The City of Seattle’s geological formation looks as though a glacial hand pressed into the land like cookie dough. There are valleys across Seattle and north-south-running ridges as though the dough oozed up between the fingers of the hand. For this reason Seattle is a city of hills and sharp drop-offs where in some places streets could not be put through because of the steep grade.
To get through where there are no streets, Seattle has hillside stairways for pedestrians. Seattle has more than 660 outdoor stairways which are built and maintained by the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation.
Blaine Street Steps with Streissguth Gardens at the top. Photo by Cary Simmons.
Some of Seattle’s most well-known stairways are on its steepest hills, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne.
The Howe Street Stairs on Capitol Hill start at the intersection of 10th Ave East & East Howe Street, and contain 388 steps down to Lakeview Blvd East. This stairway was built in 1911 and it is believed to have been done so that people could reach a streetcar line on the arterial street.
The Blaine Street Stairs, which are parallel with Howe Street, contain 293 steps. The Blaine Street Stairs pass through Streissguth Gardens on the hillside. Hilltop vantage points from both sets of steps, Howe Street and Blaine Street, reward the climber with spectacular views.
Like Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill was one of Seattle’s earliest residential neighborhoods. It acquired its name in the 1880s-1890s because of its many Victorian/Queen Anne style houses. This hill has had many beautification projects such as creation of boulevards and outlooks for the view southward to downtown Seattle and westward out over Elliott Bay.
Queen Anne’s Wilcox Wall, built 1913-1915, is actually a retaining wall with stairs built into it. It extends between 7th and 8th Avenues West and includes the Marshall Park Viewpoint. The Queen Anne Historical Society has a map of all of the pedestrian stairways on the hill (see source list below.)
Wilcox Wall on Queen Anne Hill was built in 1913-1915.