Great Seattle Fire
The history of the Seattle Underground City started in 1889. What happened was a disaster, but in the long term it made Seattle, Washington, USA prettier and much more robust.
When you think about massive city fires, normally some sort major accident comes to mind. But not in Seattle’s case. It can be blamed on literally one person. The 6th of June, 1889, was just another day at work for a gentleman called John Back. He was busy with his daily tasks in a woodworking shop and had no clue of what was about to happen. Like any other day Mr Black had to heat up some glue. Well, we will never find out why exactly John has left the pot of glue unattended, but what happened next changed the history of Seattle.
Due to overheating the glue caught fire and spread onto the wooden floors. Well, health & safety policy in 1880s was not exactly well developed, therefore, when Mr Black noticed what happened he tried to put it out with water but, that only spread the fire further.
The fire brigade got to the woodworking shop half an hour later but as all the buildings around were wooden, the fire spread rapidly and due to heavy smoke it was impossible to identify the where source of the fire is. In the matter of hours the entire block from Madison to Marion was on fire.
In 12 hours Seattle’s downtown was destroyed. 120 acres (25 city blocks) burnt, as well as every wharf and Mill from Union to Jackson Streets. The good news were that people managed to evacuate on time, therefore, the number of victims was very low.
What happened next? Let’s see.
After the Great Seattle Fire, people united and took action instead of mourning. But this time around they decided to learn from the major mistake and changed their approach to construction – they have started using stones and bricks. But that was not the only change.
Due to reoccurring floods of in the area the officials wanted to use this opportunity and elevate the foundations of the newly rebuilt downtown. But as the people of Seattle wanted to get back to business and have their city back as soon as possible, they have started rebuilding everything on the old street level before this decision was made.
As the people had done a lot of work at that time, it was decided to leave it as it is and rebuild the remaining part of downtown higher up as planned.
By building walls which have lifted the whole street level, Seattle Underground City has been created.
Underground City closure
Initially whoever wanted to get down to the underground city had to climb ladders. As this was not acceptable for the residents, many convenient entrances were created.
Even thought it was extraordinary site and many wanted to see it, the officials later forfeited the underground city as it was a source of many diseases and had a massive pest problem.
It remained closed and unused until 1960s when local businesses came up with an idea to organise tours in the underground world. They have managed to get Seattle’s permission and successfully attracts many tourists up to this day.
For your convenience, here are the two most popular tours of the underground city:
Undergroundtour.com offers visitors “leisurely, guided walking tour beneath Seattle’s sidewalks and streets“. Wandering through the underground world is complemented by guides who tell you all the secrets of this place in detail.
The Underground Tour is 75-minutes. Tours start on the hour (Additional tour times May 23rd – September 7th on the half hour)
April – September
Daily, 9 am-7 pm
May 23rd – September 7th
Daily on the hour 9am-7pm and these additional ½ hour times – 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm
October – March
Daily, 10 am-6 pm
10 am-1 pm
Christmas Week December 26-31
9 am-6 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
$19 Adult (18-59 yrs)
$16 Senior (60+ yrs)
$16 Student (13-17 yrs or with valid college ID)
$9 Child (7 –12 yrs)
$25 Flex pass – Can’t decide on a tour time? Purchase your Underground Tour Flex Pass and exchange the voucher for tickets upon arrival
$42 Underground Tour and SubSeattle Combo Ticket
Kids 6 and under are admitted free, but may find the 75-minute tour challenging.
Beneath-the-streets.com offers a similar experience and guides visitors through three sections of the historic passageways in Pioneer Square. “The 60 minute tour covers five city blocks and explores subterranean passageways, 1890’s architecture and plenty of “only in Seattle” stories“.
Tours Daily September- June:
10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm
July and August Special Schedule
Monday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00
Tuesday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00
Wednesday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00
Thursday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00
Friday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30
Saturday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30
Sunday 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
Private tours are available seven days a week.
Seniors (60+) $13
Military ID (active, retired, or family) $13
Students (13-17, or with college ID) $13
Children (7-12) $8
Children under 7 are welcome at no charge, but may find a history tour challenging. For safety reasons, there must be at least one paying adult for every 3 children under 12.
So if you are planing a trip to Seattle, visiting Seattle Underground City should be on your list. And do not forget to tell us about your experiences in the comments below!
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