Pergola, Pioneer Square, Seattle, August 22, 2018, Photo by Msuner (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Pioneer Square area and Piner's Point (right), Seattle, 1878

Pioneer Square

by David B. Williams
Listen (English Only)

Pioneer Square has long been an important location and center of activity for the residents of this area. The first to recognize its importance were the Native people, who have lived here for thousands of years. Prior to non-Native settlement, they used the area as a winter village known as Sdzidzilalitch, or Little Crossing-Over Place, building seasonal longhouses and taking advantage of the local resources in the forest and in the bay. The next arrivals were the Denny Party, considered to be the founders of Seattle, who arrived in 1852. For them the Pioneer Square area became the business and industrial heart of the small town. It also became the first place that many newcomers arrived and stayed, which led to the neighborhood’s evolution as a melting pot for diverse cultures. For many of these groups, Pioneer Square became home, sometimes by choice and sometimes because they were unwanted elsewhere.

The goal of this walk is to share the stories of those diverse cultures, as well as to highlight the early economic development of Seattle and how they helped further its diversity. A secondary goal is to highlight the use of natural resources and how that shaped the city’s development. These include Seattle’s first export, logs; its second major export and one often overlooked as central to Seattle’s economic development, coal quarried on the east side of Lake Washington; and finally, gold from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, which helped bring Seattle out of the nationwide economic panic of 1893.

One of the challenges of telling and showing the history of Pioneer Square is that many of the buildings and landmarks associated with a particular group or event have been destroyed. This is not surprising considering the long history of the area and how it reflects the constant changing nature of Seattle. In that light, this tour takes you to a variety of locations where you can learn about the history of the diverse groups that have called this place a home. At these stops where the building or structure associated with the history is no longer here, we use the phrase “Former location of.”

Learn More about Pioneer Square at

Steps: 2,345
Time: 2h 15m
Light Rail: Pioneer Square Station
Bus: King County Metro Trip Planner
Bus: Route 18

Tour Stops


Dzidzilalich (Little Crossing-Over Place)

Foot of Yesler Way at Alaskan Way S

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St. Charles Hotel

81 S Washington St

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Former location of Free Speech Corner

S Washington Street and Occidental Avenue S

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Former location of Wa Chong Company store

Northeast corner of 2nd Avenue Extension S and S Washington Street

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Former location of Filipino Cannery Union

Southwest corner 2nd Avenue S and S Main Street

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Former location of Coal Bunkers

Marker on west side of Alaskan Way at S King Street

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Former location of Ballast Island

Marker on west side of Alaskan Way at S Washington Street

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Former location of Yesler Mill

Western Avenue and Yesler Way

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