Alleys of Seattle

Reading on alleys 1

Posted in History by seattlealleys on May 28, 2010

Since a broken set of fingers has recently delayed my drawing proposals, I have started gathering written material on alleys. Thus far the resources have been scant, particularly in addressing modern uses. My favorite is a little book I had cone across quotes from, called Alleys: A Hidden Resource by the Louisville urbanist, Grady Clay. The book was published in 1978 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s a small book highlighting a brief history of the alleys’ role in the culture of the American city with a specific focus on five alleys in Louisville. These five alleys were selected for their prototypical conditions and locations around the city. Five studies were done with various organisations in the five communities to determine how to make the alleys better places to serve present and future adjacent uses while preserving their character. It’s an incredible precedent for anyone studying how to revitalize alleys in an American city as it highlights the political processes of community meetings and federal and municipal actions necessary to seeing this type of study through. It is also fascinating to look at the five examples on Google street view to see what changes have taken place since the study was done thirty years ago.

“…the quick jump in national automobile ownership – from 2,490,932 in 1915 to 9,239,161 in 1925 – meant that alleys were no longer required as access for horses, barns, and stables with their manure smells and animal noises…alleys were out.”


3 Responses

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  1. Judith McCandless said, on October 1, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Believe me, Grady Clay is alive and well living in Louisville KY. I’m his wife, I ought to know.

  2. seattlealleys said, on October 1, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Wow! Upon my review of the book, a local urban designer who had studied this book before, told me he thought he had passed away!

    That is wonderful – I would be very interested in the results of this awesome study and anything you or your husband might have done with alleyways. I love this book and it has been influential in this study. Thank you so much for writing and correcting me!

    – Daniel

  3. Mariln said, on December 10, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Is there any way to get a copy of this book
    My son obtained his degree in Urban Planning at the University of Cincinnati.
    He has been obsessed with the alleys here and in many other cities. He lived and breaths research and resources about this subject.
    He recently told me that he has been looking for a copy of this book, but has not had any luck in finding a copy.
    It would make his soul swell to be able to have this in his hands. Can anyone give any suggestions??

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