While lots of folks are on their way to work, I get a whole day to wander downtown Seattle! There’s plenty to see in this beautiful, historic, and famously cloudy city, so let’s go!
Seattle is named after the tribal leader of both the Suquamish and Dkhw’Duw’Absh, who was very friendly toward white settlers and hoped they would protect his tribe from their traditional enemies, the Haidas and Tsimshians. Instead, he signed over his tribe’s ancestral lands in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, which the US government later sidestepped by trying to “Americanize” the Suquamish into forgetting their ancestral ties.
Seattle has grown a great deal since then, fueled by gold rushers heading north to the Klondike via Alaska! This mad rush is commemorated at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square!
In August 1896, three prospectors named Skookum Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and George Washington Carmack discovered gold along the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory of Canada! In the stampede that ensued over the next three years, over 100,000 prospectors surged through the port of Seattle and splashed up the coast, shoved their way through forests, and slogged across snowy mountains in search of that elusive yellow ore!
The number of folks who actually found gold at the end of this treacherous trek was laughably small, and as with the California Gold Rush a few decades earlier, the storekeepers and merchants probably did better than the actual prospectors. The harshness of Alaska, while great inspiration for storytellers like Jack London, was too much for most prospectors, and especially their families, which meant this rush lasted a mere three years and reshaped the human landscape of Alaskan territory!
Today, a whole wealth of information about the Klondike Rush is still on display in the old Cadillac Hotel, a major jumping-off point for northbound adventurers. You can trace the stories of several adventurers through all their struggles, finding out whether they made it or were left penniless! Despite their struggles, visiting here definitely made me want to return to Alaska!
As I mentioned, most of the folks who did really well during the Klondike Gold Rush were those who sold goods to the Rushers. The only exception to this were the farmers, who had to sell low to middlemen, and often just broke even or lost money! When they started to up their prices, Seattle City Councilman, Thomas Revelle, stepped in with a proposal in 1907 to bring farmers and customers together in a single public market, known today as Pike Place!
Lucky Frank Goodwin made the Pike Place Market a more permanent installation on the Seattle Waterfront. He actually did strike it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush and used his funds to set up this permanent arcade, now internationally famous for its bright neon signs and flying fish!
Today, Pike Place is a multi-level shopping center where you can find just about anything you might want, whether that’s farm-fresh produce, fish right out of the ocean, toys, souvenirs, and fine art! In true Washington fashion, there was even a carved Sasquatch there to greet me at the southern end!
Today, Pike Place is most famous for its fish market, where each time there is a purchase, the team raises a rousing cheer and hurls the purchased fish, from tiny trout to huge halibut, all across the stall with breathtaking precision. Then they wrap it and hand it over to their delighted customer! It was really neat to watch, and I could probably have stayed here for hours enjoying it!
But the day was getting late, and I had a flight coming up. So after all my wandering was done for the day, I had to head south once again. I will be back, though! There’s a lot of this corner of the Pacific Northwest that I still have to explore!