Monday, August 20, 2018

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour (Seattle, Washington)

Ever since Robbie watched The Night Strangler in 1973, he's wanted to visit Seattle's Underground City. After a 45 year build up, he was really looking forward to Bill Speidel's Underground Tour when we stopped in Seattle for a couple of days on our way to Alaska. The 75-minute guided tour is advertised as "a humorous stroll through intriguing subterranean storefronts and sidewalks." 

It was a beautiful day when we arrived at Pioneer Square Station on the light rail.

There was quite a bit of interesting architecture around Pioneer Square, however, the area was actually dirty and smelly with road construction and bums unsavory characters everywhere.

The tour began with a brief history of Seattle, the fire that destroyed the city in 1889, and how the underground city came to be - the buildings and sidewalks were originally at ground level, but the city built up new streets level with the second story of the buildings. I did not know much about Seattle, so I found this very informative. We then headed to an outside alleyway to begin the walking part of the tour.

Our first stop was in Pioneer Square Park where we learned that Seattle was named after an Indian chief and that the 60-foot totem pole in the square was actually a replica of one that was originally stolen from Alaska.

Then we finally headed underground, and (in Robbie's words) we were "less than thrilled … it was like touring someone's basement! Just a bunch of junk and debris that was poorly lit and hard to traverse."  (I think my photos make it look better than the reality.)

It seems the only thing the tour company has done to make it "tour-able" was to add a few handrails to keep people from stepping off the old sidewalk and paint the steps yellow for safety.

We did finally arrive at a large open room with an old bar and a red round couch that the tour guide mentioned were "used for a movie in the 70s that was now on YouTube so obviously it wasn't any good!" (Since Robbie enjoyed the movie, this only increased our disappointment in the tour.) We'll be watching the movie soon to see if we can identify the scenes shot here.

And, I think, this could be a contender for #16 (something that could be from a favorite book/movie) on the Seasonal Photo Scavenger Hunt. What do you think?

Honestly, we did enjoy learning the history of this area, and it was definitely interesting to see the fa├žade of a building underground!

When the new streets were being built, they added "skylights" to the sidewalks to get light down to the tunnels. Many of them are still in place around Pioneer Square.

Of course, they don't look quite as nice from inside the tunnel anymore.

While we're both glad we took the tour and checked this item off the list of things Robbie's wanted to do for years, we're honestly not sure it was worth the time and money to walk through a bunch of tunnels filled with junk, dirt, and cobwebs!

Have you been to Seattle? Did you know there was an Underground City? Have you toured it? Please share your experience in the comments.


  1. We visited Seattle many years ago, and did not know anything about the Underground City then (or now). Given your description, I don't think we missed a thing!

  2. I have been to Seattle to visit along with Spokane (one of my sisters lived in Spokane for a number of years). Nice that Robbie got to tick off something on his bucket list even if just a bit disappointing. Just tell Robbie it was all in aid of the SPSH list (lol).

  3. Always good to finally see something, even if it doesn't live up to expectations? Loved the shot of the old typewriter in particular!


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