Where The Term ‘Skid Row’ Came From

Text Version:
The term “Skid Road” or “Skid Row”, a slang term for a run-down or dilapidated urban area,  was an actual road in Seattle, Washington during the late 1800’s.  The real name of the road was Yesler Way (now better known as Pioneer Square),  and it was the main street along which logs were transported.  It soon became a rather sketchy stretch of street that loggers began to call “Skid Road.” It also became the dividing line between the affluent people of Seattle and the mill workers along with the more impoverished population of the city. It didn’t take long for the name to catch on and eventually stick.

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6 comments

  • Skid roe comes from Ireland, county cork. Steven skidd put 59 pound sterling in a trust fund in the 1500s. The trust paid for 50 of the country’s poorest veterans to live out there lives for free. but they must be completely pennyless to get on the list of people waiting to get in. The list of people are on skidd roe.

    • I’d go with that. Thank you Patrick, sounds far more plausible

    • Both of you are wrong. The first answer is partially right. The logs were taken down a mountain on a “skid” so it was named Skid Road. Men would ride the logs and houses of ill repute would set up shop along the skids so the guys could hop off, take care of business, and hop on another log and continue their way down. When Seattle developed, the place where the skid was turned into a street called Yesler Way, named after Henry Yesler.

      • The trees were cut down put on a log skid and from hill and capital hill in Seattle the would go down hill to the Seattle waterfront and then shipped to numerous places. Evergreen trees have been of abundance then and still now throughout the Evergreen State of Washington. Try to disclaim that I know my Seattle History I lived there 53 years. Where did the landfill dirt come from to fill the largest man made island? The place Harbor Island

        • The trees were transported on “skids” and pulled by horse teams through out the Pacific Northwest during the 1800s when the area was the logging capital of the US.

          Yesler Way was the most famous due to being in the newly created logging town. The original “skid road” ran from the various hills in the area, Queen Anne Hill, Denny Hill, Capital Hill, First Hill, Beacon Hill.

          Those roads met at the docks for loading onto ships to various cities in the US and around the world. The logs harvested were shipped uncut since it traveled better at the time as a log rather than milled lumber.

          Henry Yesler’s mill cut the logs for local lumber sales. It was located slightly Southeast of the current Pioneer Square since that area at the time was a tide flat.

          After the city started to develop, parts of Yesler Way became developed into a low income, rough area due to the proximity to the mill housing the mill workers and other waterfront laborers.

          Since most of the men were single, businesses like bars, gambling establishments and houses of ill repute opened.

          Since the street was called Skid Road before the city renamed it Yesler Way, the name became associated with a rough, low income and questionable activities. The name caught on and became part of the lexicon of the language.

          It changed to “skid row” probably due to people not knowing the correct origin of the name.

          Oh yeah, I’ve lived in Seattle all of my life (62 years) and have visited Underground Seattle and had numerous local history classes during my school years. I was a fan of Bill Spiedell and his books, so I do know my Seattle history.

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