Historic Seattle: Viaduct work will reveal long forgotten neighborhood

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Remember the old hotel and restaurant in downtown Seattle near the corner of Commercial and Plummer?

Or maybe the barbwire company warehouse along Railroad Avenue?

Not many people do, since these buildings (and several blocks of these long-forgotten streets) once occupied a mixed-used neighborhood along downtown Seattle's waterfront that existed for only a decade or so at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Nobody knows if this phantom community even had a name. But the neighborhood, and much of its forgotten history, is coming to light again after being buried for a century.

Dozens of warehouses, hotels, saloons and boarding houses briefly stood on a now mostly vacant strip of land between the Alaskan Way Viaduct and First Avenue, bounded by King Street on the north and Royal Brougham Way on the south. The site and its potential significance was recently identified by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) during work to relocate underground utilities as part of improvements associated with the Alaskan Way Viaduct and replacement of the seawall.

Just how did a neighborhood on the edge of a bustling downtown -- a vibrant place with almost new buildings -- come to be buried by several feet of dirt?

In the mid 1890s, Seattle was still recovering from the devastating fire that leveled much of downtown in 1889. The city, along with the rest of the country, was also recovering from the Panic of 1893, a financial crisis that dried up capital and put many people out of work. City leaders saw a way to create jobs and create valuable land by filling in the tidelands west of what's now Pioneer Square.

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