10 Fun Facts about Seattle We Bet You Didn’t Know

Seattle, you give us so much to love. From lush greenery (ahem, awesome parks), to soothing waterfronts (we’re talking about you, beaches), to a bustling cityscape (hello, Market!), we know you so well… or do we? Check out these fun facts about Seattle even our most enthusiastic big and little residents might be surprised to hear.

photo: Seattle's Space Needle

The Space Needle

Sure, if you and your family have been up the Needle then you know a thing or two about this iconic symbol of Seattle. For instance, you might be aware that it was constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair; that its space design concept was first drawn on a napkin; and that it stands 605-feet tall.

But did you know...that if you were to ride up the elevator (which takes 43 seconds) in a snowstorm, it would look like the snow was falling up? That’s because the speed of the elevator at 10 m.p.h. is faster than the speed at which a snowflake falls at 3 m.p.h. Cool! Also, your little ones might be excited to know that if you were to walk up the Space Needle, there are exactly 848 steps in the main stairwell. Just FYI…because, you know they will ask!

photo: Alaina Weimer

Mt. Rainier

As the symbol of our state and the recipient of our unending adoration, Mt. Rainier (originally called Tacoma or Tahoma) has a special place in the heart of any Seattleite. But how much do you really know about this magical mound? We know our favorite volcano stands 14,411 feet tall and that it is the highest mountain in the Cascades.

But did you know... that Mt. Rainier has 25 named glaciers, the most of any mountain in the lower 48? The biggest one is called Emmons Glacier, a 4-mile behemoth that also happens to be the largest glacier in the contiguous United States. Now that’s a big ice rink! But there is also something unique about the glaciers on Mt. Rainier we bet you didn't know. Did you know that Mt. Rainier’s ice is home to iceworms? These iceworms are the only type of worm to live their entire lives on the ice. These small creepy-crawlies are exclusively found in the glaciers of Washington, Alaska, Oregon and British Columbia.

photo: Alaina Weimer

Pike Place Market

Guess what? The famous Pike Place Market wasn’t created to showcase the fish throwers or to scare the heck out of little kids with a lurching Monk fish. It actually started due to overpriced onions in the early 1900s. The price of produce had skyrocketed, so our city and residents proposed a public market, where food could be bought directly from farmers (keep it local!). So in 1907, Pike Place Market was formed and has been operating ever since. It is now the oldest operating farmer’s market in America.

But did you know... the bronze piggy bank that stands in the middle of the market is named Rachel? She weighs 550 pounds and was named after a real 750-pound pig who won the 1985 Island County Fair. What a ham!

photo: Alaina Weimer

Sunglasses

We all know how Seattle gets a lot of drizzly and overcast days. There's no disputing that.

But did you know... the people in Seattle buy the most sunglasses per capita, more than any other U.S. city? It sounds strange, but some of the reasons that contribute to this phenomenon include: the need for protection against sun glare off wet roads; the unique PNW lighting that causes brightness even when it's overcast; our preference for outside and water activities that might require eye protection; and the fact we may forget our sunglasses when we leave the house, so we are left to purchase another pair. Something to think about stashing in that stroller when taking Junior out for a walk.

photo: Alaina Weimer

Fremont Troll

Did you know that Seattle has a big ole troll living under one of its bridges? In the community of Fremont, located under the Aurora Bridge on N. 36th Street and Troll Avenue N., is an 18-foot-tall, 30-year old concrete troll just lying in wait to meet your acquaintance.

But did you know...Fremont's famous troll was born thanks to a 1990 art competition intended to revamp the area under the bridge? Artist Steve Badanes led the team that made this Billy Goat’s Gruff-inspired sculpture into a local masterpiece. If you can find the troll, look under his hand. He is doing more than just lurking. He is crushing a Volkswagen Beetle under his grasp. So many quirky things to love about this guy. Also, check out his uncovered eye. It’s made of metal and shiny. So delightfully sinister!

Floating Bridges

Have you driven on a floating bridge? If you have ever piled the kids in the car and gone from Medina to Seattle, then you have. The bridge that connects these two areas and runs across Lake Washington is actually called the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge at Evergreeen Point. It’s not the only one of its kind in this area, either. When you travel on the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge on I-90 from Seattle to Mercer Island, that bridge floats too.

But did you know...that if you drive either of these floating expanses you will be on the world’s first and second longest floating bridges (one of which actually sank during reconstruction in 1990, eek!)? Who knew? Now that is something we know your kiddos will flip over!

Seattle's Geography

Every Seattleite knows how hilly it can be (clutch drivers beware!). All these hills in our community are a result of glaciation. Glaciers moving south first dug out our terrain, but when they receded, huge mounds of rock debris were left in their path. These rock hills are thought to be what is now First Hill, Yesler Terrace, Cherry Hill, Denny Regrade, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill and Beacon Hill.

But did you know... that Denny Regrade was originally a big hill, too? This particular hill was removed and regraded in the years between 1898 and 1930. Regrading started on First Avenue in 1897 and 1899. Then years later, the hill was sluiced right into Elliot Bay. The last pieces of the left-over hill were finally removed by steam shovels in 1929 and 1930.

Seattle Underground

Any local should know that Seattle was rebuilt on top of a city that was destroyed by the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. But if you have yet to hear this story, you're in for an unusual ride. This city-built-on-a-city gives birth to the very famous Seattle Underground, a network of underground passageways and basements in Pioneer Square that used to be at ground level before the fire. Instead of revamping the city where it originally was, the streets were regraded and elevated one to two stories higher (about 22 feet). That means Seattle sits right on top of the old city. The businesses underneath eventually fell into disuse, but certain sections have now become a major tourist attraction. You can still walk over some of the pavement lights that were used to light up the underground sidewalks below.

But did you know... one of the reasons for building the streets higher up was that it kept the sewers that drained into Elliot Bay from backing up at high tide? Thankfully, because of this, our ‘new’ Seattle is far less stinky than it could have been!

Duwamps

If you ask a local they'll tell you Seattle is named after Chief Sealth, a leading figure of the Suquamish and Duwamish. And they wouldn't be wrong.

But did you know... Seattle was first known as Duwamps? Say what now? It’s true. A group of travelers known as the Denny Party came to claim land on what is now Alki Point (formerly and funnily named New York Alki). After a hard winter, most of the Denny Party relocated across Elliot Bay to claim more land at the site of present-day Pioneer Square, which they promptly named Duwamps. After these two settlements competed for dominance, New York Alki was eventually abandoned and everyone moved across the bay. After that, Duwamps' name was changed to “Seattle” to honor the very accommodating and welcoming Chief Sealth of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.

Emerald City

We all know Seattle's brilliant nickname: the Emerald City. But where did it come from? Well, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau ran a competition to come up with a slogan for an advertising campaign. Sarah Sterling-Franklin (from California) won the contest and came up with the slogan, “Seattle, the Emerald City. Seattle is the jewel of the Northwest, the queen of the Evergreen State, the many-faceted city of space, elegance, magic and beauty." And it has stuck ever since.

But did you know... it wasn’t Seattle’s first fun moniker? It’s first common nickname was actually “Queen City.” This name was given to the city in 1869 by a Portland real estate company who used it in a pamphlet saying it was the “Future Queen City of the Pacific.” That nickname stuck until 1982.

—Alaina Weimer

 

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