April 24, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Portland doubles size of its underground tour
If it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Seattle’s venerable Underground Tour – a hit with tourists seemingly since the day after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 (which it commemorates) — has fans in Portland.
Portland Walking Tours has just announced the opening of previously inaccessible subterranean areas in Old Town Portland, accessible only on its historic Underground Portland and spooky Beyond Bizarre walking tours.
The newly-accessible tour space, nearly doubling previous areas open for exploration, is below the historic Merchants Hotel, 222 N.W. Davis St., built in 1880. Currently home of well-known Portland establishments such as Old Town Pizza and the Faux Museum, the building’s below-ground levels are known for tales of hauntings, mysterious deaths and what are called the city’s “Shanghai Tunnels.”
The tunnels, connecting the basements of downtown hotels and bars to the Willamette River, were built in the 1800s to move goods from docked ships to basement storage areas. Legend says people were kidnapped and carried through the tunnels to ships for forced labor or other nefarious purposes, though some historians are dubious the claim holds as much water as the damp basements sometimes do.
But as with Seattle’s Underground Tour, put aside some skepticism about the tour guide’s claims and just go along with the fact that it’s spooky and kind of fun to explore the chilly, dark catacombs beneath a modern city. Especially on a hot day.
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