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Learn About Seattle Right of Way History

Missed National Read a Book Day (Sept 6)? Anytime is a good time to pick up a book!


SDOT Director Scott Kubly relaxes with a good book.

Here are a few suggested reads that highlight the history of Seattle’s largest publicly-owned feature – its rights of way.

Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle, by Paul de Barros

Seattle has long been a music town, and this book provides an intimate portrait of the history of jazz in Seattle during the 1940s and 1950s. Jackson Street was home to more than a dozen music clubs, including the Entertainers Club at 12th and Jackson and the Dumas Club at 1040 Jackson. This street was also where many world famous musicians got their start  – both Ray Charles and Quincy Jones had some of their first gigs along Jackson. A good read on Seattle’s rich history, this book will provide you with new appreciation for any walk, bike, or streetcar ride you make up Jackson – you’re literally walking the route of stars.

Lost Seattle, by Rob Ketcherside

Before “historic preservation” became a common term, Seattle lost many of its exquisite homes, elegant hotels, and beautiful buildings to newer development. Along with the ghosts of these structures-past, Lost Seattle also resurrects many of our city’s former transportation options: long before Link light rail, Seattle was home to an interurban railway; before modern streetcars, there were cable cars. Lost Seattle provides powerful insider knowledge into how the streets and streetscapes of our city have changed.

Too High and Too Steep, by David B. Williams

As all Seattleite pedestrians and cyclists know, Seattle is hilly. However, many of the grades we have come to loathe as bipeds are actually much less steep than they were when settlers arrived in the 1800s. The Denny Triangle, for example, was formerly the Denny Hill, which was taken down to its current slope and elevation after a series of regrades. Williams also provides readers with helpful hints for finding physical clues of Seattle’s former topography in their own neighborhood – who’s up for some forensic geology during an after-dinner walk?

Happy reading!