Bright Lights, Big Business
Seattle is a city of superlatives. Just as Chicago is the city of Big Shoulders, New York is the Big Apple, San Francisco is Bagdad by the Bay, well Seattle is definitely the City of Superlatives. Things seem larger than life here. Just as the Space Needle soars high above the skyline, entrepreneurs here have rocketed into the stratosphere by thinking big, really big. The biggest aircrafts ever built come from here. Seattle has a big story to tell, so let’s begin.
It all began in 1851 when a band of settlers scratched out a simple life nearby before moving to Elliot Bay where today’s Pioneer Square is found. Sealth was a Duwamish Indian whom the settlers honored by naming their fledgling community after him. Men started logging operations then focused on coal mining. Fishing and shipbuilding also ratcheted up the local economy with Seattle being included in the important Northern Pacific Railway Co. This boom lured as many as 1,000 new arrivals monthly as the clock ticked toward 1890. But it all went bust with a catastrophic fire that destroyed the downtown area.
Next came the hoards of men with gold dust in their eyes, bound for Alaska and Canada’s Yukon where gold was found along the muddy banks of the Klondike. Immigrants flocked in to service the growing city. Another boom came with the echo of guns during WWI when Seattle hummed along building ships for the war effort. A similar push during WWII pulled Seattleites out of the Depression. And that’s when one of Seattle’s greatest success stories was written.
The Second World War brought misery to many and opportunity to others. Unemployed laborers camped out in shantytowns found jobs at Boeing, a small company run from a red barn on Lake Union in 1916. The Boeing Company hired men by the score multiplying their workforce hundreds of times over and, it is said, saw their business jump from $10M to $600M each of the war years. The Guinness Book of Records recognizes the Boeing Everett Factory as including the world’s largest building by volume. It measures a staggering 472,000,000 cubic feet. It was an up and down ride for a while for Boeing till the 707 came along. Next, the 747, 767, 777, and 787. The rest, as the say, is history.
But, then you’ve got Microsoft with its own story of success. And Amazon. Who could have imagined a website selling books would write a new chapter in the history of literature? You’d have to ask the same question about a little company called Starbucks that thought it’d be a good idea to sell cups of coffee in Pike Place Market. Today Caramel Macchiatos are served in 16,000 Starbucks in 50 countries. It’s pretty amazing when you add up all that this city of 500,000 has contributed to the contemporary business scene. And let’s not forget local success Microsoft’s Paul Allen whose Experience Music Project celebrates all that Seattle contributed to the music world. Its tower of guitars, on-stage costumes, and memorabilia tell the story in a building reminiscent of Jimmy Hendrix’s smashed guitar. It’s a must.
Big also refers to Seattle’s Space Needle standing 600 feet tall that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. And Mt. Rainier, the tallest volcanic peak in the lower 48 states standing 14,400 feet high. Zow.
Pick And Choose
Well, it’s time to make plans. To see the city sights, you mustn’t miss Pioneer Square where it basically all began. It’s here that you explore beneath the city streets, prowling through subterranean passages past old storefronts. For a bird’s eye view, there’s the 43-second ride to the Observation Deck of the Space Needle. From here, there’s a panoramic view of the distant mountains and the tranquility of Puget Sound. And everyone’s heard of Pike Place Market, reputed to be the biggest open-air market on the West Coast. This former farmers market now offers more than local row crops. There are cheeses and jams, regional specialties and flying fish. If you don’t know about the flying fish then you absolutely must go to see for yourself. Do have a Mocha Frappuccinno here at the site of the world’s first Starbucks.
If it’s a stronger beverage you’re interested in, you might make your way to Seattle’s Famous Pyramid Alehouse. In addition to an assortment of wheat beers and lagers, you can quaff one of a half-dozen old-fashioned sodas served with flair.
Whatever it is that suits your fancy this day, surely Seattle will call you back for more.