David Williams Book Signing
In Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, David Williams weaves personal observations, guided walking or biking tours, discussions with experts, and historical documents and photos. Exploring Seattle's geology, technology, politics, and money, Williams reveals the story of how Seattle came to be shaped as it is.
Seattle is a city re-shaped, built upon land that was once water, rising through space that was once earth. David William’s latest book, Too High and Too Steep, explores how we shaped the city through projects such as filling in the Duwamish tideflats, rejiggering Lake Washington, and regrading Denny Hill.
Within months of establishing their settlement in November 1851, Seattle’s founding families realized they had made a mistake. They needed to re-locate to where the harbor was deeper, even though that shore made a poor building site. After surveying Puget Sound from a canoe, in the middle of winter, dropping a rope weighted by horseshoes, Seattle re-located, and the re-shaping of Seattle began.
More so than most cities, Seattle has shaped itself to suit its needs. The citizens of Seattle have dug up, dug into, dumped upon, and carted away its original topography as few other cities have. They have completely removed a 245-foot-high hill that covered 60 blocks of the downtown; built in the harbor what was for many decades the largest artificial island in the world; rejiggered the drainage of the second largest lake in the state so that it flowed out of its north end instead of its south end; and dumped millions of tons of dirt and rock to fill in the area’s only tide flats, which created almost 3,000 acres of new land. And they did most of this within 75 years of the settlers’ landing.
Williams says his writing career evolved from his career as an educator. With a degree in geology, he taught natural history at Canyonlands Field Institute (Utah) and Arches Natural Park. It was here he wrote A Naturalist’s Guide to Canyon Country, recently updated and re-released. When he and his wife moved back to David’s hometown of Seattle, he published The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist: Field Notes from the City, a collection of essays looking at nature in what many consider our most unnatural places, the urban environment. He followed this with Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology, which weaves together the natural and cultural history of building stone from around the country. Captivated by rock cairns, in all their variations around the globe, Williams wrote Cairns: Messengers in Stone. For thousands of years, people have fashioned piles of stones to delineate trails, honor ancestors, and mark territory. In doing so they have sought not only to connect to place but to communicate and share timeless messages. Too High and Too Steep is David B. William’s latest work, released Sept 2015.