Saturday, October 9, 2010

Underground Seattle

This was the tour I was looking forward to. I’d read about it when I was doing my vacation prep on the NET. It’s described as the tour of “Dirt, Corruption, Sewers and Scandal!” That was pretty much the truth. I was not disappointed in the least. The guide was knowledgeable and humorous.

In 1889 Seattle’s buildings were made of wood. Around that time a fire erupted after a cabinet maker mistakenly toppled a pot of grease-based glue. The glue caught fire and rapidly spread to surrounding buildings. Not knowing what we know today the fire brigade tried to douse the fire with water which only made matters worse. In the end 25 city blocks were ruined.

After this devastation city leaders decided that all buildings must be made of brick or stone to guard against future tragedies. They also decided to build above the tideflats. Whenever there was a deluge of rain, it caused massive flooding which could float away people and animals caught unaware. Massive retaining walls were built using dirt and debris left from the fire. To get from one side of the street to the other, ladders were used.
Ground floor of bank before devastation

After rebuilding, the new buildings were one to two stories higher than the original. Thus, you are entering the second floor of many buildings in modern Seattle. The first floor was left underground.

Modern day view of bank, now used as an art studio.
The second floor is now the ground floor.

Cage to vault
Work for single women was scarce. Many of the women who were unmarried often worked as “seamstresses”. There were usually 3-4 sewists Enlarge the picture and look closely at the seamstress in black. Something for everybody.
in one house and there were many sewing parlors within a couple of blocks. Each parlor employed more than one seamstress in case business was brisk and additional help was needed.
However none of these seamstresses owned a sewing machine. Prostitution was illegal but these businesses were so profitable, the city leaders overlooked them for what they really were and decided to charge a monthly seamstress tax. 87% of Seattle’s funds depended upon this tax.

1923 Palace Hip Theatre. Most women wore long skirts at this time and it was quite daring to show this much leg
Our guide told us about there being box theatres. I'd never heard of them before and asked what it was. He told me he'd tell me later. I knew it had to be something sordid, and it was . A box theatre apparently is akin to a modern day private lap dance.
The people were really excited when the water closet was invented. That excitement died pretty quickly. Before elevating Seattle, toilets would back up when high tide came in. Yuk! Who wants to get back what they were trying to get rid of? The newspapers began printing tide times so that residents would not become parties to poop. Elevation helped with this problem.

The Underground has been used in movies and cartoons. One of the Scooby Doo episodes is set in Underground Seattle. The actor, Darrin McGavin was featured in scenes from Underground Seattle in The Night Strangler. I remember The Night Stalker series but not the former.
One of the old hotels
Said to be one of the seats from the old hotel.
Viewing the skylight from underground
The skylights are made of glass. They lit the way when residents went underground. They have since turned purple because of the reaction of the manganese in the glass with the sun.

Skylight from above ground.
Large timbers were cored and used a pipes for water flow in the city's water system.


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