There is nothing more enjoyable right now than for my 17 month old son to climb stairs in our neighborhood. For better (pride), or worse (bruises), he goes up and down each step as careful as one can when they are only 30” tall with a stride of about 6”. He likes to stop at everyone’s front porch, stoop, and particularly is excited when we come across one of Queen Anne’s public stairways.As if it were a path to the heavens, my son eagerly tackles the long stretches of stairs more enthusiastically than most of us would admit. During our walks, we’ve seen you on those last few steps coming up Galer, huffy and puffing, bent over and straddling the hand rail. We’ve also seen the couples secretly steeling a quiet moment on the Comstock Grand Dame, the dog walkers, the joggers, and nosey neighbors peaking around the laurel hedges into backyards. Just one last stair….that is what a lot of us are thinking when we journey about our neighborhood on foot and encounter one of our many public stairways. Our stairs can be a part of forgotten public spaces, lined with encroaching private homes and their gardens. However, I think we’ve lost some of the beauty of our stairs that few other neighborhoods are privileged with.
Like a Northwest Italian Hill town, our Queen Anne is draped with public stairs that snake their way around backyards and around overgrown evergreen hedges. The Queen Anne neighborhood is a living organism and our public stairways act like the stretchy ligaments holding up and connecting our roads and homes. What would we do without them? Many of our stairs were constructed in the 1930s by the Public Works Administration (PWA). Besides being historic infrastructure, they offer shortcuts, views, and support the walkability of our neighborhood. According to Walk Score, Seattle is the 6th most walkable large city in the US, with different parts of Queen Anne scored accordingly, based largely on topography. It states that “most errands can be accomplished on foot in Seattle,” and this can only be accomplished in Queen Anne, due to our networks of stairs. I don’t think any of us would want to switchback their way up to Queen Anne Drive for a beverage or errand.
Whether you’re training for a summit on a local mountain, or just wanting to get from Point A to Point B, the stairs of Queen Anne provide many opportunities for exploration and discovery. Perhaps we shouldn’t see our stairs as obstacles too daunting to tackle, but pieces of the journey where wisdom and insight can be gained along them.
Written by 2013 QAHS Vice President Aaron Luoma