Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Seattle's Underground Bathroom" Fine Art Photography by David Patterson

"Seattle's Underground Bathroom"

Seattle's first buildings were wooden. In 1889, a cabinetmaker accidentally overturned and ignited a glue pot. An attempt to extinguish it with water, he spread the burning grease-based glue all over the place. The fire chief was out of town, and although the volunteer fire department responded, they made the mistake of trying to use too many hoses at once. They never recovered from the subsequent drop in water pressure, and the Great Seattle Fire destroyed 25 city blocks.

When they reconstructed their buildings, merchants and landlords knew that the ground floor would eventually be underground, and the next floor up would be the new ground floor.  There was very little decoration on the doors and windows of the original ground floor, but extensive decoration on the new ground floor.
Once the new sidewalks were complete, building owners moved their businesses to the new ground floor, although merchants carried on business in the lowest floors of buildings that survived the fire, and pedestrians continued to use the underground sidewalks lit by the glass cubes (still seen on some streets) embedded in the grade-level sidewalk above.

Two years before the 1909 World’s Fair in Seattle (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition), the city condemned the Underground for fear of pneumonic plague. The basements were left to deteriorate, or were used as storage. Some of the areas became illegal flophouses for the homeless, gambling halls, speakeasies, and opium dens.

Only a small portion of the Seattle Underground has been restored and made safe and accessible to the public on guided tours.

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