day 8 – sunday
This was probably the most enjoyable day we had in Seattle. We took a walking tour of Pioneer Square, starting with a ride on the trolley. The Seahawks were playing, so a lot of people were riding the trolley with us, heading towards the stadium. We started by walking up to Smith Tower, where we rode an antique Otis elevator to the Chinese Room and Observation Deck. When it was built, Smith Tower was the tallest building outside of New York. Now it is still an imposing skyscraper, which houses a variety of businesses and law firms. The Chinese Room is so called because at the time that the building was going up, the Empress of China offered to decorate one floor. Unfortunately all that remains of the original decor is the impressive wood ceilings and a few chairs (one of which was being used by the guy who sold us the tickets–I felt like saying: dude, you’re sitting on an antique! Get up and get a regular chair!) The observation deck is completely cased in to prevent people from jumping off, but there are plenty of big enough openings to take good pictures. It was a very sunny day, as were the other days we were in Seattle, amazingly enough.
After Smith Tower, we took the underground tour, which takes you on a walk through the old streets of Seattle (where Seattle used to be before the great fire of 1889.) Because the good city folks saw no reason to halt the rebuilding while they were deciding on city streets, the whole town was rebuilt on the same level, and then new streets and sidewalks were then added (at a raised level). So the building owners had to take that into account, and create two entrances, one for post-1889, and one for later. Once the new streets and sidewalks were put in (which took years) building owners simply moved their entrances one floor up and condemned all the doors and windows on the level below.
The tour is largely based on a book called “Sons of the Profits”, which at the time it came out was banned by the Seattle School District, making it of course an instant bestseller. Our guide was very funny. He had us step under skylights (which on the regular street level look just like clear glass squares) and yell “Help!”. None of the pedestrians heard us. He said even when they do hear you they don’t think of looking down.
Later we met with our friends and had dinner and dessert in the Capitol Hill area.