Between 1907 and 1909 while the destruction of Denny Hill was daily attracting its own unpaid force of sidewalk inspectors (otherwise idle), Seattle’s other big earth-moving project, the Jackson Street Regrade, was underway. By comparison to the Denny Hill excitements this “second place regrade” was underwhelming to the curious public – until they started lifting the neighborhood.
The Jackson Street Regrade was named for its “Main Street” and northern border. On Jackson dirt was mostly removed — lowered nearly 90 feet at 9th avenue. But here at 5th and Lane, three blocks south of Jackson, the blocks were lifted with dirt borrowed from the burrowing and sluicing along Jackson and King Street and also from the low ridge to the east.
About fifty-six city blocks were reshaped by the Jackson Street regrade, twenty-nine of them excavated and twenty-seven – including these – raised. In particular, these blocks just east of 5th Avenue straddle both the old waterfront meander line and the trestle of the Seattle and Walla Walla railroad after it was redirected in 1879 to the shoreline south of King Street. The wood-boring Teredo worms had quickly devoured the original trestle that headed directly across the tidelands from the Seattle Waterfront.
In these raised blocks the city was responsible for lifting the streets to the new grade. The property owners, however, were required to both first lift their structures and then also to either fill in below them or construct what amounted to super-basements. Many chose the latter.
Later this subterranean region would build its own urban legends of sunken chambers reached by labyrinthine tunnels and appointed for gambling, opium and other popular and paying pastimes. The contemporary use for this particular underground at the corner of 5th Avenue and Lane Street is as a parking lot for the International District’s by now historic Uwajimaya Village.