Underneath present-day Seattle, you'll find remnants of the old city. It all began in 1889 when a fire broke out in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. The fire department botched the effort to put out the flames by trying to use too many fire hoses at once. The water pressure dropped too low and the hoses were useless. As a result, the "Great Seattle Fire" ended up taking out 31 blocks.
In response, Seattle required that all new buildings must be built with bricks or stone instead of wood. They didn't want this to happen again. They also made the decision that the whole city should be raised a block. As a result, the ground floors of the old buildings were suddenly considered basements. The building owners had to build a new floor above, which would be the new ground floor. Pretty crazy.
During the transition period, people actually used ladders to get into the new "ground" floors. Eventually, a mix between brick archways and metal grates formed the new sidewalks. The whole city grew a story. In the early 1900s, Seattle condemned the underground floors for fear of the Bubonic Plague. Eventually, the underground areas became storage, places for homeless people to squat, or illegal gambling or drinking locations.
Luckily, the Plague is no longer an issue. Much of the underground is still too dangerous to visit, but there are now tours that will show you the original Seattle--don't worry, the tour is completely safe. The most popular tour of the underground is called "Beneath the Streets." You can buy tickets and find their contact information here:
According to their website, tours frequently sell out, so get your tickets in advance. Unfortunately, the tours are not ADA accessible (there are lots of stairs to climb). Tours run daily from 10:30am–3:30pm.
Cover image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay