Seattle Now & Then: First Shovel at Fifth and Battery

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Before this the first shovel of the last of Denny Hill was ceremonially dropped to the conveyor belt at Battery Street, an “initial bite of 30,000 cubic yards of material” was carved from the cliff along the east side of 5th Avenue to make room for both the steam shovel and several moveable belts that extended like fingers across the hill.  It was here that they met the elevated and fixed last leg of the conveyor system that ran west on Battery Street to the waterfront.  (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)
THEN: Before this the first shovel of the last of Denny Hill was ceremonially dropped to the conveyor belt at Battery Street, an “initial bite of 30,000 cubic yards of material” was carved from the cliff along the east side of 5th Avenue to make room for both the steam shovel and several moveable belts that extended like fingers across the hill. It was here that they met the elevated and fixed last leg of the conveyor system that ran west on Battery Street to the waterfront. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive) 
NOW: A double irony for the Denny Regrade is that the two largest parts of this effort began in 1907 and 1929, and only months before economic “panics” put caps to booming visions of skyscrapers.  The modern “resurrection” of the Denny Regrade came first in the 1970s.  Here at 5th and Battery, only now does the condominium euphoniously named Insignia Seattle prepare to lift the regrade 41-stories.  Here as well the 1962 World’s Fair Monorail in Jean’s vigorous “now” may be considered a kind of elevated “repeat” for the 1929 conveyor.
NOW: A double irony for the Denny Regrade is that the two largest parts of this effort began in 1907 and 1929, and only months before economic “panics” put caps to booming visions of skyscrapers. The modern “resurrection” of the Denny Regrade came first in the 1970s. Here at 5th and Battery, only now does the condominium euphoniously named Insignia Seattle prepare to lift the regrade 41-stories. Here as well the 1962 World’s Fair Monorail in Jean’s vigorous “now” may be considered a kind of elevated “repeat” for the 1929 conveyor.

First we note the photographer’s caption at the lower-left corner of the “then.”   It reads, “1st Shovel at Conveyor 5th Ave. & Battery St.”  And at its lower-right corner the subject is also helpfully dated May 11, 1929.

Most likely the photographer was James Lee, the skilled Dept. of Public Works employee, whose industrious recordings of Seattle’s regrades also include film.  The one-reel documentary “Seattle Moves a Mountain” was constructed of Lee’s footage of this the last of the many regrades on Denny Hill.  The digging went on from 1929 into 1931.  (You may have seen all or parts of Lee’s footage on either Channel 9 or, even more likely, the Seattle Channel.)

Here after a seventeen year pause at the cliff it had carved along the east side of 5th Avenue, the Denny Hill Regrade began anew in 1929 using this last time a belt to convey what remained of the hill along an about 2,500 foot long ride above Battery Street to the waterfront. The George Nelson Company, the regrade’s contractors, promised that the “huge conveyor belt” would be constructed of “sound-deadening equipment . . . so that when the dirt starts moving there will be as little noise as possible.” Sure.

Every working day about 10,000 cubic yards of the dwindling hill were dumped from the belt onto barges, which in turn were towed off shore for the capsizing of their loads into Elliot Bay. In time the dumping had a comedic effect.  The submerged pile-up of a reconstituted Denny Hill silently reached an elevation that was a danger to shipping. It required dredging.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?   Yup Jean – but most of it tomorrow.  Do your remember the sand man?  I hardly do, but now it is 2:30 Sunday morning and I am ready to climb the stairs once again to “Nighty Bears” and will only return to this until I have rested all my winks in the sand traps of that man.

Bless us tho, Ron Edge has put up just below a seven-combo of pans and aerials of the our primary subject: the work connected to the last of the Denny Regrades, the one from 1929 to 1931.  To get the full-size value out of Ron’s images you must really click them – sometimes twice.  They are linked to is own server, and what you will get is the bigger because of it!!!  Tomorrow after breakfast (which for this sleeper means around noon) I’ll add some interpretations for Ron’s seven overdetermined aids and then add a few more pixs and old features from there as well.  Now away.

[Not quite.  After composing captions for Ron’s aerials and pans below and then “saving” then some ghost in this connected erased them.   Ron, Jean and I got the same results.   The lost captions went lost – without explanation.   Now we will try again, but most likely not so long as first.   Remembering here as well that we were not able to put up the rest of this feature including many more pictures with captions because the program declined to do what it had been doing with regularity, we will surrender and wait.  Later when we are confident of the programs stability we will but up an extended Addendum for this Seattle Now & Then named “First Shovel at Fifth and Battery.”   Among its many photographs will be one captioned “Last shovel at Fifth and Battery.”]

(Click these pans TWICE to enlarge.)

A1

Both the above and below aerials were apparently commission by the real estate agent W.A. Irwin, whose name is printed on both.  Perhaps Irwin specialized in Central Business District properties – many did – and north end properties as well.  Note how the aerial above puts Seattle’s “center of population” in Edgewater, more familiarity on or close to the border between the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods, ca. 1927.  Irwin has put the numbers 1-thru-12 on a few properties perhaps as a quiz. We recommend that you use it so.  At the bottom of Ron’s six pixs we will include the answers.  The white line reaching north from the “Regrade District,” is meant to mark  – imperfectly – the new speedway, Aurora.  It leads to the high bridge across the Lake Washington Ship Canal at least for years before it was dedicated in 1932.

A2

Here, center-right, the habitat of what was then called the “Old Quarter” is dark with its old clapboard homes and tenements and Denny Park (the darkest part).  Fifth Avenue  runs up and left from near the center of the subject.  To the right of 5th is what is captioned “1. The Regrade District” in the aerial above this one.  To the left of 5th lies the still sparingly developed Denny Regrade: the first and larger part of that long effort that ran with many interruptions at least from 1883 to 1912.  The longest pause came then with a cliff along the east side of 5th Avenue that held its place until 1929, the year this aerial was recorded by the Pierson Photo Co..  Near the center of this subject is the oddity of the tall brick tower of Sacret Heart Church standing naked – as it were – at the corner of 6th Avenue and Blanchard Street.  ( We will interrupt Ron’s aerial with a close-ups of the church with the tower and without it.) Also showing here is the long line of the Battery Street conveyor, which runs out of the aerial on the far left.

Sacred Heart parish, 6th and Bell.
Sacred Heart parish, 6th and Bell.

5, sacred heart -tower-falls-1929-Denny-Regrade---Immaculate-tower-falls-WEB

[Click the clipping below TWICE to enlarge for reading.]

A Seattle Times clip from March 30, 1929.
A Seattle Times clip from March 30, 1929.

A3

Above: Here Ron has “stitched” together many details from the 1929 aerial survey of Seattle.  Ron explains “The fit together well enough.”  This grouping gives an illusion of height which the survey did not reach.  The flight lines were taken at relatively low altitudes, especially when compared to the 1936 and 1946 surveys that followed this one, which was the first of many.  The aerial reveals very well that system of moveable conveyors that spread into the regrade acress from their “collector,” the man conveyor that from on Battery from the waterfront and the block between 5th and 6th Avenues.  One of the imperfections of the 1929 survey were slim slices of the city missed by the flyers because of their low elevations.  It is for this reason, Ron explains – and regrets, that it was not possible to show the special wharf at the foot of Battery Street where self-righting scows, built by the Seattle Public Works Dept., collected the hill’s remains from the conveyor for bumping off-shore.  To make up for it we will interrupt, again, with a sea-level coverage of the wharf and scow combo.  (In the addendum to come later we will print the story that originally accompanied this photo.)

One of the right-righting scows heading out from the Battery Street pier from which was poured the last of Denny Hill onto the scows.
One of the self-righting scows heading out from the Battery Street pier from which was poured the last of Denny Hill onto the scows.

(Below)  Looking south from near 6th and Battery, late 1929.   The corner of 5th Avenue and Blanchard Street is far right.

R1

R3

(Above) Left to right from the Chief Seattle Garage at 508 Denny Way (its north side) to a long look south on 5th Avenue towards the Central Business District.  The pan was taken from the Davenport Hotel at 5th and Vine.

R2

 

 

 

(Above) The best surviving clue here is the sliver of the structure showing on the far right, the northeast corner (at the alley) of what is now named the 5th Ave. Court at the southeast corner of 5th Avenue and Blanchard Street.   The Battery Street conveyor – its east end between 5th and 6th Avenues – appears far left.  Below the Queen Anne Hill horizon, left of center, is the temporary grade of Denny Hill north of Denny Way, the last part of the hill to be removed.  The arty block lettering selected for the picture’s own superimposed caption shakes with the thrill of its “1,520,000 cubic yards of earth removed since February 1, 1929.”

ANSWERS To The IRWIN QUIZ

1. The Denny Hill Regrade acres for 1929-32

2. The Medical Dental Building

3. Times Square

4. Bon Marche

5. Frederick & Nelson

6. New Washington Hotel

7. Securities Bldg. (3rd and Stewart)

8. Yale Bldg.

9. Antlers Hotel

10. Chantecler, soon (1928) site of Northern Life Insurance

11. Telephone Bldg.

12. White-Henry-Stuart Bldg.

[click the clippings below TWICE for reading.  This was pulled from Seattle Now and Then, published in 1984.  All of it and Vols.2 & 3 can be explored on this blog.]

Page one of two pages on the general subject of what the title names 'The Cliff Along Fifth Avenue."  This appears first in Pacific long ago. Here it has been scanned from Seattle Now and Then (Vol.1), which was first published in 1984.  You can find the entire book scanned and searable on this blog under the button "History Books."
Page one of two pages on the general subject of what the title names ‘The Cliff Along Fifth Avenue.” This appears first in Pacific long ago. Here it has been scanned from Seattle Now and Then (Vol.1), which was first published in 1984. You can find the entire book scanned and searable on this blog under the button “History Books.”

Cliff-on-5th-p.2

 

 

 

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: First Shovel at Fifth and Battery”

  1. I have an etching /print of Old Denny Hill at 6th Ave and Blanchard St by Chester Soule Cobb. It is 34/250 that were made. It is framed and looks to be in good condition. I would like to know more about the picture but cannot find out any information. I can send a picture if that would help. Thank you for any help.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s