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The earliest known moving image of downtown Seattle was captured at this very location - What Happened Here?

Thousands of pedestrians pass this spot every day without realizing its significance.

SEATTLE — In 1897, Seattle was gripped in gold rush fever.

"It's eight years after the big fire, eight years after statehood, and gold has been discovered up in the Klondike. Seattle's the jumping-off point," explains historian Feliks Banel.

Dreamers in search of treasure converged on the city, where they stocked up before heading north.

"The gold's not in the hills," Banel says. "It's in the pockets of the aspiring miners."

The merchants of First Avenue were the only gold-rushers guaranteed to profit.

"They were smart. They could stay at home and make a fortune."

In the middle of the mayhem, a film crew from New Jersey's Edison Studios came to town. 

"Cutting edge technology."

The filmmakers had been crossing the country on behalf of Northern Pacific, capturing the action along some of the railway's most interesting stops.

"They probably spent a long time picking where they were going to shoot from, getting the camera set up. And I'm sure people were watching and knew what was going on, knew it was something unlike anything you'd seen on the streets of Seattle in the 1890s, for sure."

They rolled a 25-second movie from a single location outside the bustling Cooper and Levy Outfitters in Pioneer Square.

"You don't see a very long film. Of course, they're all silent. But you get this sense of the city that you don't get from a still photo."

The footage features pedestrians, laborers and a passing streetcar. It's the earliest known moving image of downtown Seattle. It is also one of the first travel films ever made. 

"That's us 122 years ago. And that is awesome." 

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Today, only a single column remains of the original Cooper and Levy building.

Using visual clues from the movie and other images of the time, our crew set out to find the very spot the historic footage was taken. We were able to pinpoint it at the corner of First and Yesler in Pioneer Square, in a city that went looking for gold and grew rich in history.

"It's like stepping back in time."

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