With a day off from work here in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to go check out one of Seattle's historic districts, Pioneer Square. The main reason for heading there was to check out the Klondike Gold Rush Historic National Park. Our visit starts with a ride on the Link Light Rail to the Pioneer Square Station. Before leaving the station, you can find a link to Seattle's past with an old component of the cable car system that used to operate in Seattle.
Back when Seattle was originally founded, Pioneer Square was the original downtown area, and the center of all business in the city. As the city grew, the main business district would relocate up north to the newer, more modern buildings, yet Pioneer Square would remain. There was a point in which there were several buildings on the brink of being demolished, one of which was a classic hotel. The hotel was replaced with the triangular parking garage below and the convergence of Yesler and James streets.
Because of this, the locals became outraged, and would lead to efforts to preserve other historic buildings in the neighborhood, and now the neighborhood hosts smaller cafes and boutique shops. You can enjoy a nice walk through the town to enjoy these classic buildings and structures.
One of the buildings that also remains is the Smith Tower, Seattle's oldest skyscraper. It's easily identified by it's unique pyramid top, which has an apartment inside of it, with an observation deck that is open to the public just below it. While I didn't check it out this time, we'll have to come back and check out sometime in the future.
Another attraction that I would like to check out in the near future is Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. The tour takes you below the streets of Pioneer Square, which was the original level of the downtown area, but was raised to the current level because of the opportunity to do so when much of the city was destroyed by the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.
Right outside of the Pioneer Building is a fountain that pays tribute to Seattle's namesake, the Duwamish Tribe leader Chief Sealth (a.k.a. Chief Seattle). It appeared that the fountain was off because of it being winter.
Native American culture is very significant to Washington State. This is signified with the inclusion of totem poles and wood carvings that are found in the Pioneer Square area from some of the tribes of the region.
These pieces of Native American artwork sit inside of Occidental Park, a park that is a popular gathering place in Pioneer Square. Today there were food trucks and live performances for visitors to enjoy. Summertime is probably an awesome time to come to the park.
The park is also home to Seattle's tribute for its firefighters who had fallen in the line of duty. The Seattle Fallen Fire Fighters' Memorial features statues of four fire fighters performing their duty, and several stones that are engraved with the names of donors, as well as a list of the fire fighters who had been lost while on duty.
About a block south on 2nd Ave is the old Cadillac Hotel building, which is the main motivation for our visit today, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
Near the entrance is a display that highlights the layout of Pioneer Square, showing where the original shoreline was before it was changed with the landfill of earth from the rebuilding after the Seattle Fire.
There is also an exhibit that discusses how the building was preserved after suffering significant damage from the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake. They also highlight how they made it more environmentally friendly with the installation of solar panels on the roof.
The main exhibit itself helps tell the tale of a small and young timber town on the shores of the Puget Sound that experienced a huge boom because of it serving as a gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush of Alaska.
The top half of the exhibit highlights the preparation of those who came to Seattle looking to go to Alaska to seek their own fortune. They share with you the items and supplies people would by, along with how they would make their way to the Klondike from Seattle.
As you head downstairs, you get into finding out what life was like for those in Alaska as they sought their fortune.
There's also some artifacts and replicas of tools used to find the gold. They also feature a spinning wheel to replicate your odds of finding gold while in Alaska. In general, your odds were pretty small, whether it was a little bit of gold or a life changing amount to lead to instant wealth.
But there were some who were successful, and some how returned to Seattle started their own businesses with the income they made from selling their gold. Those businesses include Filson Outdoor Supplies, and the Nordstrom department stores.
Back upstairs, they had a scale where you could find out how much your weight in gold would be worth. While I'm not all that thrilled with my current weight, if I had that much gold, I would be a happy camper!
Because of being a part of the National Park system, there is also an exhibit that promotes the US National Parks, especially those found in Washington State.
To help encourage an interest in National Parks for the younger generation, kids can pretend to be the President of the United States as they sit at a pretend President's Desk, and they can fill out a paper where they can draw pictures and write about what their dream national park would be like.
And that concludes our exploration of Pioneer Square. I hope to come back before long to check out some of the other attractions in the area, and when I do, I'll make sure you can come along here on Coasting with Culture. Thank you for checking it out, I hope you enjoyed it!
Take Care and Safe Travels!