The Underground Tour was one that I learned about while doing product research for my trip to Seattle. This amusing tour of Seattle’s underground sidewalks and former store fronts was a lesson in the founding fathers’ perseverance for this city to survive!
The tour began in Doc Maynard’s Public House, a 1890s saloon, with a 20-minute introduction to Seattle’s history. Tours run every hour and you can actually grab a drink at the bar and bring it in for the intro. It was here that we learned how Seattle was founded. In a nutshell, the United States was giving chunks of land away for free to young men who moved to the Pacific Northwest — “Go West ye young lads!!”
Seattle was named after Chief Seattle (shocker), who guided the young bucks to the land that the city sits on today. However the land was too close to sea level and when the townspeople tried to fix this by pouring saw dust into the muddy roads, well – let’s just say the streets closely resembled a consistency of oatmeal.
This lead to issues with the sewer system and waste disposal – along the tour there were many references to the original “Crappers” that were sent over from England. Finally the city decided to start over and build on top of the streets and store fronts, however while they were building, the existing businesses continued to operate until the project was complete. This underground area was actually condemned due to disease and infestation until a man named Bill Speidel spearheaded the preservation of Pioneer Square and founded The Underground Tour of Seattle.
After the intro, we were split into smaller groups with individual tour guides who took us down into these still-intact former streets and store fronts, now turned “Seattle’s underground”. It was pretty amazing to see photographs of what the city used to look like and gawk at all of the disposed wares. There were things like bed frames, crappers (he he), signs and furniture just strewn all about!
In total, we walked through three different underground sections, while learning about Seattle’s sordid history from our playful guide – her sense of humor really made the tour so memorable! We ended the tour in Rogue’s Gallery, where you could pick up a copy of Speidel’s book entitles “Sons of Profits”, which peels back Seattle’s dirty historical layers, or purchase other gag gifts.
If you are ever in Seattle, YOU NEED to take this tour! I recommend booking ahead by clicking here, because the tour sells out – and hey, it’s worth that extra $2.50 surcharge!
Check out the rest of my pictures in my Flickr album.
In the meantime, I will be searching for a San Francisco equivalent…