Anyone who’s been on the famous Underground Tour will know of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 that ravaged the fledgling city.
They’ll already know about the bordellos and brothels, and the fast and furious pace with which the city grew in the 19th century, thanks to the Alaska gold rush.
But there’s another history, one largely untold until now.
It’s a bloody tale of corrupt cops, violent brawls and angry mobs. And it’s above ground.
Snohomish murder-mystery writer Neil Low and Tigress Publishing recently began offering walking tours through the crooked streets of Seattle’s oldest district, Pioneer Square.
During the hour-long walk, Low shares interesting tidbits of what he’s unearthed about the city’s colorful and gruesome past.
Low is no stranger to Seattle’s dingiest corners and alleys. For the past 42 years he’s been a Seattle police officer.
When his boss told him to “hit the bricks,” it’s because the old city streets weren’t yet covered with asphalt. Low actually walked brick-paved streets. He points out a few of the bricks that can still be seen through holes in the pavement.
But that’s hardly the most interesting detail from Low’s stroll around 11 city blocks.
He traces his family’s roots in the region back to the days of the first Indian uprising of 1854. Still, most of Low’s interest involves what he knows best, the city’s police force.
Applying skills he learned as a homicide detective, Low has reexamined the history books and determined many of the early accounts probably don’t tell the whole truth.
Take the story of Seattle Police Chief William L. Meredith. Tales have been told about how he died in a gun battle on June 25, 1901. During the tour, Low shows participants an old black-and-white photo of Meredith, then walks to the scene of the crime to provide the grisly and surprising real end to the former chief’s life.
He also points out where there were lynchings, bloody gunfights and how “Skid Row” got its name.
Low is friendly, straightforward and a great guide. His stories are full of detail and color, delivered in the deadpan of a hardened crime fighter. He happily answers questions along the way.
The tours begin and end at the Seattle Police Museum. The price includes a choice of one of Low’s novels plus wine and snacks.
If you go during winter months, be sure to bundle up.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a tour
Guided tours of Seattle’s Pioneer Square by Snohomish author and Seattle Police Capt. Neil Low are $35 and include admission to the Seattle Police Museum, a copy of one of Low’s novels and a wine reception.
A special “My Bloody Valentine Tour” is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Feb. 11.
For more information, contact Kristen Morris at Tigress Publishing, email@example.com.
Neil Low will sign copies of his books from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Seattle Book Summit, Swedish Cultural Center, 1920 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle, and from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at WineStyles, 6608 64th St. NE, Suite A, Marysville.
He’s scheduled to appear on “Sound Living,” KSER (90.7 FM), from 4 to 5 p.m. on March 4.
For more about the books, $15.95 each or all three for $30, see www.neillow.com.
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