Historic Buildings

From the solid brick warehouses of Pioneer Square to the groovy lines of the Seattle Center, Seattle has character.

Historic Structures and Walking Tours

{Pioneer Square}

Seattle’s Euroamerican founders first settled on Denny Island, in what became the Pioneer Square neighborhood. Their settlement was a small pioneer outpost in 1851 but became a thriving commercial district in only 35 years. The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 destroyed most of Pioneer Square’s buildings, but enterprising Seattleites rebuilt quickly. More than 130 buildings went up in a year, mostly clad in red brick and designed in the trendy Richardsonian Romanesque style. This became today’s Pioneer Square Historic District. Down in the dumps in the early 20th century, Pioneer Square’s rennaissance began in the 1970s. Today many of the original hotels, warehouses, and office buildings have been restored.

Learn more about Pioneer Square and the neighborhood's historic buildings and City-designated landmarks.

Featured

King Street Station

King Street Station

Click thumbnail to view a larger image.

When the transcontinental railroad finally reached Seattle, the only train station was a shed on the waterfront. In the early years of the 20th century, the tide flats were filled to form flat lands for railroad yards and industry. Read more

Walk with us through the Viaduct’s historic neighborhoods

Check out the featured historic buildings in Pioneer Square and download podcasts to hear more great stories from the city's past.

Download the full Pioneer Square podcast. (13mb .mp3)

Download the Walking Tour Map. (680kb pdf)

Historic Structures and Walking Tours

{Downtown}

Downtown Seattle, also known as the Central Business District, stretches from Columbia Street to Virginia Street, and from the waterfront to Interstate 5. In Seattle’s early decades, Pioneer Square was the center of commercial activity, but by the early 1900s businesses were moving to higher ground. The Central Business District became the city’s retail and financial heart. Many eras are represented in the structures of downtown, from graceful Art Deco buildings to gleaming modernist towers.

Learn more about downtown's historic buildings and City-designated landmarks.

Featured

Pike Place Market

Click on a thumbnail to view a larger image.

Pike Place Market

Click thumbnail to view a larger image.

The Pike Place Market has been called the "heart of Seattle". The market began in 1907 with several farmers' carts. Read more

Walk with us through the Viaduct’s historic neighborhoods

Check out the featured historic buildings in downtown Seattle and download podcasts to hear more great stories from the city's past.

Download the full Downtown podcast. (13mb .mp3)

Download the Walking Tour Map. (680kb pdf)

Historic Structures and Walking Tours

{Belltown}

William and Sarah Bell landed at Alki Point with the Denny party in 1851, settling here in 1852. Growth was slowed by the steepness of Denny Hill, which sat between the Bells' property and the larger settlement to the south. Population growth after the 1897 Gold Rush forced the city northward. Denny Hill was regraded (flattened), primarily by using hydraulic jets to sluice the soil into the bay. In 1898 the first of three regrades lowered First Avenue between Pike Street and Denny Way by 17 feet. The area west of First Avenue was not regraded, and its steep slope kept it largely industrial. The second regrade, between 1908 and 1911, leveled the land between Second and Fifth avenues, from Pine to Cedar streets. The city regraded only the streets. Building owners had to hire their own contractors, so many pinnacles of land stood for years. The final regrading phase took place between 1928 and 1930, from Fifth Avenue east to Westlake Avenue, between Virginia and Harrison streets. The Depression halted the expected development, and much of the area remains parking lots today.

Learn more about Belltown's historic buildings and City-designated landmarks.

Featured

Denny Hill

Click on a thumbnail to view a larger image.

Denny Regrade, 1909. Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives 78094

Click thumbnail to view a larger image.

William and Sarah Bell landed at Alki Point with the Denny party in 1851. The following year they settled in today's Belltown, well north of the larger Pioneer Square settlement. Read more

Walk with us through the Viaduct's historic neighborhoods

Check out the featured historic buildings in Belltown and download podcasts to hear more great stories from the city's past.

Download the full Belltown podcast. (13mb .mp3)

Download the Walking Tour Map. (680kb pdf)

About us

This site is dedicated to the history of Seattle's downtown and waterfront, especially the State Route 99 / Alaskan Way Viaduct corridor. It was developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration as an educational resource and as part of a Memorandum of Agreement for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (pdf 1mb).

Copyright 2011 Washington State Department of Transportation