Seattle happened to be the city which Aurelien booked for us to fly out of the USA to kick off our world trip. We only scheduled a couple days to vist, so when Aurelien told me he wanted to do the Bill Speidel’s Underground tour, I will admit I was a little hesitant. First off, who the heck is Bill and why would I want to go underground in Seattle (especially because they have earthquakes)? Turns out Mr. Speidel is a historian and writer that spent a lot of time researching the history of Seattle and it’s founding fathers. He created the underground tour in 1965 to save Pioneer Square from being torn down and to bring awareness about the history of Seattle. He was a big reason that Pioneer Square was saved and became a historical sight. He has since passed, but the current tour is based off of his book, Sons of Profits, a witty and juicy book that was once banned in Seattle.
Before the tour started we learned about the history of Seattle (if you want to read the details click here), who the founding fathers were and what life was like back in the day. I won’t go very deep into the history but the most important thing to know –to understand why there is an underground tour– is that Seattle was built right at sea level. Everyday, when the tide would come in, the streets would get flooded, sewer would get backed up onto the streets and overall things weren’t going so well. After the great fire of 1889 the founders realized they needed to do something new, so they decided to build Seattle up a few stories, essentially, the streets we see today are two to three stories above the ground.
The funny thing is, back then in 1889, the business didn’t want to wait the eight years it was going to take to rebuild all of downtown Seattle. They decided they would rebuild their businesses at sea level, the city would build the roads and sidewalks down there as well, and then the city would start building everything up a few more stories. This is just a bit of the history, while we toured the old areas under the city we heard how the city managed to rebuild everything while people were still walking below, some stories of the people — like the “seamstresses” that turned out not to be seamstresses- and we got to see the old buildings!
We highly recommend it if you are interested in learning some history of Seattle in a fun and interesting way.They also have a night tour that is for adult’s only, check them out on their website! Tickets were $17 for adults and the tour lasted for about an hour and a half.