Seattle Now & Then: The Last of Denny Hill, Part 1

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking west (not east) on Battery Street from Seventh Avenue, approaching the end of the last of Denny Hill’s six regrade reductions. The dirt was carried to Elliott Bay on conveyor belts like the two shown here. (courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
THEN: Looking west (not east) on Battery Street from Seventh Avenue, approaching the end of the last of Denny Hill’s six regrade reductions. The dirt was carried to Elliott Bay on conveyor belts like the two shown here. (courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: The two forty-one story Insignia Towers now dominate the skyline and help fulfill the long stalled expectation of the original Denny regraders that when the hill was removed, it would be replaced with skyscrapers.
NOW: The two forty-one story Insignia Towers now dominate the skyline and help fulfill the long stalled expectation of the original Denny regraders that when the hill was removed, it would be replaced with skyscrapers.

One of the Nevada Construction Company’s four “great electric power shovels” is at work on the right digging away to the north on what little is left of Denny Hill by March 15, 1930.  Both the date and prospect are captioned bottom-left in the featured photo, most likely by James Lee, a photographer for the Seattle Engineering Department who by 1930 had been capturing our public works with both negatives and 16mm film for about two decades.

Battery Street looking east from the rear balcony of the Bell Hotel at the southeast corner of Front Street (First Ave.) and Battery Street ca. 1887-88. Denny School (1884) stands in the distance at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Battery. Photo by Mumford.
Battery Street looking east from the rear balcony of the Bell Hotel (shown in the next photo below) at the southeast corner of Front Street (First Ave.) and Battery Street ca. 1887-88.  Denny School (1884) stands in the distance at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Battery. Photo by Mumford.
The Bell (aka Bellview) Hotel at the southeast corner of Battery Street and Front Street (First Ave.). The look up Battery street, above, was photographed from its rear. The Austin A. Bell building stands beside it.
The Bell (aka Bellview) Hotel at the southeast corner of Battery Street and Front Street (First Ave.). The look up Battery street, ( the photo above this one), was photographed from the back of the hotel.  The Austin A. Bell building stands beside it.
This detail from the 1929 aerial survey of Seattle shows the line-up or spread then of the regrade's moveable conveyors and how the join at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Battery Street.
This detail from the 1929 aerial survey of Seattle shows, bottom-right, the line-up or fan-shaped spread of the regrade’s moveable conveyors and how they meet at the main Battery Street conveyor about one block northeast of the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Battery Street. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive and Ron Edge)  CLICK TO ENLARGE
Looking south to the Central Business District from the cliff left in 1911 when the regrading stopped at Fifth Avenue. This public works shot is date March 8, 1929. Battery Street is behind the city photographer.
Looking south to the Central Business District from the cliff left in 1911 when the regrading stopped at Fifth Avenue. This public works shot is date March 8, 1929. Battery Street is behind the city photographer.  C LICK TO ENLARGE
Fifth Avenue, the border between the regrade completed to 1911 and then resumed in 1929 can be found
Fifth Avenue, the border between the regrade completed to 1911 and then resumed in 1929 can be found by studying the building stock in the low-rise neighborhood the runs over the top-half oF this aerial from 1928-29.    It seems to rise at a slant from the roof of the medical-dental building near the center of the subject.  Frederick and Nelson is at the bottom-center. CLICK TO ENLARGE – MAYBE CLICK TWICE!

James Lee, it seems, was occasionally compass-challenged, as am I. (Jean is generally without flaw.)  Both Lee and Jean are here looking west on Battery Street in the featured photographs at the top, and not east as is mistakenly hand-printed at the lower left corner of Lee’s print No. 8297.  Seventh Avenue, however, is confident.  It is a two-block walk – or ride on the regrade conveyor belts – to reach the low-rise business district that begins on the west side of Fifth Avenue.  It was at Fifth that the Denny Regrade stalled

The same scrape-scape as that in the featured photo only here seen early (Nov. 6, 1929) looking south from a prospect near Fifth Avenue and Battery Street.
The same scrape-scape as that in the featured photo at the top only here seen earlier (Nov. 6, 1929) and looking south from a prospect near Fifth Avenue and Battery Street.  Note St. James Cathedrals twin towers on the horizon, far right.
Fifth Avenue where the main conveyor belt began its run west on Battery Street to Elliot Bay. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
Fifth Avenue where the main conveyor belt began its run west on Battery Street to Elliot Bay, both of which are out of frame to the right.  The photo is dated May 17, 1929. . (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
The main conveyor running the length of Battery Street from Fifth Avenue to the waterfront. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
The main conveyor running the length of Battery Street from Fifth Avenue to the waterfront. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)

in 1911 for seventeen years. To the east of Fifth, a cliff was exposed – or created – that rose to a pie-shaped remnant of the hill, referred to as the “Old Quarter.”  It was generally filled with homes – some of them large – that received few repairs and probably no restorations. The effect was that it got older, cozier and cheaper: a mix of rentals and family-owned homes, a neighborhood inclined to bohemian pastimes and street games.  Regrading was expected to be completed eventually, but not so far-fetched as seventeen years later.

The "Old Quarter" is easily distinguished in this ca. 1917 rendering of the then "apartment house district." CLICK to ENLARGE
The “Old Quarter” is easily distinguished from the Denny Regrade  in this ca. 1917 promotional rendering of  what it calls the “apartment house district.” CLICK to ENLARGE
On the left, the "Old Quarter" looking north on Westlake from the Medical-Dental Building. The green acres of Denny Park are at the top, on the north side of Denny Way.
On the left, the “Old Quarter” looking north on Westlake from the Medical-Dental Building. The green acres of Denny Park are at the top, on the north side of Denny Way.  Compare this with the cleared neighborhood showing two photos down.
Fifth Avenue, the north-south dividing line between the regrade and the "Old Quarter" runs to this side of the temporary bluff. The view looks north toward Lake Union.
Fifth Avenue, the north-south dividing line between the regrade and the “Old Quarter” runs to this side of the temporary bluff. The view looks north toward Lake Union.   The corner of Third Avenue and Virginia Street is at the bottom of the subject.    Queen Anne High School stands up from the hill’s horizon, upper-left.  CLICK-CLICK to ENLARGE
In preparation for the last of the Denny Regrades the "Old Quarter" east of Fifth Avenue has been mostly cleared away.
In preparation for the last of the Denny Regrades the “Old Quarter” east of Fifth Avenue has been mostly cleared away.   Fifth Avenue – of course – is on the left.  
The Immaculate Heart tower topples at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Bell Street - with the help of explosives.
The Immaculate Heart tower topples at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Bell Street – with the help of explosives.

This was the last of the six regrades humbling Denny Hill.  For the first two, in the mid-1880s and late 1890s, First Avenue was regraded initially for the horse cars, and later for the electric trolleys heading to and fro between Seattle and North Seattle, which was then Belltown and Lower Queen Anne.  The remaining four regrades were all serious about eliminating Denny Hill as an obstruction to what the forces of regrade promoted as the “natural northern growth” of the city.  Beginning in 1903, Second Avenue was brought to the grade we now know.  In 1906 there followed the lowering of the south, or front, summit of the Hill between Pine and Virginia Streets and the razing of the grand Denny Hotel perched upon it.  The lowering of the slightly higher north summit followed until 1911

The Denny Hotel with its last developer, James Moore (of the theatre too) scrambling to save it for the regraders.
The Denny Hotel with its last developer, James Moore (of the theatre too) scrambling to save it from the regraders.  (See the same photo with the “extras” below and the short essay that accompanied it in Pacific for May 15, 2000.)
Circa 1910, cliff formation to the east side of Fifth Avenue. The surviving center-section of Denny School appears to the right of the couple working at the cliff-top. The view looks north.
Circa 1910, cliff formation to the east side of Fifth Avenue. The surviving center-section of Denny School appears to the right of the couple working at the cliff-top. The view looks north.
The Klean-Rite Auto Cleaners garage at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Battery in 1929 with the first section of the main conveyor crossing 5th Ave. for the start of its journey to the waterfront.
The Klean-Rite Auto Laundry Co.  garage at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Battery in 1929 with the first section of the main regrade conveyor crossing 5th Ave. near the start of its journey to the waterfront.

when, as noted, all cutting stopped, leaving a cliff on the east side of Fifth Avenue.  The cliff was just to this side of the white-faced one-story building at the center of the featured photo, at the southwest corner of Battery and Fifth Avenue.  It is signed the “Klean-Rite Auto Laundry Co.”  Spread out behind the laundry is the grand 1920-21 fire station No. 2 at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Battery Street.  (See next clip below.) On the  afternoon that Public Works recorded this scene, more than two-hundred-and-fifty fire chiefs and municipal fire officials from around the state were meeting in No. 2’s big auditorium (on the left) for a three-day “fire-prevention convention.”

Appeared first in The Times, Aril 2, 1995.
Appeared first in The Times, Aril 2, 1995.
A clip from The Times for December 9, 1930.
A clip from The Times for December 9, 1930.

Most of Denny Hill was eroded with water cannons, but not this last of the regrades.  The “Old Quarter” was lowered with steam shovels that dumped their catches on to several moveable conveyor belts. The multiple belts led to a master conveyor that carried the last of Denny Hill west on Battery Street to be dumped into Elliott Bay.  As it turned out, the deposits created an underwater Denny Hill, which for the safety of shipping ultimately required dredging. 

A topped-off barge heading into the bay from the terminus for the Denny Regrade's main conveyor Belt.
A topped-off barge heading into the bay from the terminus for the Denny Regrade’s main conveyor Belt.

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WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, boys? Of course we do Jean, although we will need a second day to completed the laying in of more clips.  Again and again it will be more past features from the neighborhood and now as well la recommendation for how to use this blog to find more about the Denny Regrade.  First in the Illustrated History of the Seattle Waterfront included in our books “file” we have illustrated a history of the regrade.  Key word it.  And under the same file there will be more features about the regrade shared out of Seattle Now and Then, Volumes One, Two and Three.  You could spend the rest of this Sunday on it.  We suggest, however, the the reader begin with the first link below, “The First Shovel.”

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)

2nd-and-Blanchard-THEN

THEN: The Seattle Central Business District in 1962. I found this panorama mixed in with the Kodachrome slides photographed by Lawton Gowey. It was most likely taken by my helpful friend Lawton, who died in 1983, or Robert Bradley, Lawton’s friend in the then active Seattle Camera Club. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Thanks again and again to Lawton Gowey for another contribution to this feature, this ca. 1917 look into a fresh Denny Regrade and nearly new “office-factory” at 1921 Fifth Avenue. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.)

THEN: In 1910, a circa date for this look north on First Avenue across Virginia Street, the two corners on the east side of the intersection were still undeveloped – except for signs. The Terminal Sales Building, seen far right in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, did not replace the billboards that crowd the sidewalk in the “then” until 1923. (Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: A circa 1912 look at the Wall Street finger pier from the foot, not of Wall, but Battery Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

belltown-moran-then

THEN: Sometime between early December 1906 and mid-February 1907 an unnamed photographer with her or his back about two lots north of Pike Street recorded landmarks on the east side of Third Avenue including, in part, the Washington Bar stables, on the right; the Union Stables at the center, a church converted for theatre at Pine Street, and north of Pine up a snow-dusted Denny Hill, the Washington Hotel. (Used courtesy of Ron Edge)

THEN: St. Vincent de Paul’s first storefront opened in 1926 in Belltown’s grand clapboard hostelry at the corner of First and Battery. Originally the Bellevue Hotel, it’s reduced here to the “house keeping and transient rooms” of the Bay State Hotel. (MOHAI)

THEN: In this April morning record of the 1975 “Rain or Shine Public Market Paint-in,” above the artists, restoration work has begun with the gutting of the Corner Market Building. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/bell-st-bridge-then-web1.jpg?w=474

THEN: While visiting Seattle for some promoting, silent film star Wallace Reid shares the sidewalk at 4th and Olive with a borrowed Stutz Bearcat. (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: Pier 70 when it was still Pier 14, ca. 1901, brand new but not yet "polished." Courtesy, Lawton Gowey

THEN: In 1913, or near to it, an unnamed photographer recorded this view southeast across the Lower Queen Anne corner of Denny Way and First Avenue North. Out of frame to the left, the northeast corner of this intersection was home then for the Burdett greenhouse and gardens. By its own claim, it offered plants of all sorts, “the largest and most complete stock to choose from in the state.” Courtesy, the Museum of North Idaho.

THEN: The Dog House at 714 Denny Way was strategically placed at the southern terminus for the Aurora Speedway when it was new in the mid-1930s. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archive, Bellevue Community College Branch.)

THEN: Seattle Architect Paul Henderson Ryan designed the Liberty Theatre around the first of many subsequent Wurlitzer organs used for accompanying silent films in theatres “across the land”. The Spanish-clad actor-dancers posed on the stage apron are most likely involved in a promotion for a film – perhaps Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925) or Douglas Fairbanks’ The Gaucho (1929) that also played at the Liberty. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: William O. McKay opened show rooms on Westlake in July of 1923. After fifty-seven years of selling Fords, the dealership turned to the cheaper and more efficient Subaru. Now reconstructed, the old Ford showroom awaits a new tenant.

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Courtesy of Louise Lovely, star of the One Reel Vaudeville Show.
Courtesy of Louise Lovely, star of the One Reel Vaudeville Show.
First appeared in The Times May 14, 2000.
First appeared in The Times May 14, 2000.

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(Above: Looking south on the Wagon Road near Fifth and Virginia, ca. 1886. )

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Appears in The Times, October 27, 2002.
Appeared in The Times, October 27, 2002.

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Appeared first in The Times, June 25, 2000
Appeared first in The Times, June 25, 2000

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Appeared first in The Times, October 20, 2002.
Appeared first in The Times, October 20, 2002.

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clip-n-on-pike-pl-fm-virginia-w-armory-web

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clip-rr-tunnel-n-portal-regrade-web

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First appeared in The Times, June 3, 2007.
First appeared in The Times, June 3, 2007.

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One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Last of Denny Hill, Part 1”

  1. I can remember seeing these belts while riding the streetcars to downtown Seattle from our West Woodland neighborhood. (Our house is still there at 216 W 62nd St when last i checked.

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