Subterranean Seattle

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Useful Information

Location: Seattle Center. Seattle's Pioneer Square, between Cherry Street and Yesler Way.
Open: APR to SEP daily 9-19.
OCT to MAR daily 11-18.
Tours on the hour, JUN to AUG additional tours on the half hour.
25-DEC 11-13, 26-DEC to 31-DEC daily 9-18, 01-JAN 13-16.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Fee: Adults USD 18, Students (13-17 or w/valid college ID) USD 15, Children (7-12) USD 9, Children (0-6) free, Seniors (60+) USD 15.
Classification: SubterraneaUnderground City
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=90 min.
Address: The Seattle Underground Tour, Seattle's Pioneer Square, 608 First Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, Tel: +1-206-682-4646.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1889 the Great Seattle Fire.
1965 first underground tours given by Bill Speidel to save Pioneer Square from destruction.


During the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 the entire business district burned to the ground in one day. This desaster lead to a unique and really practical solution: the city was rebuilt one storey higher! The former ground floor is now the basement.

After the fire much of the streets was covered with debris, rocks from destroyed buildings and so forth. The new streets were built on top of this debris, by erecting stone walls on each side of the road and filling the old roads completely with debris. Then the whole structure was surfaced. But the sidewalks were not filled in so there is now an open sublevel sidewalk, about 10 m below the streets.

During the first 10 years most of the sidewalks remained as they were, but now they were 10 m below ground. Ladders were placed at intersections, and people walking on the sidewalk had to climb up, cross the road, and then climb down to the next sidewalk. Climbing ladders is not a very good idea for elderly people, people with many shopping bags, or ladies with long dresses. And it was also a problem for drunken men, as 17 died by falling from the road.

Bridges were built and some sidewalks were covered by a ceiling. So there were two different sidewalks, one above the other. Bit by bit the stores moved up, as the underground stores were much less attractive to customers.

The development of "moving up" was accelerated by an outbreak of the plague. People avoided the lower sidewalks because of the rats. The number of rats increased so much, the city payed 10 cents for each killed rat. Finally the lower level of the sidewalks was completely abandoned.

The tour starts at 608 First Ave, Seattle's Pioneer Square. The first underground building visited is Doc Maynard's Public House, a saloon from the 1890s. It was restored, and here the tours get a seated introduction first. Then the tour goes outside and follows three blocks of the former city. They are not connected any more, so the trip includes six stairs for getting up and back down for the next section. At the end Rogue's Gallery is reached. It is a museum with exhibits from Seattles past, a museum shop sellong the works of local artisans and an Underground Cafe, with buffalo burgers, BBQ ribs, salads, snacks and espresso on its menu.