Some of Seattle’s first settlers (pioneers, if you will) chose to build their cabins here, and the area quickly grew after Henry Yesler chose to erect the first steam-powered lumber mill on the pier. Tragedy struck on June 6, 1889, when the entire downtown went up in flames. Pioneer Square was, again, the place where rebuilding started. Many of these structures still stand today and have been protected from property developers by Seattle’s historic preservation movement.
Pioneer Square isn’t necessarily known for its residential appeal, although that is set to change in the next few years. A plan is in motion to build a large housing development in place of the north lot of Century Link field. This will bring not only hundreds of new apartments and condos, but retail and office spaces as well. In the meantime, the neighborhood still has much to offer in the way of art galleries, bars and restaurants, and various yearly events.
Activities and Attractions
If you’re curious about the history of this great city, Pioneer Square should be your first stop. The underground tour is world-famous and takes groups of people under the streets to see a glimpse of Seattle’s past—the buildings and alleys that were buried after the great fire of 1889. You may also want to check out the nation’s smallest national park—The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. This little-known museum will teach you all about Seattle’s role in the Yukon gold rush in the 1890s. Finally, head up to the observation deck of the Smith Tower—one of the world’s first skyscrapers—to see an amazing view of Seattle.
For a more modern view of the neighborhood, head to Pioneer Square on the First Thursday of the month for their giant art walk. This free tour of pretty much any gallery you want to walk into has been going strong for over 30 years and is a Seattle favorite. In fact, many other neighborhoods have adopted the tradition themselves.
If you’re hungry, try out Tat’s Delicatessen for their famous east-coast style cheesesteak sandwich. Late at night, try out Central Saloon. Established in 1892, this thing is Seattle’s oldest bar by a long shot.
Homes in Pioneer Square
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As Seattle’s first unofficial neighborhood, Pioneer Square is where the historic meets the 21st century. Seattleites recognize this area for its cool architecture and bustling nightlife.