At the turn of the century, the townsfolk of Port Angeles started pressuring the city council to do something, anything, about the smell.
The flooding of sewage and its accompanying stench in the downtown area was really becoming a problem. In 1914 the town finally could take it no longer and drastic measures were taken, raising the street about 10 to 14 feet so that the sewage remained where it belonged – underground.
Many buildings were torn down but some businesses opted to build a second story in order to stay in business. The street raising was done by sluicing dirt from the adjoining hill into the street via wooden pipes and concrete walls, an engineering feat accomplished, astoundingly, completely by hand.
It is now possible to tour the old underground portions of the buildings, starting at the Port Angeles Visitors Center. The tour guide, Don Perry, also happens to be the the deputy mayor of Port Angeles. The tour starts with an info session where Don tells fascinating stories of the town’s history and shows historical pictures of the street project.
The tour given by the Mayor himself really puts the enormity of the project into perspective. It consists of a casual walk which lasts about 2½ hours and includes the old bowling alley that was discovered underground as well as a brothel and a boxing gym.
Part of the tour includes an an old shoe store that still has an original Primex foot-measuring device which used X-rays to measure your foot. Some of the tour is underground and some is above-ground. In some of the underground places you can still see the original hand-mixed concrete retaining wall from 1914.