When I was a kid, we used to talk about Skid Row as a place where the down and out would land. People who had landed on rock bottom with nowhere to go but up. It wasn't until years later that I learned that there was an actual place in Seattle called Skid Road.  

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It's a pretty gritty area with lots of pawn shops and adult theaters, a few clubs, and the Salvation Army church. I learned years later that the original name goes back to our logging heritage in the Pacific Northwest.  

 

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According to filson.com,

“The term “skid road”—or “skid row”—has its origins in the lumberjack camps of the Pacific Northwest dating back to the earliest pioneer days, where teams of oxen and horses would haul out cut timber along a road carved out of the wilderness. This road would have wooden slats greased with bacon grease or other lubricants on hand, to ease the pulling of logs over them and out to the sawmills. In the 1850s, this area in Seattle was defined by sawmills and the surrounding steep hills leading to them, where logs were skidded down the hills. Yesler Way leading down to the Henry Yesler Mill was one such route.” 

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That's right: Yesler Way in the middle of downtown Seattle. I had some “shirt tail” relatives who were in the logging business and their story goes all the way back to those times. My aunt Jesse's father was the first person to own a car in Everett. Their logging business was actually based in Everett. At one point, the Bartlett clan owned all of Mercer Island. They logged it off and then decided that the property wasn't worth keeping, so they let the property go for taxes. (I know, what were they thinking?) 

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filson.com goes on to say,

"Another, more recent example of the term’s adoption was The Merchants Café in downtown Pioneer Square, which in 1986 named its lounge Skid Row as a local watering hole for tourists and residents alike. An artist from the Pacific Northwest who lived through the Great Depression, Ronald Debs “Ray” Ginther, documented many scenes of life on Skid Road in Seattle, Portland, and other cities during the 1930s and into the 1940s." 

Aunt Jesse used to have a cattle ranch on the Olympic Peninsula on property that became their last logging camp. They logged off the timber, looked at the small valley, and decided to settle down. I remember visiting there as a kid and being raised in the suburbs of Burien, it was like going to another world. 

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It's been several years since I've driven down Yesler Way in Seattle, but I'm thinking I probably need to do it again the next time I'm in Seattle just to get a feel for what it’s like today.  

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