Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is located in Pioneer Square at 100 Yesler Way, 98104. It is 0.3 acres.

In 1853, the first plats were filed for what would become downtown Seattle. While Arthur Denny and Carson Boren aligned their streets to be parallel to the shoreline, Dr. David S. Maynard chose to align his parcel according to the cardinal points of the compass.  As a result, the routes often zigzagged for being misaligned at Yesler Way, which was the shared boundary between the two plats. By 1883, driven in part by increased commercial traffic in the area, thoroughfare routes were improved with the realignment of First Avenue to remove the zigzag, resulting in a triangular parcel of open space, Pioneer Square.

When Olmsted first visited the site in 1903, he observed that this “small triangle should be reserved for the site of an important monument.” He recommended modest embellishment to the ‘monument site’ with “three elm trees upon it, as far apart as practicable, and trimmed with very high trunks so as not to interfere with the view of the future monument.” The board of Park Commissioners reported in 1909 that part of the site was being reserved for a “memorial fountain and monument to the pioneers of the city,” at the same time noting other improvements already in place, particularly a metal and glass pergola to serve crowds waiting for streetcars (this was a highly-used transfer spot) and an underground comfort station. Seattle sculptor James When was hired in 1909 to “design a drinking fountain suitable for man, horse and dog and topped with a bust of the noble Chief Seattle.” (Don Sherwood files)

Four years prior to Olmsted’s visit, a stolen Tlingit totem pole (reparations were made later) had also been erected in the square. That, the pergola and the fountain are still main features of the park, which is well-shaded in summer by rows of London plane trees.

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