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Pioneer Square, Seattle

Pioneer Square is triangular shaped park bounded by 1st Avenue and Yesler Way in downtown Seattle.  The Pioneer Square neighborhood is the traditional center for the City of Seattle.






Seattle was originally settled as New York Alki in the winter of 1851 at Alki Point.  By Spring of the following year the settlement was moved east over Elliott Bay to a naturally flat track of land which became Pioneer Square.  Pioneer Square was originally 20-30 lower than it today and was prone to flooding from the unguarded shoreline of Elliott Bay.  Pioneer Square is roughly bounded by; Alaskan Bay to the west, King Street to the south, 5th Avenue to the east and generally a block or two north of Yesler Way.


Downtown Seattle and Pioneer Square originally mostly consisted of wooden buildings.  In 1889 the great Seattle Fire was started accidentally in Pioneer Square when a cabinet maker accidentally overturned and ignited a glue bucket.  The grease based fire caused by the burning glue quickly overwhelmed the poorly maintained water system of the city and burned 31 blocks.  Pioneer Square was quickly rebuilt but the City of Seattle took the opportunity to regrade the streets 20-30 higher to mitigate flooding and install a better plumbing system.  Buildings were largely masonry in design and built with an entrance on the first floor at the original street grade in addition to entrances at the second level at the anticipated grade.  The increased street grades in Pioneer Square buried the original entrances to the rebuilt buildings which led to what is known as the Seattle Underground.

Pioneer Square has a large number of the historic downtown buildings in Seattle.  The Pioneer Building was the largest in Washington State from 1892 to 1904 is located in Pioneer Square Park.  The structure is 6 stories high and consists of various types of masonry stones.






There is evidence of Pioneer Square's past due to the hugely subsiding bricks on Yesler Way.


The Iron Pergola ahead in the photo was a street car waiting area installed in 1909.  The totem pole is a 1938 replacement for a structure that was given to the city of Seattle in 1899.



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