1st Av e
To Pike Place Market & Waterfront s te Av
o er s
A Pioneer Square Walking Tour
Welcome to Seattle’s first neighborhood!
Yesler Way Occidental Ave S
S Washington St
stops. Enjoy your tour through Pioneer Square, as you
discover treasure after treasure along the way…
Ferry / Water Transportation
Occidental Ave S
Train / Streetcar
King Street Station
Background sketch courtesy of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
S Jackson St
Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel
Ra i l r
6th Ave S
you may choose to pick up the trail at any of the featured
5th Ave S
Trail to Treasure.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
12 4th Ave S
S Jackson St
Square - links the collection of stories told as part of the
S Main St
needs and desires flow across time to shape Pioneer
Although this map designates a specific starting point,
2nd Ave S
the greater Puget Sound region. The theme - People’s
Alaskan Way S
development of Pioneer Square, the city of Seattle, and
1st Ave S
neighborhood. You’ll also learn stories of the special places and events that helped shape the history and
Occidental Square Park
others who traveled from afar to settle in this historic
3rd Ave S
who became local legends - some born and raised here,
Follow the routes on this map to get to know people
S King St
Explore the history of the neighborhood 1. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Start your tour of Pioneer Square at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park - Seattle’s very own National Park. The 1889 building was named after the Cadillac Hotel that occupied the upper floors starting in 1906. The hotel’s residents were longshoremen, laborers, and prospectors who played a critical role in the city’s early industrial growth. In the first three decades of the 20th century, Pioneer Square was filled with thousands of single men who were sent out on temporary jobs, including logging, fishing, and railroad building. For these men, the Cadillac Hotel was one option for inexpensive lodging. Notice the historic signage still found on the building façade.
2. Waterfront Property
Imagine water all around you. Here, next to the stadiums, you have now walked into the original tideflats created from the Duwamish River silt. The tideflats continued all the way to the mouth of the Duwamish River, and east to the base of Beacon Hill. Nearby, a saltwater lagoon spanned the area from Yesler Way to S Jackson St, and Occidental Ave S to 2nd Ave Ext S. The lagoon was filled in gradually from the 1850s to 1889 with various debris – including sawdust from the Yesler Mill and building remains from the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. In 1892, Reginald H. Thomson became Seattle’s City Engineer. For the next 20 years, he was responsible for lowering most of the central business district’s hills between Denny Way and Spokane Street and for raising the tideflats above sea level.
3. All That Jazz
In the “Roaring Twenties,” Seattle was full of speakeasies, roadhouses, and jazz. When the Depression hit the city in 1931, musicians still found work in small clubs. Jackson Street was a world of rich street life in a racially diverse atmosphere. By the 1940s, Jackson Street was lined with nightclubs, many located further east, from 5th Ave S all the way to 14th. Many jazz musicians started their careers by playing in these clubs. Seattle later became a hub for the rock scene with Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s and grunge in the 1990s. Many of these musicians performed in clubs throughout Pioneer Square.
4. Tribal Village
The southern portion of Occidental Square Park was once part of a
tidal lagoon and island – very likely an island only at high tide. The Duwamish people built a winter village in this area, which included longhouses used for shelter, celebration, and trade. A southernflowing stream, now buried under city streets, provided freshwater and emptied into the lagoon near where 3rd Ave S and S Main St intersect today. When early settlers arrived in the 1850s, the tribes welcomed and helped settlers build their city. Chief Si’ahl, or Chief Seattle, after who the city was named, was the leader of both the Duwamish and neighboring Suquamish peoples. Chief Seattle sought alliances for the prosperity of his people, but urbanization and city policies eventually pushed the Duwamish from the Pioneer Square area. Today the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center along the Duwamish River demonstrates their ongoing presence and strong connections to this city.
5. Shelley’s Leg
During the 1970 Bastille Day parade, an antique cannon mistakenly fired a hardened ball of confetti, taking Shelly Bauman’s leg. The $330,000 insurance settlement from the accident paid for the cost of opening Seattle’s first disco and openly-gay bar at this spot in 1973. To immortalize the source of funding, Shelly and her co-owners named the disco “Shelly’s Leg”. Pioneer Square was the first home to Seattle’s LGBTQ+ scene before growing to Capitol Hill in the late 1970’s.
6. Ballast Island
Ballast Island began to form in the late 1870s as a result of ship ballast being dumped adjacent to and between docks built by settlers and shipping companies along the waterfront. Local Native American Tribes, displaced from other places of traditional and cultural importance along the Indigenous Seattle waterfront by prejudice and exclusionary laws, used this human-made landform as a place of refuge to maintain ties to the area and to adapt to new ways of living post-contact. By the end of the 1890s the site was buried and incorporated into a larger footprint of a former beach and tideflats “reclaimed” by regrading and filling activities occurring across Seattle. Today, the site remains buried along the waterfront in an urban environment, but the historical and cultural importance of both the site and the wider locale to descendant Tribal communities continues, perhaps most intensively in relation to its role in a painful period of their history.
7. Washington Street Boat Landing
The landmark iron and steel pergola, built in 1920, housed the city’s
harbormaster. For centuries before, the site served as a docking area for canoes. To the south is an island created in 1880 entirely by ballast, the heavy material placed low in ships to improve stability. Before loading coal at the King Street Coal Bunkers, ships dumped their ballast in the bay near the foot of South Washington Street. Ballast Island was likely used as a temporary encampment for Native Americans around 1884. Over time, the Mosquito Fleet steamers and the Washington State Ferry System replaced the Native American canoes on Puget Sound. The Washington Street Boat Landing still served as a public boat landing until the 1970s. The structure was moved, restored, and returned to its original location in 2017.
8. Going for Gold
When gold was discovered in Canada’s Klondike River in 1896, Seattle became the jumping-off point for the 70,000 people destined for the Klondike Gold Rush. Gold prospectors were regular patrons of Pioneer Square, where they purchased goods from local retail outlets, many located along 1st Ave S (formerly Commercial St). While few people made their fortune by traveling to the Klondike, many Seattle business owners profited by supplying the stampeders with shelter, entertainment, and gear. The Klondike Gold Rush jumpstarted the economy and immediately ended the Panic of 1893 in Seattle.
9a. From Sinking Ship to Preservation Anchor
Stand on the southwest corner of 1st Ave S and Yesler Way for the clearest view of this parking structure. When this garage replaced the once-grand historic Seattle Hotel in 1962, it galvanized the public to preserve Pioneer Square. The “sinking ship” garage was considered an eyesore by many and, therefore, spurred local citizens to ensure that other historic buildings were protected. By 1970, Pioneer Square became Seattle’s first historic district, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
9b. From a Pile of Logs to a Booming City
Skid Road was a logging term likely coined by western Washington loggers. Skid Road then came to be used as an early name for the Pioneer Square area. When Henry Yesler built the Puget Sound’s first steam-powered lumber mill in 1852, the hillside was used to “skid” trees logged from above, down a series of greased logs to the Yesler sawmill on the bay below. Soon after, other businesses began to arise in Pioneer Square, driving early settlement and development of the district. In later years, the term Skid Road morphed into “Skid Row.”
10. Great Seattle Fire
Standing in the middle of Pioneer Square on the night of June 6, 1889, you would be surrounded by a raging inferno. Starting in a cabinet shop at the corner of Madison and First Avenue, the Great Seattle Fire destroyed a 30-block area including most of the business district, city wharves and railroad terminals. Soon after, citizens of Seattle got to work rebuilding bigger and stronger fireproof brick and stone buildings. Within a year, more than 50 buildings were built in the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style and the population grew from 25,000 to 43,000. As you walk through the neighborhood, notice the similar features of the buildings around you. Massive columns, repetitive arches, and ornamental details make this nationally designated historic district a rich discovery.
11. A Place for Artists
The 1919 Tashiro Kaplan Building formerly housed a farmer’s market, hardware store, social services and artists’ studios. Economic downturns in the 1980s made Pioneer Square’s affordable “livework” spaces in Pioneer Square available for artists. As real estate boomed in the 1990s, landowners began renovating buildings and seeking wealthier tenants. Rent prices rose, pushing many artists out of the neighborhood. Through a collaboration of public and private entities, the Tashiro Kaplan Building reopened in 2004 with 50 units of affordable housing and studio spaces for artists, galleries, the nonprofit agency 4Culture, and 20+ commercial arts-related entities. Once a month on First Thursday, people flock to Pioneer Square and many congregate at the Tashiro Kaplan Building for the country’s longest running Art Walk.
12. Staying on Track
As you stand on the train overpass on S Main St, you’ll see the south portal of the mile-long tunnel that diverts trains underneath downtown Seattle. The Great Northern Railroad came to Seattle in 1893 with its depot located at Columbia St and Railroad Ave (now Alaskan Way S). To keep the railroad tracks from creating traffic congestion and, as an alternative to routing trains along the waterfront, James J. Hill started construction of the tunnel in 1904. The tunnel officially opened in 1906 with the completion of King Street Station.
13. All Aboard!
In 1890, the Northern Pacific continental railroad extended its main line from Tacoma to Seattle and in 1893 the Great Northern railway arrived along the waterfront. Citizens waited until 1906 for the Great
Northern’s James J. Hill to build them a depot, known as King Street Station. Adjacent to King Street Station is Union Station, which was built in 1911 as a result of disputes between rival railroad companies Northern Pacific and Union Pacific. People from all over the world passed through these depots in pursuit of their dreams. Over time, the railroads brought numerous immigrant communities into the city and were also serviced by immigrants and African American porters. Union Station’s last passenger service was in 1971. Today, only King Street Station continues to serve passengers.
14. Early Japantown
Seattle’s first Japantown, or Nihonmachi, centered on S Main St and extended east beyond the present day Chinatown-International District and west to Pioneer Square. At its height, nearly 14,000 people lived and worked in this area. The restored Furuya Building on the corner of 2nd Ave S and Main St serves as a reminder of this past. As the Chinese presence declined, limited by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Japanese influence expanded as immigrants and their descendants established businesses, ran hotels, raised families, and helped build Seattle. During World War II, the U.S. government forced all Japanese Americans into concentration camps elsewhere. Their businesses and houses taken, few returned after the war. Those who came back re-established Japantown. Continue east to 6th and S Main Street to explore present-day Japantown. Visit the Wing Luke Museum at 719 S King St to learn more.
15. Chinese Influence
Look north to S Washington St and notice the traditional third-story balcony on the Chin Gee Hee Building. Chin Gee Hee immigrated from China and later moved to Seattle in 1873 to become a partner in the Wa Chong Company, a labor contractor that imported men from China to work in logging camps, coal mines, and canneries, and to help build streets and railroads. In 1886, Chinese immigrants were forced out of the city onto boats down S Washington St to the waterfront, known as the Chinese Expulsion. Chin Gee Hee stayed and the Chinese community quickly returned with demand for labor after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Seattle’s early Chinatown centered around S Washington St and originally extended through Pioneer Square. Starting in about 1910, after the Jackson Street regrade lowered the area east of 4th Ave S, many Chinese started relocating to what is now the present Chinatown-International District. Visit the Wing Luke Museum at 719 S King St to learn more.
r Square Historic Walking Tour Pionee Trail2Treasure.org
Buried Treasure A. Waterfall Garden Park
This secluded park marks the site of the original 1907 office of American Messenger Company, the forerunner of United Parcel Service (UPS). The founding of UPS was the result of local messenger boy James E. Casey’s entrepreneurialism. He and his friend Claude Ryan operated out of a saloon basement here at 2nd Ave S and S Main St. They delivered packages and messages by foot, bicycle and motorcyle until 1919 when UPS expanded to San Francisco. Waterfall Garden Park preserves the spirit of pioneering Seattle businesses that helped shape the city’s growth – from the Gold Rush era, to dot-com and beyond.
B. Alley Network Exploration
In 2008, the International Sustainability Institute began an initiative to create a network of alleys in Pioneer Square. The vision to revitalize these underutilized urban areas into vibrant public spaces began in Nord Alley, located between Occidental Ave S and 1st Ave S, south of Occidental Square Park. Over the years, the alleys have hosted regular public events, art installations, and gatherings. Alley programming has led to improvements of numerous alleys throughout Pioneer Square. Explore the neighborhood’s alleys to discover art, businesses, and hidden treasures.
C. Free Speech Corner
In the early 20th century, soapbox orators attracted streetside audiences. In 1919, a General Strike shut down the city, giving Seattle a national reputation as a haven for left-wing politics. After the stock market crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression, this corner became a place where radicals shouted ideas on current events, and crowds by the hundreds joined to listen.
1. D. Pioneer Park
Pioneer Park marks the northern entry into Pioneer Square. The adjacent Pioneer Building was the first of three legacy buildings established by Henry Yesler after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Ten years later, a 60-foot totem pole was installed after a group of local businessmen stole it from a Tlingit Native American village. The tribe sued for $20,000 in damages, later settling for $500 after the men were found guilty of theft. After a vandal burned the totem pole down in 1938, the City paid Tlingit craftsmen to carve the replica you see here today. The Iron Pergola, built in 1909, served as a cable car stop and entry to underground restrooms that are no longer in service. This nationally designated landmark was restored after a truck crashed into it in 2001.
E. Smith Tower
Opening on July 4, 1914, Smith Tower was Seattle’s first skyscraper. At 42 stories, it was the fourth tallest building in the world and remained the tallest building west of Chicago for nearly 50 years. Ride in a historic Otis elevator up to the 35th floor Observatory, furnished by the last Empress of China as a gift to the building’s owner, Lyman C. Smith. The room features many historic elements, including the famed “Wishing Chair” and surrounded by an open-air
observatory with commanding views of the city. As of its 105th anniversary, Smith Tower has been surpassed by 22 taller Seattle skyscrapers, but remains a unique component of the city skyline.
F. Lou Graham’s Parlor House
Madame Lou Graham, born Dorothea Georgine Emile Ohben, immigrated from Germany to Seattle in 1888. Soon after settling here, she established a brothel at the corner of 3rd Ave S and S Washington St. Seattle’s elite business leaders and visitors frequented Lou Graham’s Parlor House. As a result, Madame Lou Graham made a fortune and owned a large amount of land in the city. When she died of syphilis in her early 40s, she left her entire estate to relatives in Germany, not the King County public school system, as urban legend claims.
G. King Street Station Lobby
Step into the King Street Station lobby to see the restored grand waiting room. The restoration to this 1906 building was one of several projects to receive federal funding as part of a statewide push to enhance rail and transit passenger travel. Improvements included replacement of the roof with the original terra cotta
2. tile, a restoration of the lobby’s original ornate ceiling, creation of a public plaza at the Jackson Street entrance, and seismic upgrades. King Street Station is home to Seattle’s Amtrak service and Sounder commuter trains.
H. Union Station
Once named the Oregon and Washington Station, the strikingly beautiful Union Station is now a reminder of Seattle’s railway past. Opened in 1911, Union Station with its architectural grandeur announced that Seattle was a rival of New York and Chicago. It serviced the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, as well as the Union Pacific Railroad. Union Station and the nearby King Street Station operated side-by-side for much of the 20th century. With the decline of rail travel in Seattle, Union Station was shuttered in the early 1970’s. Following an extensive renovation in the late 1990’s, Union Station re-opened to the public and is now accessible Monday through Friday from 8am – 5pm.
TREASURE TRAIL to
How to get to Pioneer Square
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW 6991
2. Construction of the Great Northern Tunnel beneath downtown Seattle, circa 1904. This view shows the material yard at the south end, the eventual site of King Street Station. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW 29610z
The Alliance for Pioneer Square wishes to thank our partners who created and helped fund the Trail to Treasure project:
Photo Captions: 1. Aftermath of the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, which destroyed almost every building in the Pioneer Square historic district. Most of the buildings now standing were the original replacements for those demolished by the fire.
3. Dugout canoes at the Washington Street Boat Landing, circa 1896. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, NA897
4. Seattle Hotel, circa 1911. This five-story brick and stone building with 200 rooms was conveniently located near the railroad depots, the docks, and the origination point for most of the city’s streetcar lines. The hotel was torn down in 1961 to make room for a parking garage which resembles a sinking ship. PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, Museum of History & Industry, 1983.10.6827
5. Cooper & Levy store on 1st Ave S, 1897. This “pioneer outfitters” was one of the local retail outlets where gold rushers purchased their supplies before heading north to the Klondike.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, A. Curtis 26368
6. Chin Gee Hee in his Quong Tuck Company office on S Washington St, circa 1904.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program, 4Culture, The City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, WSDOT, Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, The Waterlines Project, MOHAI, The Portico Group, Collins Woerman, members of the Trail to Treasure Advisory Board, and stakeholders of Pioneer Square.
Check out mobile-friendly DowntownSeattleParking.com for parking locations throughout the neighborhood with rates the same or less than on-street parking.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, A. Curtis 01281
Produced by the Alliance for Pioneer Square 2019