Starting in 1897 and continuing through 1930, Seattle undertook a series of regrades to flatten the city’s terrain. Many of these regrades focused on the Denny Hill. City officials, including City Engineer R.H. Thompson, reasoned that Denny Hill’s steep slope prevented Seattle’s northern expansion from the business core downtown. In 1898, the Engineering Department took the first steps to address this problem, regrading First Avenue between Pike and Denny Way. The first phase of the Denny Regrade began in 1903 and addressed the area on the western side of 5th Avenue. The first phase lasted 8 years and was completed in 1911. During this period, additional work was done to regrade Jackson Hill (in 1907) and Dearborn (1909-1912). Between 1929 and 1930, the city completed the remainder of the regrade work on Denny Hill on the eastern side of 5th Avenue. In his autobiography, That Man Thompson, R.H. Thompson states that over 16 million cubic yards of earth were moved as a result of the combined regrades.
This album contains photographs taken by Webster and Stevens from approximately 1905 to 1908 which document the first Denny Regrade.To explore the collection, you can select one of the options below:
For more regrade photos, check out our Seattle Historical Photograph Collection.
If you are interested in reading more about the regrades, take a look at these resources:
- Mountain Moving in Seattle from the Harvard Business Review, July 1930
- How Seattle Changed Its Face by the Seattle Engineering Department, 1975
- History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 1 by Clarence Bagley, 1916
Available at the library:
- That Man Thompson, R.H. Thompson, 1950
- Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle, Matthew Klingle, 2007
- Too High & Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography by David B. Williams, 2015