Settlers arrived in the area in 1851 and moved to the site of downtown Seattle in 1852. After early battles with the local Indians, the City was founded in 1869 and hit the growth trail from the 1880s. Seattle sits on land between the shores of the Puget Sound and Lake Washington and many of the early settlers were Scandinavians who found the climate and terrain reminiscent of home. Seattle is famous as the home town of Microsoft, Boeing and the TV series Frasier, but all is not quite what it seems. Microsoft is actually based at Redmond to the east of Seattle and Boeing moved their headquarters to Chicago some years ago although they still make planes in the area. Frasier, of course, was made in California even though it was set in Seattle.
Downtown Seattle from Space Needle
With its numerous skyscrapers and a population of well over half a million, the largest city in the Pacific North West of the USA looks much like any major US city. It is Seattle’s location is that makes it different. With the Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east, Seattle has the feel of being virtually surrounded by water. Its position on the shores of the sheltered waters of the Puget Sound means that the area has a strong maritime history and Seattle remains a major port today.
Fish stall, Pike Place Market
All big cities have their markets, but Pike Place in Seattle is rather special. Started as a market for produce in 1907, the market declined during and after World War II and in the 1960s plans were drawn up to demolish it. It was saved by local lobbying and now has expanded include crafts and other goods. It is both a market and a tourist attraction and some stallholders put on a show for the public - at the stall in this picture they make a display of throwing the fish. Pike Place is also the location in 1971 of the first ever Starbucks, long before it became the ubiquitous global brand that it now is.
Pioneer Square is the centre of Seattle’s compact historic area. Near here is a small museum, part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which explains how gold fever affected the whole North Western area. The buildings around Pioneer Square hide a secret. In early days the downtown area was prone to flooding and sewage overflows so after a major fire in 1889 destroyed 25 blocks the city authorities decided that the streets should be raised by up to 10 metres (32 feet). However by the time they raised the streets the buildings had already been rebuilt at the old level. This resulted a rather comic situation where people had to use ladders to get from the buildings to the streets. Later the sidewalks were roofed over leaving the storefronts hidden in a subterranean world.
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Streetcar, Broad Street
A vintage streetcar (tram) stands outside the depot with the Space Needle in the background. If you come from Melbourne in Australia you would have felt at home as these 1920s veterans were exiles from there. When we visited in 2000 they were running along the waterfront but when we returned in 2006 the service had been temporarily suspended for major bridge construction work. The service was due to be resumed in 2007 but by then it had been decided that the Alaskan Way Viaduct, under which part of the route ran, had to be replaced because it was of a design that was not sufficiently robust to withstand earthquakes. This was a huge project that required the boring of a major tunnel before the viaduct could be demolished. As a result the return of the vintage streetcars went into limbo. When we visited Seattle in 2016 we found that tunneling work was still at an early stage and that the track under Alaskan Way had gone. It seems that the vintage streetcars service is unlikely to return.
Space Needle from Denny Way & 4th Avenue
The Space Needle is Seattle’s most recognisable landmark. Built in 1961 for the 1962 World's Fair it was designed by Edward E. Carlson. It is 184 metres (605 feet) high which is small compared to the CN Tower in Toronto but ensures that it is not too dominant on the Seattle skyline. In good weather the observation deck at a height of 158 metres (520 feet) provides views of the downtown area, the Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, Lake Union and, of course, Mount Rainier. If you want to take in the view in a leisurely fashion, there is a revolving restaurant.
Subterranean building, Seattle Underground Tour
After the downtown sidewalks were roofed over, the storefronts that were left underground were gradually replaced by ones at the new street level leaving the old ones abandoned and forgotten. Many are still there and you can visit some of them on the Seattle Underground Tour, a guided walking tour along the old sidewalks of the city.
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Mille Fiori, Chihuly Garden & Glass
Dale Chihuly was born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington. He trained in glass blowing in the 1960’s and developed a distinctive style of fine art glassware produced by teams of glassblowers. His spectacular creations have been exhibited all over the world. In 2012 he opened a long term exhibition called Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center next to the Space Needle. Here some of his most complex creations are exhibited in darkened rooms brightly lit with coloured lights. Others are displayed in an outdoor garden alongside real plants. Click Tab 2 to see the outside garden nestling under the Space Needle.