2015-08-05 - Northwest Road Trip - Seattle - Part I
Beneath the Streets Tour and Seattle Central Library
After waking up and biking to get breakfast in hilly Seattle, I met up with my brother who flew here to meet up with me. He helped me take my stuff over to my friend's place where I would stay for a few days. We then joined the Beneath the Streets walking tour which took us on a one-hour "tour of the historic passageways below the sidewalks in Seattle's Pioneer Square." While learning bits and pieces of Seattle history, we saw the original streets of the city before it was raised up, the replacement totem for one that was stolen but then destroyed, leftovers from a world's fair, and other interesting structures. An hour felt quite short and we only went to three underground locations, one of which is public, but it was certainly very enjoyable and enlightening. My brother told me that it was very similar to the original Seattle Underground Tour, where some of these tour guides had worked.
We wandered around for a while and checked out the free Milepost 31 museum which showcased Big Bertha and the construction of the tunnel under downtown Seattle to eventually replace SR 99. The small museum had lots of good information and models and the one person on staff was knowledgeable and helpful. We continued on to explore the Seattle Central Library, said to be one of the best museums in the country. It did not disappoint. The whole structure itself is like a modern form of art. 11-stories tall, it opened in 2004 and is designed to be a new kind of library, one based on how modern people use libraries. One of the innovations is using tilted glass and steel structures and building form to capture natural light as well as more sun in the winter and less in the summer due to the difference in angle of the sun in different seasons. Another is the use of ramps going up the perimeter of the 4-story Book Spiral so that all nonfiction books are easily accessible for both wheelchair and walking visitors. Designed to be inviting, it contains a lot of open space, reading space, 400 public computer terminals, and although reviews are mixed, it was voted #108 on the list of Americans' favorite structures, and has been a great draw and economic boon to the area.
After exploring the library, following parts of the dial-by-phone audio tour guide and reading informational signs, my brother and I headed by bus up to meet my friends for dinner. Shanny and Kamal both went to the same high school as us. It was great to chat with and see these old friends before heading back to Kamal's place to spend the night. We even got some of that Seattle drizzle as we walked back.