(click to enlarge photos)
In this week’s ‘repeat’ Jean Sherrard and I wait for the very fit-at-fifty David B. Williams as he crosses south on Blanchard Street from its northeast corner with Fourth Avenue. We are in Belltown, AKA the Denny Regrade. After Jean’s snap (a Nikonic click), we followed David across Fourth Avenue to its southwest corner, once the highest point on Denny Hill, and now the site of the Fourth and Blanchard Building, the black glass wedge that shims the Belltown skyline. When completed in 1979, this Darth Vader Building, its
popular name, lent its austere imagination to the then still mostly conventional posture of Seattle skyscrapers. While crossing Fourth, David pointed about one-hundred-plus-feet up to the tenth of the twenty-five floor Sedgwick James Building, its third name. Williams revealed “That is where I suggested to Martin Selig (the developer) that he do the city a service by marking there the summit of the lost Denny Hill.” He answered with something flat on good vibrations, “It does not resonate with me.”
Still you may take David’s word for it that at the level of the tenth floor was once the top of Seattle’s favorite lost hill. Some PacificNW readers may remember The Seattle Times humorist John Hinterberger’s recommendation, now thirty years ago, that Denny Hill be reconstructed with its own dirt – which had been sluiced by water canons and steam shovels to the waterfront and offshore into Elliott Bay. Hinterberger cared for neither the regrade nor the Alaskan Way Viaduct. He noted that his reverse reclamation is a “win-win situation if we ever had one. We suck up Alaskan Way and pile it up on top of the Denny Regrade.”
After reading David Williams’s newest book, a UW Press offering titled Too High and Too Steep, I am persuaded that he is the master of our historical topography. (In this my vanity has suffered some.) David’s book is worth all the praise it has been getting, and his energetic lecture trail of ongoing promotions keeps accruing plaudits for his book and himself. As he explains in the video interview (at the top) that Jean recorded with him while lounging in upholstered chairs in the lobby of the Fourth and Blanchard Building, Too High and Too Steep dwells on three primary Seattle subjects. They are its waterfront and tidelands reclamations, the building of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, and the remarkable topographic upheaval of our many regrades, with the grandest of those being here in Belltown.
Shown here (near the top and above) are the two elegant homes that the industrious Burwell brothers, Anson and Austin, built for their families at the northeast corner of Fourth and Blanchard, and so kitty-corner from the hill’s summit and now its black skyscraper. The photo appears on page 165 of Williams’s 240 page – with notes and index – book. Plenty of historical photos were taken on Denny Hill, but with rare exceptions they point south into the Central Business District. This is one of the few that looks within the lost neighborhood.
RARE LOOKS NORTH ACROSS DENNY HILL TAKEN from the REAR of the DENNY HILL & INCLUDING THE ROOFTOPS OF BOTH of the BURWELL BROTHER’S HOMES at the NORTHEAST CORNER of FOURTH Avenue & BLANCHARD Street. The two photos almost merge – but not quite. (Giveaway clue: The Burwell homes appear above the box home, left-of-center, in the bottom or right side part of the panorama. )
Anything to add, boys? Yes
We shall begin by pulling an about twenty page excerpt from the illustrated history of the Seattle waterfront that can be found in toto under its own button or bug on the front page of this blog. This extracted part has to do – or centers about – the Denny Regarde, and since we are pretty much keeping to that part of David’s multifarious interests, it is a good summary or second introduction to its subject. Ron Edge has inserted a link – two happy lads mucking it up in run-off water from the big water cannons that brought down much of Denny Hill. Click on it and get the excerpt. Following that we will have more Edge Links and others gritty favors, until it is time to go to bed.
THE CHILD IS FATHER OF THE MAN, Henry Wadsworth
Here are two Belltown boys playing in a pool contributed from the Denny Regrade corroding water canons. We may use them as an example of Wadsworth’s epigram that “The Child is Father of the Man,” for its seems that much of the regrade engineering was motivated by desires to play with cannons and plows and the toys of engineers. It is widely thought that the hill would have been better left where it was.
FOLLOWS FIFTEEN EDGE CLIPS – The first of these considers the apartment house on the north side of Blanchard between Second and Third Avenue. It was noted and can be seen in the clip directly above.
LOTS LEFT TO DO but not now. I’m off to bed, aka nighty-bears hereabouts, compliments of Bil Burden, my old friend and roommate in the Cascade neighborhood in the 1970s. (Tomorrow we might also proof the above.)