Pioneer Square is the oldest neighborhood in Seattle. The city, founded in 1851, experienced a major fire in 1889. The debris from the fire was collected and used as fill where the stadiums are currently located. As a result, much of this portion of Seattle is built on former tidal flats and has been raised up. Guided tours of Pioneer Square’s original sidewalks and storefronts (located one story below today’s street level) are provided by the Seattle Underground.
At the time of the Alaskan gold rush, Pioneer Square was a neighborhood filled with bars and debauchery. It was here that gold seekers waited prior to their departure towards Alaska and fortune. It all began in 1896 when two men actually brought gold back from Alaska. They were more or less the only ones to do so, along with the Swedish immigrant John W. Nordstrom who later established the chain of department stores bearing his name. This was the beginning of the gold rush fever that lasted two years (1897-1898).
Seattle is probably the first city to advertise itself. In the day, Seattle promoted itself as the “Gateway to the Gold Fields”, where prospective gold seekers could buy all of the provisions (shoes, shovels, tents, warm clothing, etc.) they would need in the Klondike.
In 1914, the Smith Tower was completed. It was the tallest building erected west of the Mississippi. There is currently an observation deck and Prohibition-style bar located at the top of the building.
Since 1909, a bust of the “Chief Sealth”, for whom Seattle was named, was installed in the heart of the district. Today, Pioneer Square is home to art galleries, cafés, restaurants, shops, the Underground Tour, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park) and more.
There are many art galleries in this district. You can discover them on the first Thursday of each month during the “Art walk”.
Here is a partial list of them:
Davidson : Old and contemporary, European, American and PNW artists are represented in this gallery.
Stonington : gallery specialized in contemporary “Native American”, art, totems, masks, drawings.
Linda Hodges : gallery representing contemporary artists from the region.
The London Plane : well located place on Occidental Square, this establishment is a restaurant, wine bar, and even has a shop which sells small gifts and jam. Go for their big, absolutely delicious breads!
Copal Copal delights us with its fresh tacos, quesadillas, salads, and guacamole. It’s a great spot to have lunch or to sip a Mexican cocktail at the end of the day.
Il Corvo : a sure bet for pasta lovers, it’s well worth the wait in the long line in front of the restaurant.
Lady Yum : The Lady Yum boutique in Pioneer Square (the 1st Lady Yum opened its doors in Kirkland) is surprising with its neo-gothic style. The macarons are original and delicious, and the individual cakes are real works of art.
Glasshouse-Studio: this glassware store sells glass art objects reminiscent of the works of Dale Chihuly. Visitors can watch a glassblower working at the back of the store, as he creates these works of art.
Drygoods Design: a beautiful shop on Occidental Avenue South which sells cards, gifts, and exquisite fabrics.
Today, Pioneer Square is an area where red brick buildings surround a large central square (Occidental Square) and where a totem pole, the Fallen Firefighters Memorial, street games, food-trucks, homeless people as well as workers out for their lunch break, and tourists can be found on sunny days.
This district is endearing, interesting, rich in history, and a must-see in Seattle.