PNW Part 4 (Seattle Underground)

***Thank you, Bill Speidel, for featuring this blog post on your Facebook wall and mentioning it on Twitter!***


Pioneer Square is the area of Seattle where the original settlers built their businesses and homes, and the Seattle Underground Tour literally takes you underground to give you glimpse of life in Seattle’s early days. Seattle’s original settlement is what is now 1-2 stories under street level, and parts of it have been made safe for people to tour.  Today, Pioneer Square looks like any other area of town with beautiful trees, interesting architecture, Starbucks and a Utilikilts store in its midst. Aren’t familiar with Utilikilts? It’s a shop that sells kilts for the Everyman, and has a jolly good attitude doing it!

Let freedom swing!

The entrance to the tour is a few doors down from Utilikilt.  I would recommend the tour to anyone; however, because of the nature of the early history of the city (hint: the world’s oldest profession was booming!  No pun intended!), the tour guides spoke in code, and I get the feeling I would have learned a lot more by taking the 21 and older Underworld Tour.  Sure, I got the gist of the story, but the original history and economy of Seattle and its rebuilding after the big fire in 1889 were so tied to that, um, “profession”, I’m sure I missed out on some interesting details. (PS – I bet you can guess which establishment was the first to be rebuilt!)

As you walked along underground, if you looked up and saw a brick arch, you knew you were walking on the original ground level, because the archways supported the sidewalk at the rebuilt ground level. The “new” sidewalks were wooden, with steel girders for support. (Larger steel girders were installed during preservation efforts to insure the stability of the “ceiling” for those touring the underground.)

sidewalkPlaced along the new sidewalk, at intervals, near the arches were “skylights” to light the underground sidewalks

_NLG0134Sometimes, prisms were included to scatter even more light down below

_NLG0145From street level today, you can still see the skylights, although you might not have known what you were stepping on. They look like this and they are scattered throughout Pioneer Square:


Now, for a little potty humor. The stories about how the first toilets in Seattle evolved were both interesting and hilarious. They looked something like this:

_NLG0110These early toilets emptied by the forces of gravity rather than being forced through pipes by flushing like we do today. Picture in your mind that early Seattle was built at sea level which equates to not a large push by gravity from the water tank above the toilet through they pipes and out to sea. Imagine what would happen when flooding occurred; it wouldn’t take a very large surge to cause the water to flow in the opposite direction. Truly, people in those days had to be cautious because sometimes flooding was great enough to cause a geyser-like effect, and woe to the unlucky person perched atop that hole. And PS – Sir Thomas Crapper is most closely associated with this type of toilet, not John Crapper as you might have heard. (I did)

I don’t include that to disgust you, just to give a glimpse of one facet of early life as a pioneer. Also? I am kind of a nerd about history and science stuff. I am eternally grateful for the advent of modern plumbing and sanitation.

“The very greatest things – great thoughts, discoveries, inventions – have usually been nurtured in hardship, often pondered over in sorrow, and at length established with difficulty.” ~ Samuel Smiles

The modern toilet is what I consider a “very great thing”.  Nikki smiles, too. 🙂

***Take a look at other posts in the series!***

Part 5 here

Part 3 here

Part 2 here

Part 1 here


  1. Shannon

    I love the picture that has “Lowman & Hanford 616”. I see 616 (my b-day) everywhere. Usually once a day, if its as simple as looking at the clock everyday at 6:16. I always feel like its a little message from God, saying I’m taking good care of Chris and he’s going to be ok!!! Silly, I know, but Chris knew I always saw 616 and we would laugh about it in the past. I’d see it during cowboy games when the time clock would stop at 6:16, HA!! He thought I was a dork and we know I am, but now those simple three numbers bring me a small sense of relief and I always say a little ‘Thank You’ to God for taking care of my RAM!!!

    Great pictures!!! Thanks for sharing. So glad you’re having a good time with your precious family. Please tell them all hello from me and Liam!!!! Love You!!!


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