Table Topic questions are meant to stimulate family and classroom discussion.
Use the questions below after reading,"City reshaped: up and down."
The regrading projects of the early 1900s were a classic case of development versus the environment.
Seattle's steep hills stood in the way of growth -- so down they went, although not without monumental human
effort. At the time, there were no environmental laws to speak of or impact statements to file.
Are current environment regulations essential to a healthy ecosystem or limitations to the development
of the next century's great cities? How should we balance economic growth with environmental preservation?
- Not everyone agreed with R. H. Thomson's vision of Seattle, including the always outspoken
Seattle Times, which accused him of graft. But Thomson was not deterred by opposition or lawsuits.
If you've been following the Centennial pages, you've probably noticed that Seattle's early history
was shaped by powerful characters with vision, personal agendas and clout, like engineer Thompson,
publisher Blethen, politician Gill and reformer Matthews. Power seems less concentrated today.
Do things get done just as well (or better) through coalition building as through strong, individual leadership?
- Look through today's newspaper for examples of proposed urban planning projects that will
change the face of our city or region. Where are new visions about regional development coming
from and what's the decision-making process? Can individuals with a dream still make a difference?
- Invite your family and friends to take a walking tour of the Denny Regrade area.
Imagine that instead of strolling the flats, you're sitting in the lounge of the Washington
Hotel on top of 190-foot Denny Hill, sipping tea and looking over the city below. Or,
imagine that city voters of 1912 had passed the Bogue Plan and the Regrade was the hub of town.
How does Seattle look to you now?
- The project created simply awesome dirt piles.
Some sixteen million cubic yards of dirt were removed from city hillsides,
enough to fill the Kingdome over six times. Sick of the mess, disruption and cost,
people voted down a comprehensive new plan for the city. Looking back, was this a good decision?
If you had the chance to re-design the city, how would you do it? Is it better to start from
a central plan or to grow organically, bit by bit?
- Think about all the changes a modern society imposes on
the natural terrain to create accessibility. Urban Puget Sound would hardly
be possible without bridges and tunnels, lake-connecting locks, freeways over mountain passes,
telephone and electrical networks, and the machinery and technology to accomplish them.
But earlier societies also changed the environment to make it more livable. In what ways might
Indian peoples or early settlers have altered the land? And why? Subduing the earth has brought
benefits -- what are the losses?
Copyright © 1996 The Seattle Times Company