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