Pioneer Square is where the city of Seattle was born. Settled in 1852, buildings around the square were heavily damaged in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. The area’s Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, dating back to the 1890s, was saved from demolition by preservationists such as Bill Speidel and Victor Steinbrueck in the 1960s.
Within Pioneer Square itself, you’ll find a Tlingit totem pole. The totem pole was originally stolen from the tribe in 1899 and destroyed by an arsonist in 1938. The Tlingit tribe then carved a new one and gifted it to the city after they were reimbursed for the original totem pole that was stolen.
Also in the square is a bust of Chief Seattle, for whom the city is named, and a wrought-iron Victorian pergola that was used as a waiting station for a streetcar. Both were added to the square in 1909. The office for Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is located on the square as well as Smith Tower.
1st Avenue and Yesler Way border Pioneer Square, and there are several beautiful brick buildings along them. The State Hotel Building on 1st Avenue still has a sign that advertises rooms for 75¢.
To the south is Occidental Park, which is the heart of Seattle’s arts district. In the park, you can find some public sculptures as well as the ivy-covered building that was once the Grand Central Hotel (1889).
Walking down the pedestrianized Occidental Avenue South, there are art galleries, cafés, and wine tasting rooms.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
A block east on Jackson Street is the old Cadillac Hotel, built in 1889. It’s now the permanent home of the Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
The exhibits tell the story of how Seattle played a major part in the Klondike Gold Rush. Between 1896 and 1899, a publicity campaign run by journalist Erastus Brainerd attracted prospectors to the city from all over the world. Once in Seattle, they purchased supplies before traveling to the Yukon, making several outfitters rich in the process.