Ross: Seattle has a serious problem, not enough castles

Sep 26, 2023, 8:31 AM | Updated: 8:42 am

retail theft...

Pioneer Square (Credit Doug Kerr via Flickr)

(Credit Doug Kerr via Flickr)

I’m just back from a tour of Eastern Canada, visiting Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal, and of course, when you visit other cities, you compare them with your own.

I can report that when it comes to the natural setting, the hotels, restaurants, the history – I think Seattle can hold its own with any of the cities we visited.

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Just two areas of concern. Graffiti: Canada has much better control of it than we do, and the more serious concern is old buildings. Seattle doesn’t have nearly enough.

We have an incomparable natural setting, a climate that is the envy of the Western Hemisphere, but where Canada has us beat is charming fairy-tale buildings.

Now, if I was comparing us with Europe, of course, you expect European cities would have more charming old buildings.

But I’m comparing us to Canada, which got started about the same time we did, and yet they have way more fairy-tale old buildings.

For example, Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City looks like a Disney castle. You can’t not visit that place and buy a gelato on your way out.

But here’s the secret: it may look medieval, but it was never an actual castle. It was built in 1892 by the Canadian National Railway to look like a medieval castle so that people would buy train tickets to stay there.

So yes, it’s an old building, but it was built to look even older because tourists like old stuff. And that’s what Seattle needs more of.

The people who founded Quebec City were very clever. When the city outgrew the old city walls, the business community said do not tear them down because tourists love old walls. Sure enough, I was one of the thousands of tourists streaming out of buses to those old walls and buying a gelato.

And I have to say, those old walls were in remarkably good condition even though the chance of a U.S. invasion seems highly unlikely.

Now I realize Seattle has a lot of old buildings in Pioneer Square, but those, frankly, are just old and not particularly welcoming. Seattle needs some state-of-the-art old buildings that look like eccentric rich people built them.

Yes, we should have kept more of the actual old buildings instead of demolishing them, but what’s done is done.

And let’s face it, restoring actual old buildings to meet seismic standards is too expensive. However, building a new old building from scratch? That can make money!

We have enough steel and glass, we need granite and limestone, and turrets, and arches and steeples, and gargoyles and dungeons! State-of-the-art dungeons that can be turned into gelato parlors.

And I know Feliks may cringe at this idea, but when you build these new-old buildings, they won’t just be for us. They will be for future generations who will walk the ancient-looking marble halls and hear the story of the hotel that was built to look like a castle because of something some guy on the radio suggested a hundred years ago. Then they’ll buy their gelatos and get back on the hover bus.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Seattle has a serious problem, not enough castles