In September 1884, a nickel could have bought a ride on Frank Osgood’s new horse-drawn streetcar that ran along Seattle’s Second Avenue. The horses, or “hayburners,” were slowly replaced by more effective electric streetcars, but the city’s hilly topography made complete urban connectivity a challenge.
To ease the daily commute, staircases were built all around the city, to connect transport lines and neighborhoods located at varying altitudes. The Howe Street stairs, built in 1911, is the longest stairway of this kind, spanning an elevation of 160 feet.
The stairwell was originally built to link two streetcar lines, but is today used as an outdoor gym of sorts for runners and climbers who turn to the steps for a thorough workout. The I-5 Colonnade park rests at the base of the stairs and is a natural starting or ending point for runs.
On the way up, Lake Union and Portage Bay slowly come into view, and with some squinting, so do the distant Olympic mountains. The staircase consists of 13 flights with 388 total steps. It runs along Capitol Hill, ending at Howe Street, which gives it its name.