On the Streets: Chinatown-International District and Pioneer Square

Social media platforms don’t have to be a chase for follows and likes. I caught up with Seattle artist and photographer Brett Nelson for a photo walk through Seattle’s Chinatown-International District and Pioneer Square. I met Brett through Instagram (@bretthnelson). He shoots fantastic photos, primarily with his Leica, and he’s spent years honing his artistic pursuits – graphic design, photography, and writing. I was looking forward to hearing his thoughts on identifying one’s photographic style. I lucked into an impromptu and excellent historical tour through Seattle’s neighborhoods, replete with murders, mysteries, and supernatural lore. (Disclaimer: I’ve added in a couple of photos from previous outings.)

NP Hotel Chinatown-International District
NP Hotel, Chinatown-International District, Seattle, April 2017.

We met at a coffee shop downtown. We discussed photography for a while and then headed over to the Rainier Tower area. Hidden in the underground walkways linking the buildings is a free gallery of images documenting Seattle’s past (the gallery is discussed briefly in walk #1 in the link, Downtown Seattle). The photos covering the gold rush era are fantastic. Brett explained that Rainier Square is looking at some significant development and construction in 2017; I hope they keep the gallery intact.

Rainier Tower not on photo walk
Rainier Tower, Seattle. (Photo from a previous outing.)

From there we headed towards Chinatown-International District, with a quick stop outside Kimpton’s Hotel Vintage, the site of one of Seattle’s enduring mysteries. According to posters at Reddit, a woman identifying herself as Mary Anderson checked into Seattle’s Hotel Vintage Park on October 9, 1996, paying cash for two nights. When she failed to check out on time, the hotel staff found that she’d used cyanide to commit suicide. Additional details about her identity and background have not been discovered.

More mystery and intrigue lay ahead in Chinatown. Brett led the way to the site of the Wah Mee Massacre. According to Wikipedia, on February 18, 1983, “Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak, Wai-Chiu “Tony” Ng, and Benjamin Ng gunned down fourteen people in the Wah Mee gambling club at the Louisa Hotel in Chinatown-International District.” Wikipedia also notes that the Louisa Hotel was demolished in 2015 after suffering severe fire damage in 2013.

Louisa Hotel Ruins 2 photowalk with BHN
Site of the former Louisa Hotel and the Wah Mee Massacre, Chinatown-International District, Seattle, April 2017.
Louisa Hotel Ruins photowalk with BHN
Site of the former Louisa Hotel and the Wah Mee Massacre, Chinatown-International District, Seattle, April 2017.
Hong Kong Chinatown International District
Chinatown-International District, Seattle, April 2017.

We were both starting to get hungry, so we aimed for a route through Pioneer Square that would lead to Post Alley, past the Gum Wall (not a fan), and onto Kells Irish Restaurant and Bar at Pike Place Market. That last stretch is apparently known for haunted hotels and saloons, including Kells. Not surprising, given that Kells is located at what used to be the Butterworth & Sons Mortuary. The Stranger has a bone chilling article about Kells and other haunted locations.

Cadillac Hotel
Cadillac Hotel, Pioneer Square, Seattle, April 2017.
Firemen monument Pioneer Square
Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial, Occidental Park, Seattle. (That aspiring firefighter was lending a hand, not being disrespectful. Photo taken on another outing.)


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