Garbage dump on Seattle's Queen Anne Hill converted to sanitary fill, possibly the first in nation, by May 1920.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 4/01/2001
  • Essay 3160
See Additional Media

By May 1920, a Seattle garbage dump on Queen Anne hill (Crockett Street between Nob Hill and 3rd Avenue N) has been converted to a sanitary fill, possibly the first in the nation. A sanitary fill is a garbage dump which, while in operation, is covered daily with 10 to 12 inches of earth. After years of use for waste disposal, these sanitary fills can beĀ  reclaimed for buildings, parks, parking lots, and other uses.

During the early twentieth century in Seattle, an urgent situation arose concerning waste disposal. The refuse crisis stemmed from the population explosion. In 1900, the Seattle population stood at about 80,000; by 1910, it had leaped to 240,000 people.

A lively controversy bubbled over the relative merits of incinerators (refuse destructors) versus sanitary land fills for the disposal of garbage.

In 1905, City Engineer R. H. Thomson toured Europe to investigate garbage disposal systems and returned highly impressed with the method of incineration (refuse destructors). The idea of the destructors was to use the clinker for roadbuilding and to use the fire to produce steam (for use in steam laundries or to heat buildings). Seattle built four refuse destructors (the first in 1908 on the south end of Lake Union), but they were only used for a few years. Garbage dumps, which were eventually made into sanitary land fills, were persistently found to be more economical.

In May 1920, the following sites were listed as dumping places. They include the Crockett Street sanitary land fill.

  • Terry Avenue, south shore of Lake Union -- private property and street;
  • South end of Wallingford Avenue -- city property;
  • Market Street and 28th Avenue NW -- private property and street;
  • North of E Madison, vicinity of 30th Avenue N -- park property;
  • 26th Avenue N and E Miller Street -- park property;
  • West Garfield and 22nd Avenue W;
  • Foot of 26th Avenue NE;
  • Puget Mill Property -- one-half mile south the Youngstown;
  • 1st Avenue S and W Dakota Street -- Railroad property;
  • Oregon Street between 42nd and 44th avenues S;
  • Crockett Street between Nob Hill and 3rd Avenue N (the sanitary land fill);
  • Block bounded by Dexter Avenue, Valley Street, 8th Avenue and Aloha Street; in Block 9, Eden Addition;
  • Southeast corner of 4th Avenue S and Spokane Street -- Park property;
  • The Columbia City Branch Library grounds;
  • Green Lake field house and playfield area.

By the 1970s, much of this land, some 150 acres, had been reclaimed.


Myra L. Phelps, Public Works in Seattle: A Narrative History: the Engineering Department, 1875-1975 (Seattle: Seattle Engineering Department, 1978), 205-208; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "1900 Census" and "1910 Census," (by Greg Lange),

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You