Pioneer Square - Seattle, Washington - Historic District in the Heart of the City



Pioneer Square's historic district of Seattle, Washington offers numerous art galleries, bookstores, antique shops, casual and upscale restaurants, and nightclubs all within walking distance of most downtown Seattle hotels. The neighborhood's cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages are a reminder how life used to be a century ago.

The area is located from East to West, between 2nd Ave and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and from South to North, between Columbia St. and King St. Pioneer Square is between downtown proper to the North, and the sports stadiums and International District to the South. Although the name indicates otherwise, there is no square shape at Pioneer Square.

Pioneer Square is the city's second oldest neighborhood. Many of the buildings in Pioneer Square date back to the 1890's but little of Seattle's early architecture survived the fire of 1889. The civic leaders of the day took advantage of the fire to raise the streets in Pioneer Square, solving a long standing drainage problem that the area once had.

Visitors are able to catch a glimpse of old Seattle by taking the Underground Tour. The tour is a Seattle institution itself, and dates back to 1972. The area underwent a revival in the late 70's and early 80's when historic preservation became the city's priority. Pioneer Square was Seattle's first designated historic district and its vitality and survival remain prominent to this day.

Other area highlights include Pioneer Place Park at the corner of James Street and 1st Avenue.

Here there is the Seattle landmark of the iron pergola. Originally built to greet visitors to the 1909 World's Fair, the pergola welcomed the way and sheltered people waiting for the street car. The pergola was knocked over in 2001 by a wayward truck, but fully refurbished and restored in 2002. The park is also home to a Tlingit totem pole and behind the park is the Pioneer Building which is the headquarters of the Underground Tour.

Occidental Park is situated among Pioneer Square along Occidental Street, between Washington and Main Streets. In the area are several totem poles, a history exhibit, and the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. In the summer, the Pioneer Square Community Association hosts free concerts on specific weekday afternoons. The patio outside the Grand Central Bakery is almost always busy during the day, and while the cobblestone street is lined with benches and trees, it is often unpopulated, except during scheduled events.

Traveling to Pioneer Square from the downtown hotels is easy. The Square is part of the Seattle Metro ride free zone in which any bus traveling south from downtown will get you within a few blocks. Few parking lots are available at a fee, and limited street parking is also available. The best parking is considered the metered spaces under the viaduct - these parking spots are usually overlooked by all but the locals. Occidental Street, between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue is closed to cars between Washington Street and Jackson Street. The area forms a pedestrian mall aligned with galleries and shops.

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