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Stairway to History

Any one that travels around Seattle realizes we are defined by our “hills.”  Whether the hills that no longer exist, such as Denny Regrade, or the ones that do: Queen Anne, First Hill, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, West Seattle and others.  SDOT Roadway Structures Manager John Buswell notes that when the City street system was being developed in the early 1900s, the hills became a challenge. 

“There were locations where the hill was so steep the street could not be continued, so at these locations stairways were constructed to maintain a connection between neighborhoods,” Buswell says.  “In some cases, due to the steepness of the hill, the street that traversed the slope was split, with one direction built higher than the other direction – creating a terrace effect.” 

September 1912; Highland Drive & Sixth Avenue West

Stairways were constructed to connect portions of the same street.  Queen Anne Hill is a great example, and boasts the oldest recorded existing stairway built over 100 years ago in 1906.  This stairway is located at Sixth Avenue West and West Highland Drive. 

Queen Anne also has some of our longest stairways and stairways with unique architectural features.  If you can’t make it out there on foot, take a peek at the web site – produced by a private citizen, with information from SDOT’s roadway structures department and funded by 4Culture!