Tag Archives: seattle’s underground

Seattles Underground

Take a break from shopping for Halloween masks and learn something interesting!

When Seattle was originally built in the late 1800s, every building was made from wood. Obviously, this made the whole city one large fire hazard. In 1889, a cabinetmaker accidentally ignited his glue pot. Nowadays, this would be a small, contained fire that would be quickly put out; however, combined with the absence of the citys fire chief, this tiny fire managed to set 25 city blocks on fire.

A picture of the Seattle fire in 1889.

The Seattle officials decided to rebuild using stone and mortar, so they never again had to fear of burning down their whole city. Oddly, though, they also decided to elevate the city. Rather than building on ground level, they lifted the city two stories using concrete walls and ceilings. This process is known as regrading.

To regrade the city, Seattles original streets were filled with concrete alleyways. Once the alleyways were complete, various materials were washed into the alleyways, acting as the new ground level support.

Seattle Underground
This is one of the many underground buildings still standing. The photo shows the front of the building, with the old street running in front of it.

Since the second or third floor was going to be the new first floor, landlords and storeowners stopped decorating their lower floors, leaving them barren and lifeless. However, not everyone immediately moved up from the old ground level to the new one. Countless pedestrians and storeowners continued to do business in the old underground of Seattle. Various slits and glass cubes in the floor of the new ground level let sunlight into the lower levels. If you travel to downtown Seattle today, you can still find some of these slits and glass cubes in the ground.

In 1907, Seattle condemned the underground level out of fear of a pneumonic plague. All of the buildings underground were left to deteriorate, with very few of them being used as storage. Typical to human society, some of the abandoned buildings were used as illegal gambling halls, opium dens, and speakeasies.

Seattle Underground
The concrete floor on the right used to be at the same level as the wooden platform on the left. Overtime, the sawdust landfill supporting the concrete floor has sank.

Today, there are some companies who offer tours into the abandoned underground of Seattle, where very few buildings remain. If you have been aching to see find yourself deep in the underground heart of a thriving city, Seattle is your best opinion.