Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seattle History: the Denny Hill Regrades

No date or exact location given

February 23, 1907 3rd Ave. north from Columbia St.

Apr 28, 1911 N Along 5th Ave from Cherry St.

Jun 24, 1914 Ross Shire Hotel at 6th & Marion

Nov 6, 1929 South from Sixth and Battery
The other day my mom checked a book about historic Seattle homes out from the library. I was taking a look at it and I was blown away by a picture of a home teetering precariously at the top of a giant mound of dirt. The home in the photo was one of the victims of the Denny Hill regrade. I knew about the regrade vaguely, like one of those historic facts you know about, but have never really took the time to think about. The photo was, frankly, kind of shocking and I thought about what the people of Seattle had to deal with as this project was going on. Obviously they didn't have the kind of construction equipment available to them like we do today. like back hoes and giant cranes so they used water cannons to blast away at the dirt and (for the early part of the project) horse and buggies to haul the dirt away. I can't imagine what a huge muddy mess the city would have been while this was going on. I also can't imagine how those homeowners, who found themselves on top of a giant dirt island with the rest of the city slowly retreating below them, must have felt.

Here's some information about the huge engineering project from the Northwest Digital Archives:
Begun in 1898 and completed over thirty years later, the Denny Hill Regrade leveled one of Seattle's steepest hills, connecting neighborhoods and facilitating traffic flow. Before the regrade, Second Avenue rose 190 feet in the twelve blocks between Pioneer Square and Lenora Avenue, causing traffic and transportation problems in the area. The project began by flattening First Avenue between Pine Street and Denny Way. The sluiced-away dirt was dumped into Elliott Bay or used as filler on downtown streets. The leveling of the hill continued in 1906 and 1907; homeowners who refused to move had the hill sluiced away around them, leaving their houses on islands of dirt.

Images were found via the Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection. They also have a great collection of images on Pinterest

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