Visiting quirky attractions helps make a vacation memorable. Seattle has an abundance of idiosyncrasies, but these three top the list.
Fremont- Yes, the Whole Neighborhood
Fremont lives up to its crest and motto, “De Libertas Quirkas,” Freedom to be Peculiar.
Let’s start with the statue of Vladimir Lenin, communist revolutionary and leader of the Soviet Union. The statue’s emigration from Slovakia to Washington dates to 1989 when it was toppled in a revolution. An American named Lewis Carpenter who was teaching there recognized its artistic and historic value and mortgaged his house to bring it home. Before figuring out what to do with the 30-ton bronze sculpture, Carpenter was killed in an auto crash, leaving his heirs to find a home for the behemoth. Where else but Fremont, repository for the outlandish?
Known as a magnet for counterculture , Fremont bills itself as the Center of the Universe, and advises visitors on various signs to set their watches back five minutes, set their watches forward five minutes, and throw their watches away, according to Roadside America. Fremont.com notes the signs have been around since 1994 and were erected by County Council proclamation.
The list isn’t finished yet. Fremont has its own troll. Or maybe it has a bevy of trolls. No one seems to know for sure. With whispers of troll sightings plaguing the place since 1932, the Fremont Arts Council took matters into its own hands and commissioned the creation of an official troll in 1989. The troll is depicted crushing a Beetle (intentional capitalization). And where does it reside? Under the bridge, of course. The Aurora Bridge, that is.
What else does a neighborhood with trolls, tributes to fallen communists, and self-aggrandizing signage need? A cold-war era rocket, apparently.
Like many legends, the story of how an old bicycle ended up in a tree has been told so many times, there are variations in the telling. Speculation about what a bike is doing in a tree seven feet off the ground on Vashon Island even led to the making of a Japanese movie and the writing of a children’s fiction story.
KOMO News tracked down the bike’s former owner, Donny Puz, now 69, to get the scoop. After a house fire that killed his father and burned the family home, Puz said, the red girl’s bike was among donations given to his family. At 9, Puz considered the bike babyish and wasn’t fond of it. A short time after the bike came into his life, Puz abandoned it in the woods, telling his mother he didn’t know what happened to it. Whether the bike’s elevation to new heights and a new purpose was a natural act known only to the bike and the tree, or whether vandals played a role, is still debated on Vashon Island.
Rumors of an abandoned city beneath Seattle’s Pioneer Square weren’t validated until the 1960s. That’s when preservationist Bill Speidel did some investigation and confirmed the existence of remains from the city before 1889’s Great Fire. When the fire necessitated rebuilding, the city decided not only would new construction be sturdier, it would be elevated. Old Seattle sat on mudflats that regularly flooded, swallowing young children and pets and backing up the sewage system. Part of the plan in building the replacement city, was to raise the streets by building retaining walls on either side of existing streets , filling the gap between the walls, and rebuilding on top. This led to a patchwork of mismatched streets and sidewalks, requiring the use of ladders up to 35 feet tall to navigate, the LA Times explained. Businesses that had begun rebuilding found their ground floors had become basements. Utlimately, the underground city was abandoned as Pioneer Square redeveloped on higher ground. Today, Seattle’s Underground is a popular tourist attraction.