Food & Drink

Backstory: Why Some Seattle Hatch Covers Are Adorned with Street Art

A beautification effort provided art for city maintenance entries

By Sydney Gladu October 1, 2019

Backstory_Web

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the October 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

The Landmark: Seattle hatch covers
The Location: Various locations, including downtown, Seattle Center and South Lake Union

The Backstory: If you walk through downtown or Seattle Center with your head in the clouds or your nose in your phone, you’re missing out: You just might have stepped on a piece of street art. But pay attention and you may see Garth Edwards’ abstract folk-art-style figures staring back at you. Or perhaps you’ll glimpse Anne Knight’s relief map of Seattle or catch Alaskan Native artist Nathan Jackson’s intertwining Tlingit whales. All are images depicted on hatch covers across the city. (You may also know them as manhole covers.)

The idea for the project began in the 1950s when Jacquetta Blanchett, then Seattle’s art commissioner, traveled to Florence, Italy, where she was inspired by the ornate hatch covers that decorated the streets. Blanchett made a private donation to kickstart the project in 1975 with 13 covers, each depicting a relief map of the city designed by local artist Knight; additional donors paid for six more covers. Knight’s 3-D map highlights the unique topography of Seattle as well as 13 landmarks (look carefully for the little stainless steel raised pin that indicates “you are here”). Not all of Blanchett’s 19 have survived city development.

A year later, the city commissioned Jackson to create another design. His intertwining whales are seen on 32 hatch covers—the most for a single artist. Today, more than 100 covers on our city streets feature designs by seven artists. So, next time you’re out and about, be sure to watch your step.

Follow Us

8 Must-See Films at SIFF This Week

8 Must-See Films at SIFF This Week

Movies that will make you laugh, cry, and think

As SIFF continues its celebration of 50 years, we've selected some must-sees for this week, from films that will get your heart pounding to those that make you laugh out loud — maybe even a few that'll reshape how you see the world...

The Wild Sauna of Seattle

The Wild Sauna of Seattle

A taste of Norwegian culture comes to the Pacific Northwest

In the heart of Kirkland, tied up to a public dock, one of the United States’ first floating saunas bobs on Lake Washington, providing a unique experience inspired by sauna culture in Norway. On a recent crisp chilly day, I had the opportunity to visit Von Sauna...

Party on, Seattle!

Party on, Seattle!

The city doesn’t have to fight for its right to party

Who likes to party? I do, and apparently, so do you, because Seattle is ranked among the top party cities in America.

The Therapy Revolution

The Therapy Revolution

 Changing your ability to love, one session at a time

To my mind, some form of counseling or therapy is helpful in preparation for meeting someone, in maintenance of a relationship, in repair when relationships stall or shatter, and in support when you have to start the whole dance over again. Photo by Glasshouse Images/Getty