Know Your City: The History of Seattle Underground

Posted on: April 21, 2016

Throughout American history, there are a number of great historic fires that have caused significant loss, and the vast majority of them have occurred in heavily populated urban areas. Of course, you will also come across a number of large and notorious forest fires, but those that have occurred in our nation’s larger cities are easily the most tragic. Examples include the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, the Great Chicago Fire, and you guessed it: the Great Seattle Fire. Like the others that we’ve listed here, the terrible effects of our city’s greatest historic disaster were also accompanied by positive change. In a matter of hours, all of the poorly-constructed wooden building and substandard infrastructure that used to occupy Seattle was gone. The Emerald City was given a clean slate in 1889, and our city’s planners and leaders definitely did not disappoint.

The fire was the catalyst for action and benevolence around the globe. Large sums of money were included among the many forms of relief that were supplied to our city, and those funds were immediately allocated toward rebuilding Seattle into something bigger and better than it had ever been before. Seattle’s urban renewal involved a number of upgrades and renovations. Perhaps the most significant was the city’s decision to regrade its streets two stories higher. Through a slow and steady process, the city was elevated, solving two of its most persistent problems: frequent flooding and plumbing that backed up during high tide. These improvements were enough to completely transform Seattle’s reputation on a global scale. Massive population growth and prosperity quickly followed, and Seattle took its seat as the most exciting and opportune place to be in the Pacific Northwest.

That is the history of what we know today as Seattle Underground. When the city was regraded, the former infrastructure was never demolished; it was simply forgotten. There was a transitional period, of course, and the move to higher ground occurred over time. However, in 1907, the city finally condemned the underground. Its use was confined to illegal activities, like the infamous speakeasies and opium dens that became so popular in the early 20th century.

It remained such until around 1965, when a gentleman by the name of Bill Speidel decided to start offering tours of the old subterranean city. Now, over 50 years later, Seattle Underground remains a very popular attraction for our city’s visitors. For Seattle’s newest transplants, it’s a fun way to learn more about their new hometown.

Seattle Underground is one more reason to love living here. The city is thriving, and the scenery is beautiful. Its history is rich, and you’ll never run out of new things to do in and around Seattle. If you’re thinking of relocating, there’s no question that Seattle should be at the top of your list. Whether you are simply exploring your options or are ready to begin searching for your future home now, our team can help. Contact us to learn more about Seattle or to discuss your needs as a potential buyer in the Seattle real estate market. We can be reached by phone at (206) 465-7215. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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