When Seattle streets were regraded, supported residences were either lowered with a jack or given a new first floor with a new foundation.

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IN THIS DISRUPTED street scene we get a fine lesson in how homes were propped up while the ground below them was removed during street regrades — here at Spring Street and Fifth Avenue. Near the end of the grading, supported residences are lowered with a jack — one spacer at a time — or given a new first floor with a new foundation. (In this case, the buildings were lowered.)

St. Francis Hall, the institution on the far right, was built in 1890-91 by the Rev. Francis Xavier Prefontaine. Seattle’s first Catholic priest was known as much for his street savvy as for his pulpit homilies. Prefontaine rented his new hall first to Jesuits for their original incarnation of Seattle Prep, but then to many others, including the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Foresters, dance instructor Professor Ourat (from Florence) and the Andante Non Troppo Club, also for dance.

I’ve chosen “about 1909” as the year for this subject largely from past assumptions. For instance, by 1909 St. Francis Hall has passed from sight and citation — or nearly so.

In 1884 Matilda and Nelson Chilberg built the home standing here on the far left. With eight broad-shouldered brothers from Sweden — including Nelson — the Chilberg family was known for its industry. For instance, Matilda and Nelson opened a grocery at the foot of Cherry Street, raised oats on the Swinomish Flats, ran a dairy in Chimacum (near Port Townsend) and opened another grocery in Skagway while prospecting in Alaska.

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In 1908, the Chilbergs, with their daughter, Mabel, a teacher at Seattle High School, left their pioneer corner and moved farther up the hill. This upheaval on Spring Street most likely spurred them.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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