Exploring Seattle has been a lot of fun, from the dusty dank recesses of the Underground to the history of the Burke Museum on Washington campus. Basically it is an old Sea Port, not so old that it is steeped in history, after all it was only developed in the gold rushes of the 1860’s… but old enough to have an interesting history.
My forefather made it here, he was a 15yr old stowaway on a trade vessel that plied the waves between Sydney Australia, and Seattle Washington back in the 1880’s & 90’s so my interest is nautical and dockside.
He settled in Aus. at the turn of the century and gave the sea up for a cheeky young thing who was my much loved Great Grandmother… however that is another story. Today I look out over the Puget Sound and think of him, his life, his loves and those youthful passions that a young sailor would find in old town Seattle.
On the dockside now is Pike Market and that is definitely worth a visit when you get this way. It is reminiscent of old Paddy’s Market in Sydney… only the Asian trinket sellers haven’t moved in and I hope it never develops to this. Paddy’s market of years past is very much reminiscent of the Pike Market as it is today and it is a delight. From people chucking fish around to the beautiful scents of the flowers it is still the quintessential dockside fish market.
Seattle is full of some great maritime stories, being a trade port it spreads itself around the sound like a young inelegant goodtime girl and everyone enjoys her favours. I loved the ‘breaded’ deep fried oysters and the pungent smells of the salt water. It was just a delight.
We also headed out for the Burke Museum, which is settled in the Washington University grounds. A museum of some repute it is an adventure to visit. Getting there is even an adventure and we were warned not to try and drive about the city. They have an integrated bus and train system in Seattle that is a credit to planners, and while the bus drivers might be impatient… sufficiently to pull out before you actually board the bus, there is always another one coming along in the next 30 minutes at the most it seems. Public transport is cheap, available and well supported, a lesson for planners of Australian cities who seem to think that if you charge more… you will make more. They certainly don’t.
The Burke Museum offered three galleries. Although it is nowhere near the size I had envisioned it was worth the effort and we had a very enjoyable time there. The lower floor gallery was an exceptional journey into the Pacific Rim countries and islands although it was a great pity and a glaring omission that the entire continent of Australia was ignored. Anyone would think that it was not on the Pacific Rim, which is quite ludicrous really as it makes up the entire lower quadrant of the Pacific Ocean.
Most of the major Asian cultures got a look in, as did the Maori and the central pacific islands. Even South America was represented along with the Arctic regions but the Aboriginal tribes of Aus… nuthin’. However don’t let this deter you, it is certainly and exceptional museum.
I loved the gallery on palaeontology of the Northern Hemisphere and the Volcanic Rim of the Pacific and came away with an increased appreciation of geology.
The Cascade Mountains on the east coastline are of volcanic origin as seen in our recent visit to Mount Snt Helens nearby and this is well presented in the galleries of the Burke Museum.
A true delight of our visit though was in exploring the underground. Yes, Seattle has an historic underground, which is a large part of its origins. There is a demarcation line that runs along the old dockside of old town Seattle following the old Skid Row line, a lumbering term remnant of Seattle’s early timber-getting days. It now carries the name of Yesler Way and is a major city avenue.
Once it demarked the seedier side of town from the more affluent side, setting the houses of ill-repute firmly on the dockside, forbidding them access to the higher end of town literally. This despite the fact that the more infamous of these brothels were a neighbouring site to the main church and across the road from the seat of government… a incongruous combination but one that is traditionally if not historically fitting. The brothels supported the church and government, in fact at one time there were only two solvent businesses in town… the brothel and the church and it was the church that benefited from the labours of the brothel, not visa versa.
The underground city of Seattle is a consequence of a sinking waterfront, one of sand and a push upwards of the street line. It provided a subterranean network of old streets and the subsiding internal structure of buildings creating a network of dives, speakeasy’s and booths for the working girls.
I loved listening to the old history of the port, hearing about its character and in the whole it reminded of Old Sydney Town in more ways than one. It left me to wonder what that 16yr old stowaway made of the young and vibrant trade port over a hundred years ago.
Read the full travelogue of Jans adventures in the e-book ‘The Rockies and the Greater NW USA’ now available at Amazon for just $US1.99