Sara Pizzo, Public Realm Manager, tackles projects that improves the streets, parks, and public spaces. She diligently works to enhance the streetscape and coordinate construction along with anything else that is needed. Her efforts make the neighborhood a safer and cleaner place for everyone to enjoy and for businesses to thrive. She enjoys connecting with the community and building relationships.
“We are here in front of Shelly’s Leg to honor Pride Month,” Sara states as we survey the former site of Shelly’s Leg. “It’s important to recognize the history and progress of Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community.” At the Alliance for Pioneer Square, we value preserving and recognizing the diverse history and communities which historically and currently make up the neighborhood. “There’s a lot of significance to Shelly’s Leg, beyond celebrating its history for Pride Month,” Sara reflects.
Sara, like many other folks, first learned about Shelly’s Leg through the Trail to Treasure program. However, instead of being a participant on the walking tour, Sara discovered the site while cleaning the wayfinding signs sprinkled throughout Pioneer Square which support the Trail to Treasure program. “The Trail to Treasure tour is a great way to learn more about the neighborhood and its surroundings” says Sara. The Trail to Treasure free walking tour runs now until September 1st Friday through Sunday, with tours starting at 2pm from the Klondike Gold Rush Museum.
One of the stops Trail to Treasure walking tour, led by the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, is just outside of the former location of Shelly’s Leg. Shelly’s Leg was the first disco in Seattle, and opened in 1973 as a vanguard establishment for the city’s queer community. The story of Shelly’s Leg precedes years before the club opened its doors.
Shelly Bauman, co-owner and namesake of Shelly’s Leg, arrived in Seattle in 1968. On July 14, 1970 Shelly’s life permanently changed when she and a group of friends gathered in Pioneer Square during Seattle’s first Bastille Day parade. “There was a cannon in the parade loaded with gunpowder, held in place by a wad of wet papier-mâché,” Bauman would later recall. “Someone lit the fuse and the cannon fired into the crowd, hitting [me] in the pelvis.” The accident resulted in one of Shelly’s leg being amputated. Shelly was eventually awarded $330,000 through an out of court settlement for the injury she sustained.
Shelly allocated her settlement money to found Shelly’s Leg, which featured 1940’s inspired lounge décor, fake palm trees, and neon lighting. The club became immensely popular, with entry lines stretching around the block most days of the week. Shelly’s Leg was unique in Seattle’s queer community as it championed itself as a safe space for all. At the height of the venue’s local popularity, when it attracted as many straight patrons as gay clientele, a huge, hand-painted sign above the bar declared to all who entered, “Shelly’s Leg is a GAY BAR provided for Seattle’s gay community and their guests.” Following an accident in 1975 where an oil tanker traveling on the Alaskan Way Viaduct spilled its contents and started a large fire, the club was severely damaged. Shelly’s Leg never regained its popularity and permanently closed in 1979.
Sara this week:
This week, you may have seen Sara out and about on one of her weekly Find It/Fix It walks. She covers a different section of the neighborhood every week, intentionally looking for broken, damaged, or vandalized public amenities to report to the City. She reports everything from illegal dumping to graffiti and everything in between to make the neighborhood a better place. Every now and then a wayside gets tagged with graffiti and Sara is the first to respond with her graffiti wipes. A few weeks ago Sara coordinated a group of volunteers to do a deep clean of the waysides in preparation for tourist season. Shout out to participating Allison + Partners for helping us out! This summer the waysides will receive a more regular cleaning from the staff at the Klondike Museum, so shout out to Klondike Museum staff too!