My New Book – Too High and Too Steep

I am pleased to announce that I have started work on a new book about the evolution of the topography of Seattle. Tentatively titled Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, the book should come out in 2015. It will be published by the University of Washington Press.

More so than most cities, Seattle has shaped itself to suit its needs. The citizens of Seattle have dug up, dug into, dumped upon, and carted away its original topography as few other cities have. They have completely removed a 245-foot-high hill that covered 60 blocks of the downtown; built in the harbor what was for many decades the largest artificial island in the world; rejiggered the drainage of the second largest lake in the state so that it flowed out of its north end instead of its south end; and dumped millions of tons of dirt and rock to fill in the area’s only tide flats, which created almost 3,000 acres of new land. And they did most of this within 75 years of the settlers’ landing.

In Too High and Too Steep, I plan to tell the story of how and why Seattle looks like it does. Each chapter will weave personal observations, via a guided walking or biking tour, discussions with experts, and examination of both historical and more recent documents to give the reader a close-up view of the landscape, why it was altered, how politics and money led to those changes, and how reshaping of the land still influences decision making.

The title comes from an article in the Harvard Business Review. “The Hill was too high and too steep to be utilized for business purposes so that inevitably…the Hill had to be removed.” That specific hill was Denny Hill, which will be the feature I focus on in one chapter of my book.

4 thoughts on “My New Book – Too High and Too Steep”

  1. Jessica Amanda Salmonson, I think the name is, did a germane story called “The Hill Is No Longer There”. Now she needs to come back and do one about Queen Anne’s springs.
    Sounds like an interesting read.

  2. This book sounds like it will be fascinating and I can’t wait to read it. I would be happy to be a chapter reviewer; feel free to email me if this is of interest.

  3. I will pay for an copy in advance with one caveat – send me as much information about this historical transformation as you can.
    I am a tour bus driver and I strive to give my guests – along with the usual information that visitors need – an idea of how the topography of Seattle has changed so radically from its founding.
    I have them imagine that our bus is half-submerged as we’re driving along Alaskan Way on the waterfront. I ask them to picture a 16 foot bluff to the east.
    I talk about a 50-year process of moving dirt from the hills of Seattle and filling in the waterfront and the tidal flats of SODO.
    But my research and information is spotty at best. I want to have more concrete facts and a better understanding of the details.
    What can I do to help move this project forward, and glean the details that help engage my guests?

    Chris Ott

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