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| Next Point > Point 1 of 17

Point 1: Pioneer Place, 1st Avenue and Yesler Way
This odd little triangle is formed by the mismatched intersections along Yesler Way (which we explain a little later). The corner of 1st Avenue and Cherry Street was the site of Yesler's Pavilion, an early social and entertainment center, and the triangle was dedicated as a park in the late 1800s. Because this area so densely packed with historical and architectural features, we will discuss each in turn.

1A. Pioneer Place Totem Pole

In 1899, some of the town's leading citizens added a totem pole, which they had stolen from a Tlingit village while returning from a "goodwill cruise" to Alaska. The original was badly scorched by an arsonist in 1938, and legend has it that when the city tried to buy a new pole, the Tlingits cashed the check and thanked Seattle for "paying for the first one."

Actually, the U.S. Forest Service underwrote the replacement pole, which was carved -- for a fee -- by native craftsmen Charles and William Brown.

1B. Pioneer Place Pergola

The triangle became a de facto transit stop for passengers taking the streetcars and cable cars that clattered along 1st Avenue and Yesler Way. In anticipation of Seattle's first World's Fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, the city added an underground "comfort station" topped by an ornate Pergola. The nearby fountain topped by James Wehn's bust of Chief Seattle also dates back to 1909.

The Pergola and park (but not the restrooms) were restored in 1973, thanks to a gift from the Casey Foundation. The shelter was toppled by a wayward truck in January 2001. Restoration was complete on August 17, 2002.

1C. Pioneer Building and Neighbors

The buildings fronting Pioneer Place are among the finest in the Square. The Pioneer Building was completed in 1892 and designed by Elmer Fisher, who was responsible for numerous other post-fire structures. It lost its original central tower in the 1949 earthquake, but the rest of the building was lovingly restored under the direction of architect Ralph Anderson in 1975. The adjacent Howard and Lowman Hanford Buildings date from 1890 and 1899 repectively. The newer Lowman Building on Cherry Street was designed by Emil DeNeuf and Augustus Heide and opened in 1900.

1D. Underground Seattle Tour

The Doc Maynard Saloon is home base for the famous Underground Seattle Tour, established in 1964 by the late journalist and author Bill Speidel. The guided excursion features lively commentaries and descents into Pioneer Square's subterranean labyrinth of cellars and sealed-over sidewalk passageways.

The latter dates back to post-fire reconstruction, when city engineers decided to raise Pioneer Square's streets a full story. Since many buildings were already under construction, architects provided for two "ground floors," the lower of which would ultimately disappear beneath new sidewalks. Merchants on this level tried to survive via skylights and stairways, but most soon failed and access to their businesses was paved over.

Speidel's rediscovery of these lost catacombs helped to promote public support for Pioneer Square's preservation in the 1960s, and they have been a must-do tourist attraction for nearly 40 years. One caveat: Bill never let a fact spoil a good story, so take a grain of salt along as you happily go urban spelunking.
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| Next Point > Point 1 of 17


Pioneer Square, 1910s
Postcard


Pioneer Square Totem, after 1909
Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. No. UW1899)


Pergola, with Pioneer Building behind, Pioneer Square, Seattle, 1910s
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives


Remains of the collapsed Pioneer Square pergola, Seattle, January 15, 2001
Photo by Alan Stein


Pioneer Square and Totem Pole, Seattle, 1900s
Postcard


Facade of the Pioneer Building at Pioneer Place, Seattle, 2001
HistoryLink.org Photo by Walt Crowley


Underground Tour diagram showing creation of Pioneer Square's sidewalk catacombs after the 1889 fire
Courtesy Underground Seattle Tour

 
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