. Be prepared for the underground landscape to be moderately rugged: you’ll encounter six flights of stairs, uneven terrain and spotty lighting. Dress for the weather—and leave your spike heel shoes at home! The tour ends at Rogue’s Gallery, where you’ll find portraits of Seattle’s colorful characters and other displays depicting Seattle’s past.
On June 6 1889, most of Seattle's central business district burned to the ground in the Great Seattle Fire. It was decided to rebuild the city one to two stories higher than the original street grade, as Pioneer Square had been built mostly on filled-in tidelands and often flooded. The new street level also assisted in ensuring that gravity-assisted flush toilets didn't back up during high tide in Elliott Bay.
Several city blocks in the downtown region were enclosed with brick and timber barricades and the pavements between were raised. This left sidewalks and some storefronts as much as 36 feet below street level.
For a time, pedestrians climbed ladders to go between street level and building entrances, but eventually the building entrances were raised, and the old sidewalks covered over, creating the area now called the Seattle Underground. Merchants carried on business in the lowest floors of buildings that survived the fire, and pedestrians continued to use the underground sidewalks lit by glass cubes (still seen on some streets) embedded in the grade level sidewalk above. 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. In some cases, they illegally became flophouses for the homeless, gambling halls, speakeasies, and opium dens.
Only a small part of the Seattle Underground has been restored and made safe and accessible to the general public. We save $1 on Bill Speidel's book Sons of the Profits by mentioning our tour guide's name.Today's savings: $1 US - Total Savings:$113.39 CD