Our days in Seattle continue to count down and we still have many items on our bucket list! On Monday of this week, we rode the trusty 255 bus into the city and experienced the legendary Seattle Underground Tour.
After learning more about the very beginnings of this city, I understand more the culture here that sometimes drives us crazy. From the tour, we learned that the Denny family settled in Seattle and chose to build the town on a mud flat at the edge of the Puget Sound. I suspect the local Native Americans got a big chuckle out of that. It apparently did not occur to them that the tides would cause the town to flood on a regular basis, and in the true spirit of Seattle once they learned this, they refused to change the decision. The comedy of egos, mismanagement, and corruption that marked the early history of the city seem very similar to what we have observed in local Seattle politics since we arrived here a few years ago. The 520 bridge project, the tunnel under Seattle, and lack of traffic planning are just some of the current projects that make us shake our heads as hundred of millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted.
Anyhoo, we learned on the tour that the entire commercial district burned down in 1889 and rather than take the opportunity to move the commercial district off the mudflat, someone came up with the great idea to fill it in with dirt from the hill that led up to the residential area on the hill. But the shop keepers didn’t want to wait for the fill, so the rebuilt their businesses on the original mud flat. The city proceeded to bring in the fill and essentially created city streets that were 15-40 feet above all the buildings! So, the front of the building and the sidewalks were well below the streets behind giant stone retaining walls. To cross the street you had to climb a ladder, scurry across the street, and then climb down another ladder. It is ironic that nobody died in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, but nearly 20 people died years later falling off the ladders as they tried to cross the streets.
The next step in this weird evolution was the creation new sidewalks at the level of the roads, which essentially created a two-tier sidewalk system. Unfortunately the lower sidewalk system became overrun with rats and was condemned when bubonic plague started to break out. So, the tour takes you around a few blocks of Pioneer square, through the old sidewalks and lower levels of the buildings. Claire and I were glad we did this before leaving town, and as I said it gave us new insights into the Seattle psyche.
After the tour, we walked up 1st Avenue and stopped at Von’s Gustobistro for drinks and some people watching on the sidewalk. From there we made our way to the Pike Place Market where we had dinner reservations at the Steelhead Diner. The Steelhead Diner was on our original list of restaurants to try. Ironically the entire motif of the restaurant is trout and trout fishing, and they did not have a single trout on the menu!
Claire had the black cod. I had the morels and pasta. Both were good. Neither was great. Check one more restaurant off our list…