Vye and I rushed back to the hotel after our “Twin Peaks” excursion. We had planned to take a tour of the Underground City. Everyone wanted to go, but Shookie’s knees were flaring up and she didn’t think she would be able to make it. So the four of us, Vye, Ricki, Erich and I, headed downtown for the tour. Erich and I had taken the same tour together some 10+ years earlier. It had been interesting, so we didn’t mind the repeated activity.
The organizers had us wait for the 4 p.m. tour to start in a bar. Ha! How fun. We had just enough time for a cocktail, which we sipped during our orientation to the Underground City.
Soon we were making our way through some of the oldest parts of Seattle to visit even old sections beneath our feet.
One the way to the underground entrance, we passed the former State Hotel building. A neon sign for the place was still attached and working. it advertised rooms at 75 cents a night. Sooooo much cheaper than our Travelodge.
And then down into the underground we went…
Although there are many different underground tours available and many miles of underground city beneath the streets, the tour we took was the same, exact one we took before — with the same Steam Baths sign and same old toilet as seen below.
The history of the Underground City is interesting. It has something to do with the city being built below high tide level, which caused the sewer system of the to flow backwards…causing many “geysers” to shoot out of toilets. Charming. to solve this problem, they just built the road up a level. The first floors of all of the buildings became basements. the 2nd floors were now street level.
For years, the businesses below street level flourished, but getting to and from them proved difficult and required very tall ladders.
In 1907, the lower levels were closed off for fear of bubonic plague (Rats had taken over the underground for the most part) and by and large forgotten. According to the internet, the homeless would squat down there and there were a few gambling halls, opium dens and also speakeasies during prohibition.
In 1965, Bill Speidel, a citizen of Seattle, opened the very first (and most popular) underground tour…the tour we were on that day.
There are several sections of the tour, requiring you to emerge into one area, walk a ways and the descend back down into the underground gloom. There don’t seem to be that many artifacts or recognizable store fronts though.
Towards the end of the tour, there are more and more things on display. True finds found in the tunnels and walkways of the Underground City…or things placed their by the tour officials? One has to wonder, especially since the last time you ascend from the depths of the city, you emerge in gift shop for the tour that also serves as a mini-museum of sorts about the early days of Seattle’s history.
The photo below was of one of Seattle’s first and most notorious madames (in the black dress). The photo was reproduced on flyers and postcards as advertisement, showing off the brothel’s latest “merchandise”
T-shirts galore… The gift shop facet of the tour seemed like a new addition since we first visited a decade ago.
After the tour, we went across the street to visit the merchant Cafe, which is Seattle’s oldest saloon (established in 1890).
Not only was it the oldest saloon, it also featured an underground bar (part of the underground city) with a haunted underground lounge! Ooooo ! I had to go!
The bar at street level did not seem all that fab. It certainly seemed too modern. But down the stairs we went to the spooky, atmospheric lower level…
The lounge area was sparsely populated…
But the actual underground bar was CLOSED! Waaagh! The bar was actually gated and locked, but I took these shots through the bars.
Following our trek underground, we returned to the hotel and met up with Shookie. We were discussing where to go for dinner. I suggested the nearby (and quirky cool) Fremont area, that I had visited on my previous trip and fell in love with (You can read about it HERE). However, it was Shookie and Vye who found the place we ended up dining at….and, O’ what a fab-o-rama find it turned out to be. Off we went to The Back Door!
When we arrived in Fremont, we parked near this cool street art of various planets.
The Back Door (aka the Back Door at Roxy’s) fancies itself a speakeasy of sorts. Situated in the rear end of a building that houses a “New Jersey-style” cafe (Roxy’s), The Back Door is retro-swank with modern-glam all rolled into one cool cat drinkatorium/restaurant.
The inside of the place was fun. It was garish and glamorous and totally groovy. I loved all of the cheesy chandeliers hanging all over the place. There was even a mirrored disco ball. What was missing was one of those funky old oil lamps. You remember, those lamps with teardrops of oil dripping from this spiral line with a small plastic copy of a classic sculpture (Venus de Milo?) in the center. Oh well. Oil lamp or not, the place was just packed with charisma and spinning awesome 80’s tunes.
Instead of full on meals, the menu was filled with tapas. Of course, the bar menu was the center attraction and we all tried different things.
We all had quite the delightful time. The Back Door was eclectic and cool and totally fit into the quirky Fremont vibe.
Afterwards, we hung out on the small patio area for a bit, and had a few laughs.
Afterwards, Vye couldn’t believe there was a 16 ft statue of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin in the center of Fremont…and that it is for sale. She had to get a photo of it.
As we were leaving, I was trying to point out some of the sites…such as the High Dive girl, Saturn on a building, the Fremont Rocket and the Waiting for the Interurban sculpture. By and large, my attempts at playing tour guide were ignored. Ricki was drunkenly going on and on, saying things like “Oh God, I hope you are not taking us to see another stupid Gum Wall.” (And she had never even seen the Gum Wall! How dare she call it stupid?) Too bad. They all missed the signpost that marker for the Center of the Universe.
One of the things I had missed on my previous visit was the neon Rupunzel on the Fremont Bridge. I got the quickest, bad shot of it. Her hair was down—meaning the bridge was down. Thank goodness, because we sped across it. I pointed out Rupunzel, most everyone missed it. But I got to see her—and since this is my blog–that’s all that matters.
But everyone seemed to enjoy Fremont. I think it is my favorite part of Seattle. (And I still have not seen the dinosaur topiary there or the “Harry and the Hendersons” house.)
When we got back to the hotel, Ricki headed off to her room to play Candy Crush and pass out. However, Shookie, Vye, Erich and I sat out on the front steps of the Travelodge and talked and laughed for a good, long while (I’m sure those inside were annoyed, but we had a good time).
While sitting on the steps, Shookie, who had been spotting Space Needles all over Seattle (and not just THE Space Needle, either), spotted another one with her very keen eye. Oh my stars!
And then we all headed for bed. It was our last night in Seattle. The next morning we would be saying goodbye to the Travelodge and its taco truck…and we’d be off on to new adventures.