Friday, October 26, 2012

Sight Seeing in Seattle - Part 7 - Underground Seattle

For some reason I have a deep interest in underground places (ha-ha) which goes all the way back to when I was a kid and discovered a flooded mine near the grade school I attended.  Fortunately for me it was flooded because frequently bad things happen to people who venture into old mines but I could see the opening of the horizontal shaft going back into the hills.  I wondered who built it, why it was abandoned and what might have been left behind?   Years later I got to explore an abandoned mine in the Mojave desert and I found what had been left behind - hot rod magazines from the 70s and lots of rusty deviled ham cans.   When I was assigned to Germany with the Army I dragged the Missus on several trips through Bertchesgarden and  Ober Salzerburg looking at the old Nazi fortifications and bunkers.  The highpoint of one of the trips was a tour of an army bunker deep under a hotel.
When we went to Seattle recently we were told by folks to be sure to take the Underground Seattle tour.  Underground?  That got my interest, so the Missus, Young Son, and I headed off for Pioneer Square and the underground tour.  It was a warm and humid 90F that day, very uncharacteristic of Seattle so the cooler temperature under the sidewalk felt nice. 
Some history of how Seattle came to have its underground and how the tour started:
I recommend the tour to one and all, but there are flights of narrow stairs, cobwebs, dank smells, and a few tight places so be warned!   It was amazing to see how the first story of the buildings still existed at what had been sidewalk level and how the second story above was now the first!  According to the tour guide the tour changes as some areas are closed off by the building owners and others come open.  The pictures shown here are only a sample of what you will see.

The impetus for the revamp of Pioneer Square back in 1889

Here is where you start
The Grouch waiting for the group to form up so we could go across the street to start the tour.  I am looking grouchy because I wasn't feeling my best that day.
Skylights were added in the 'new' sidewalk when the road level was raised.  Over the century or more some of them have collapsed under the weight of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk so if you see a blue-glass rectangle set into the sidewalk in this area, don't walk on it!
At the start - Young Son ponders what may lay ahead
Stuff was pretty much just left behind once the street was closed off above
Too big to bother to remove

You can see the retaining wall constructed to hold the fill in place that raised the street level
The openings for the first story windows were just bricked over
These windows were left open.  Interesting to see how modern utilities run through the underground area.  In some cases in looks like not much is holding everything up above.



  1. So are the buildings closed off so they can't go down into the basement/original first story? Very interesting tour, I had no idea such a thing could even exist!

  2. That is very strange. I think I saw a little of this when you go underground to the market. But I didn't realize a larger part of the city was like that. Neat.