A Very Wicked City Walking Tour - Atlas Obscura

Seattle, Washington

A Very Wicked City Walking Tour

Take a tour of Seattle's libidinal landscape and history with artist Susan Robb.

The convergence of business, politics, and sex-work may, at first blush, seem sensationalistic but this union is inextricably part of the European colonization of the Coast Salish people’s land into present-day Seattle. From Seattle’s earliest days, “crib houses,” homes broken into small, sparsely furnished rooms used only for sex transactions; “parlor houses,” woman-owned brothels; and sex trafficking of both American and foreign-born women sought to not only slake the sexual desires of the men who were clear-cutting, milling, and farming the land but also create a kind of sexual “mouse trap” able to draw men to the nascent city in order to help it grow. Fueled over the years by gold, graft, tolerance, and tech bros, Seattle’s story is only truly understood with its pants off.

During Susan Robb’s A Very Wicked City walking tour participants will inhabit some of the places and spaces that once made up Seattle’s libidinal landscape. Starting in Pioneer Square and weaving throughout downtown, sites will include former brothels, bathhouses, and gay burlesque halls. Robb will cover the influence of racism, the gold rush, women’s suffrage, graft, introduce a parade of powerful women, and connect Seattle’s current issues around sex work to those that began over 150 years ago.

Susan Robb’s work is an ongoing, process-driven investigation of people, place, and our search for utopia. Robb received a Creative Capital grant to produce Wild Times a work that combined new media, social engagement, and a 2,680-mile hike Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. In 2012 Robb received an Americans for the Arts/Public Art Network Award for The Long Walk. Other awards include a Pollack Krasner Fellowship, a CityArtist Project Grant, a Stranger Genius Award, and support by the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Robb was the Artist Residence for the Seattle Office of Arts and created the Public Arts Master Plan for downtown Seattle, guiding and influencing the development of a public art plan that creates a robust, cohesive, and long-range vision for SDOT’s 1% for Art programming and art enhancements in Seattle’s downtown core.

Additional Details

  • Meet Susan outside the Erato Gallery at 309 1st Ave S.
  • Participants will walk up to three miles and stand outdoors for two hours.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather, wear comfortable shoes, bring water, and a snack.
  • This event runs rain or shine!
  • Tour ends inside Pike Brewery where we'll sit together at a large group table. Guests are welcome to purchase their own drink or snack.


Email Shin Yu Pai at shinyu.pai@atlasobscura.com.

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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.