While in Seattle for Valentine’s Day of 2017, we did an unusual tour. We had done a few of the touristy things like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Microsoft, etc, and were looking for something different. We decided on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. It’s a humorous stroll through intriguing subterranean storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of June 6, 1889. It wasn’t something I would have thought of if someone hadn’t mentioned it to me a few years back. I was surprised at how much fun we had exploring Seattle’s underground.
After we checked in and got armbands, we were able to grab drinks while we waited for our tour to start. I was actually a little shocked at how many people were there for the evening underground tour. The popularity of this tour took me by surprise in a good way. I thought we would be one of a few people, lol.
Eventually Clay gave us a hilarious introduction and told us about the “war” between Seattle and Tacoma, how the city sewer system was built. He also talked about the houses of Negotiable Affections, and about the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 which destroyed the city of Seattle. As a side note, not many Seattleites were upset by the destruction of the city, as it was a way to start over and rebuild the city better than it had been originally. He did a great job of giving us some Seattle history in a very comical way.
Once he was finished, we broke into smaller groups with different tour guides. Our guide was Justin, and he gave us a little more history as he lead us all over the area around Pioneer Square. I lost track of how many buildings we went down into and around. All I know is it was a lot of steps in and out. Happily he didn’t go too fast, and I was able to keep up 🙂
He told a lot of stories, but the one I remember the most was about how the city had a lot fewer men than women. I think he said it was like 10-1. He also talked about how many of those women in town were “seamstresses.” Apparently it was a booming business back in the day and they were making quite a bit of money. There were many stories and facts, but I can’t remember them all to share on this post. Take the tour and you can hear them all 🙂 Like they say on their brochure, it’s history with punchlines!
As far as the details of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, here they are. It’s a 75-minute guided walking tour which begins beneath Doc Maynard’s Public House. Later the tour spills into historic Pioneer Square, Seattle’s birthplace. Eventually we went plunging underground for an exclusive, time-capsule view of the buried city. The tour ends in Rogues Gallery and the Underground Gift Shop. Tours start every hour on the hour every day, but hours vary depending on the time of year. You can get more details, as well are pre-order tickets on their website.
For those who may be asking, who is Bill Speidel. They answered this on their site. They say that Bill, the founder of the Underground Tour, is remembered as one of the last of a few genuine old-time Seattle characters. He reminds us of who we were before Microsoft, Starbucks, Ichiro, and Death Cab for Cutie. He is one of a group of visionaries who saved Pioneer Square by mounting a citizen campaign to convince the city to designate downtown’s oldest neighborhood an historic district, thus sparing from the wrecking ball the largest collection of Victorian-Romanesque buildings in the United States.
Although Speidel started the world-famous Underground Tour, spearheaded the campaign to preserve Pioneer Square, wrote a best-selling Seattle history (“Sons of the Profits”), and rediscovered one of Seattle’s early heroes (Doc Maynard), he is remembered most for his wit—an irreverent sense of humor—and unflagging enthusiasm for promoting Seattle’s lusty past.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour Information
Seattle, WA 98104
Tours start on the hours, every day –
April-September, 9 am-7 pm
Extra tours every half hour, sold at Box Office only, June-August,
9:30 am-4:30 pm
October-March, 10 am-6 pm
December 24 (Christmas Eve), 10 am-1 pm
December 26-31, 9 am-6 pm
Tours daily, year round, except: Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.Tours may be added during peak seasons. Tours last approximately 75 minutes. Children 6 years and under are admitted free, but may find the tour challenging.
$22 Adult (18-59 yrs)
$20 Senior (60+ yrs)
$20 Student (13-17 yrs or with valid college ID)
$10 Youth (7-12 yrs)
$50 Underground Tour and Underground Paranormal Experience Combo Ticket.
Again, kids 6 and under are admitted free but may find the 75-minute tour challenging.
From the south:
From I-5, take the Dearborn/James St. Exit (164A). Take the ramp to the right toward James St. Turn left onto James St. Turn right onto 1st Ave.
From the north:
From I-5, take Exit 165A toward James St. Stay straight to go onto 6th Ave. Turn right onto Columbia St. Turn left on 1st Ave.
From the east:
From I-90 W., take the I-5 N Exit, Exit 2C, toward Vancouver B.C. Take the James St. Exit. Take a slight right turn onto 1st Ave.
Driving and parking is a pain in like any downtown area. Please take the bus or light rail (metro.kingcounty.gov). But if you really want to drive, there is parking available throughout the neighborhood both on the street and in parking garages. Click Here for a Parking Map.
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