Pioneer Square is Seattle’s original downtown neighborhood. Although the Puget Sound area had been inhabited for thousands of years, the first non-Native American settlers, the Denny Party and Doc Maynard, arrived in 1851. The neighborhood is undergoing a rapid revitalization but still retains much of its historic character. Let’s take a journey back in time through these 10 fascinating photos.

93 Yesler Way


pioneer-1-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Yesler Way was named after Henry and Sarah Yesler, Seattle’s first power couple. Henry Yesler established Puget Sound’s first steam-powered lumber mill in Pioneer Square. He built his mill on a pier at the foot of today’s Yesler Way, first called Mill Street and later nicknamed “Skid Road,” when it became a hotbed for salacious activity.


pioneer-2-compressed Photo: Google Maps

Today Yesler Way is home to hip local businesses and apartments, but the original construction still stands.

Second Avenue and Jackson


pioneer-3-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Erected in 1890 shortly after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, the Fulton Hotel was originally three stories and had fifty rooms. The building lost its upper floors, as did its neighbor, the Moses Building, as a result of the 1949 Earthquake.

August 2015

pioneer-4-compressed Photo: Google Maps

Today the site hosts the Pioneer Square Market and Deli.

Pioneer Square Pergola


pioneer-5-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The Iron Pergola was built in 1909 as a stop for the Yesler and James Street Cable Car Company. This waiting shelter was the fanciest of its kind west of the Mississippi with ornamental iron columns, wrought iron ornamentation and a large underground restroom. The pergola was designed by Seattle architect Julian Everett.

Ca. 1914

pioneer-6-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

A few years later a motorcycle gang sped past the pergola in cool looking newsboy caps!

Ca. 1960s

pioneer-7-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

By the 1960s, Seattle was feeling groovy. Journalist and historical author Bill Speidel began leading the first “underground tours” of Pioneer Square’s abandoned sidewalk areaways in 1964. The tour is still running to this day.

Pioneer Square Totem Pole

Dedication, 1899

pioneer-8-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The Tlingit totem pole standing in Pioneer Square was stolen in 1899 by a group of Seattle businessmen who took a trip to Southeast Alaska and stopped in the Tlingit village of Tongass. The Tongass people asked for the return of the pole or payment for it. After lengthy negotiations, a payment was made, but the pole remained in Seattle.

Reinstallation of Pioneer Square totem pole, 1940

pioneer-9-compressed Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The pole was damaged by a fire in Pioneer Square in 1938, and a replica was carved by a group of Tlingit carvers from Ketchikan as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps project, reports the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.


pioneer-10-compressed Photo: John Henderson/Flickr

Today, the lovely pole still stands for visitors and locals alike to enjoy!

Developments featured in this article

More Like This

Facebook Chatter