Subterranean Seattle

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Useful Information

Location: 614 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98104.
Seattle Center. Seattle's Pioneer Square, between Cherry Street and Yesler Way.
(47.6019096374512, -122.3341064453124)
Open: APR to SEP daily 9-19.
OCT to MAR daily 10-18.
Tours on the hour, JUN to AUG additional tours on the half hour.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, 24-DEC.
Fee: Adults USD 22, Children (13-17) USD 20, Children (7-12) USD 10, Children (0-6) free, Seniors (60+) USD 20.
Classification: SubterraneaUnderground City
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=60 min, Max=25.
Accessibility: no
Address: The Seattle Underground Tour, Seattle's Pioneer Square, 614 First Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, Tel: +1-206-682-4646.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1889 the Great Seattle Fire.
1897 Yukon Gold Rush brings many adventurers to Seattle.
1899 sidewalks covered.
1954 Bill Speidel starts exploring the underground passages.
MAY-1965 first underground tours given by Bill Speidel to save Pioneer Square from destruction.


During the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 the entire business district burned to the ground in one day. This desaster lead to a unique and really practical solution: the city was rebuilt one storey higher! The former first floor is now the basement. After the fire much of the streets was covered with debris, rocks from destroyed buildings and so forth. The new streets were built on top of this debris, by erecting stone walls on each side of the road and filling the old roads completely with debris. Then the streets were covered. But the sidewalks were not filled in so there was now an open sidewalk, about 10 m below the streets. The burned down wooden buildings were replaced by stone buildings, the city did not allow any wooden building to avoid further fires. But they did not realize that the low sidewalks were a bad idea, and so the shops in the new buildings were on the level of the sidewalk, not the street.

During the first 10 years most of the sidewalks remained as they were, but now they were 10 m below ground. Ladders were placed at intersections, and people walking on the sidewalk had to climb up, cross the road, and then climb down to the next sidewalk. Climbing ladders is not a very good idea for elderly people, people with many shopping bags, or ladies with long dresses. And it was also a problem for drunken men, and 17 died by falling from the road. Bridges were built and some sidewalks were covered by a ceiling. So there were now two different sidewalks, one above the other. Bit by bit the stores moved up, as the underground stores were much less attractive to customers. The development of "moving up" was accelerated by an outbreak of the plague. People avoided the lower sidewalks because of the rats. The number of rats increased so much, the city paid 10 cents for each killed rat. Finally, the lower level of the sidewalks was completely abandoned, the sidewalks were also covered.

During the 1897 Yukon Gold Rush many adventurers travelled through Seattle and the new entrepreneurs were barkeepers, gamblers, con artists, and whores. The area soon had a bad name and reputable businesses moved uptown. After the gold rush the whole area suffered and was neglected. In 1954, Bill Speidel and his wife Shirley realized that it was necessary to make this area more attractive. He started to research the history of the area and stumbled about a rumour about passageways beneath the city. When he mentioned this in a newspaper hundreds of people asked for a visit to this underground. So he explored the covered sidewalks and soon scheduled public tours. The new company was simply named Underground Tour, at some point after Bill Speidel's death it was renamed Bill Speidel's Underground Tour in his honour.

The tour starts at 608 First Ave, Seattle's Pioneer Square. The first underground building visited is Doc Maynard's Public House, a saloon from the 1890s. It was restored, and here the tours get a seated introduction first. Then the tour goes outside and follows three blocks of the former city. They are not connected anymore, so the trip includes six stairs for getting up and back down for the next section. At the end Rogue's Gallery is reached. It is a museum with exhibits from Seattles past, a museum shop selling the works of local artisans and an Underground Café, with buffalo burgers, BBQ ribs, salads, snacks and espresso on its menu.