Seattle’s first 58 regrades “consisted largely of cutting the tops off high places and dumping the dirt into low places and onto the beach”. The most dramatic result of this was along that former beach, filling the land that constitutes today’s Central Waterfront. Today’s Western Avenue and Alaskan Way lie on this landfill.
These informal regrades came to an end around 1900; later regrades typically required changes to areas that had already undergone some development. City engineer R.H. Thomson established his prestige in 1900. He successfully provided the city with ample fresh water by running a pipeline from the Cedar River. He then undertook to level the extreme hills that rose south and north of the bustling city center. A central concern of Thomson’s work in Seattle was to connect disparate parts of the city together, allowing easier movement. Thomson was quoted as saying that the city had developed the land “with but little regard as to whether the streets could ever be used or not, the main idea being, apparently, to sell the lots.”
Denny Hill is slowly washed away by powerful water cannons. 1910.
Leveling streets in Seattle.
Steam shovels dig near the Jose P. Rizal bridge during the Dearborn regrade. 1912.
The Ross Shire Hotel on Sixth Avenue and Marion Street. 1914.
A steam shovel digs on Marion Street during the Sixth Avenue regrade. 1914.
A crowd gathers to witness the last shovel of dirt and the completion of the second Denny regrade.
A conveyor belt for moving earth at Fifth Avenue and Battery Street.
The Denny Hotel (later called the Washington Hotel) stands on the south summit of Denny Hill before being torn down. 1905.
A conveyor belt carries earth from the dig site down Battery Street to the harbor.
Trains move loose earth at the south summit of Denny Hill near the under-construction New Washington Hotel, at the corner of Second Avenue and Stewart Street. 1907.
Third Avenue north of Marion Street is flattened out in the first Denny regrade. 1907.
Looking west down Spring Street during the first Denny regrade. 1907.
Horse teams march up Marion Street. 1907.
Looking south from Third Avenue and Madison Street. 1907.