Friday, July 24, 2009


When I was in Seattle, my youngest daughter - Kristi - and I took this tour - I loved it and I know you will love reading this. Kristi has taken this tour 4 times and she said that each tour guide makes in different and you always see and hear new things.

This is part one - second part tomorrow - stay tuned - the best is to come !!!

Welcome to Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. This is an explanation of what we talk about. Until 1965 when the tour began, Pioneer Square and Seattle's history had been ignored. Bill Speidel hoped public attention could spare the historic buildings from destruction.
Out of this hope, and his skill as a local newspaperman, the Underground Tour was born. Now, Pioneer Square thrives. Not only has it been named a National Historic District of protected buildings, but it is vibrant with life.
Before we go underground, we want you to understand the people and circumstances that created it. The tour is based on a book by the late Bill Speidel called Sons of the Profits.
If our founders had a religion, it was worship of dollars that could be made quickly. November 1851 marked the arrival of the twenty-seven-member Denny party. Arthur Denny, their leader, thought that Seattle's history began with their arrival, but a man named Doc Maynard had already scouted the spot. And, there were people watching Maynard when he came, just as they later watched — and laughed — at the muddy arrival of the Denny party. Native Americans had lived here already for more than six thousand years. To them, this muddy land was the Mother of all life, and supplied them with all they needed.
Arthur Denny saw it differently. This place was maybe the least worst place on Puget Sound. Maybe he could get some money out of it: a sheer, steep cliff, two hundred feet above the beach, fifteen hunderd acres of tide flats. The trees on the cliff could be cut down, sold, and shippped out of deep-water Elliott Bay. Denny began a city of a few shacks on an island just south of where the Underground Tour begins.
The island was three blocks long and two blocks wide. Denny measured it at low time. When the tide came in, the island got smaller. (Note: Over time, the island grew larger with the landfill that eventually buried it. All of Pioneer Square south of Yesler Way, including the Kingdome, is on fill.)
Denny obviously neded help. Help came when Doc Maynard returned. David Swinson Maynard was, like Denny, from the Midwest. There ended all similarities. Denny was green and young (29 years). He wanted money. Unfortunately, few would buy his expensive, "San Francisco" priced land in Seattle. No progress, no profits. Forty-four year old Maynard knew there was more to it. For anything good to happen, he knew a real town was needed, and he went to work. He respected the native people and named the city for their chief, Seattle, Maynard's best friend. His land sold cheaply, compared to Denny's, and sometimes he gave it away. His vision invented Seattle.
A gift of free land brought Henry Yesler, and Yesler's steam-powered sawmill brought money to Seattle. Yesler also introduced a new form of government which we call corruption today. As county commissioner and three-time mayor, Yesler enlarged his bank account, cheated on his taxes, and presided over a lynching. And Seattle kept electing him.
The government surveyed its taxable population in 1887. Ten percent proved to be young women, employed as "seamstress" or "garment workers," living within a three block section of Occidental Avenue. This did seem curious in a logging town. The city appointed men to an investigative committee. After three weeks of research, they reported finding not a single sewing machine. Apparently prostitution was rife. After consulting Madame Lou Graham, chief bargaining agent for the seamstresses, the Sons of the Profits voted to let them stay and to tax them. These tax revenues amounted to 87% of Seattle's operating budget. The steam sawmill was no longer our biggest business.
Still, the sawmills were helping Seattle grow. Every day, wheelbarrows of sawdust were dumped into the streets to fill the puddles which resulted from Seattle's poor drainage. When it rained, however, horses and wagons were sometimes stuck up to their necks in this mixture of sawdust and mud. Mud puddles grew so large the city named them. At the corner of Third and Jackson, one found the Great Jackson Street Chuckhole. It was eighteen feet long, twelve feet wide, and eight feet deep. A ten-year-old boy tried out a raft he found there one day and drowned. Next day, headlines read "Boy Drowns In City Streets". If that wasn't bad enough for business, the editorial page called for mandatory swimming lessons for all six-year-olds, and the hanging of life preservers at critical intersections in downtown Seattle.
The real reason we have an underground came with the flush toilet in 1881. With a gravity-flow sewer system, toilets worked fine as long as the tide was going out. When the tide came back in, toilets became release valves for built-up pressure, flushing in reverse. They became little Mount St. Helens of raw sewage.
This is Seattle in its first thirty-five years: corrupt politicians robbing the city at every opportunity; children drowning in the streets before age eleven; prostitution our leading industry; and now toilets flushing backwards twice a day. The solution to these terrible problems came by accident.



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