Seattle’s Underground Tour

5
Seattle’s Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour beneath Pioneer Square

If you are RVing anywhere near the Seattle Puget Sound area, and have a place to park your recreation vehicle (so you don’t have to drive into town) one amazing place to spend a couple of hours is Seattle’s Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour.

View of Seattle’s old underground street (circa 1984)

Bill Speidel an ardent preservationist in the 1950s and 1960s was “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. The Underground Tour, which Speidel founded in 1965, is a by-product of that campaign,” according to the tour’s website.

Amber glass panels seen from underground (top above photo).

Traversing the old streets of Seattle, located a full story (or more) below current street-level, the tour gives information about how 25-downtown blocks were essentially “razed” [torn down and rebuilt] after the Great Fire of 1889 to prevent flooding.

It is an intriguing and entertaining family outing. An added bonus is that no matter what the weather, you will be out of the elements down under Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square. It is a good history lesson, with a fun twist provided by the highly skilled tour guides.

Amber glass panels at street level.

The tour begins on the street level in the Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour bar where well-informed and entertaining guides give colorful background information about Seattle.  Then everyone goes down below the buildings and the sidewalks to see what it was like. It is a fairly easy walking 75-minute tour, however there are several points where visitors climb up and down stairs. Walking shoes recommended.

Among the many fascinating tidbits was why the “skylights” in the sidewalk were invented– they help illuminate, with a faint amber glow the underground. These glass panels on the streets of Pioneer Square can be seen while walking the neighborhood.

Seattle Underground Tour store front.

If you go:
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
608 First Ave, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square,
 between Cherry Street and Yesler Way.

Take the James Street Exit from I-5.
[206] 682 4646
URL: UndergroundTour.com

Hours: Open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas
April – Sept.: Daily, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Ticket Prices
$18 Adult (18-59 yrs)

$15 Senior (60+ yrs)
 & Student (13-17 yrs or with valid college ID)

$9 Child (7 –12 yrs)

Kids 6 and under are admitted free, but may find the 75-minute tour challenging

Where to park in Seattle?
Don’t try it. Strongly suggest you find a place to park where you can take the bus or light rail (metro.kingcounty.gov). If you really want to drive, and have a small tow vehicle, there is parking available throughout the Pioneer Square area both on the street (meters) and in parking garages. Click Here for a Parking Map.

Read more RV lifestyle articles by Julianne G Crane at RVWheelLife.com

Photos source: Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour

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Mark E
6 years ago

Just as an FYI, the Seattle Seahawks football stadium is adjacent to the Pioneer Square neighborhood and the stadium parking lot can facilitate vehicles of any size.

Cheese Queen
6 years ago

"how the city was essentially RAZED after the Great Fire of 1889 to prevent flooding."

Raised, not razed. Homophones that are actually opposites.

Diane McGovern
6 years ago
Reply to  Cheese Queen

So, what was left of downtown Seattle after the Great Fire was razed, then the "new" downtown was raised (built on top of the "old" downtown–now Seattle's Underground) to prevent flooding. 😀