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Originally published Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 7:02 PM

Now & Then

Seattle was blasted into shape with cannons

The Jackson Street Regrade was the city's second-most-ambitious regrade after the razing of Denny Hill. It extended blocks south of what is still the neighborhood's principal throughway: Jackson Street.

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ALTHOUGH NAMED for Jackson Street, the city's second-most-ambitious regrade after the razing of Denny Hill extended blocks south of what is still the neighborhood's principal throughway: Jackson Street. Nearly six miles of streets and about 56 city blocks were involved — 29 of them excavated and 27 filled in a "balance" of eroding and collecting.

Cannons were used to reshape the landscape by blasting it with saltwater sucked from Elliott Bay. This view of the work was taken from Weller Street, one of the regraders' early targets. The historical photographer looks northwest from near the corner of Eighth Avenue and Weller Street. The cannons are carving their way to lower grades at 12th Avenue and Jackson Street, respectively. Ultimately, with 85 feet cut from the ridge at 12th Avenue, the grade of Jackson Street was reduced from 15 percent to 5. The Weller Street statistics are similar.

The June 7, 1908, Seattle Post-Intelligencer described two "giants working on Eighth Avenue in the rear of the Catholic school property." The school was Holy Names Academy, originally a formidable landmark with a high central spire that opened on Seventh Avenue mid-block between Jackson and King streets, in 1884. On June 8, '08, the school's newest graduates, 11 of them, drew a large audience for their baccalaureate. Everyone understood that within a few days the water cannons would be turned directly at their campus and memories.

The building was razed, and parts of it salvaged, or so it would seem from the neatness of its dismantling as recorded here. The school was rebuilt with a new landmark dome on Capitol Hill, where it continues to serve an all-female student body.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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