Seattle residents stage protest against Interstate 5 Freeway on June 1, 1961.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 9/06/2002
  • Essay 3944
On June 5, 1961, residents of First Hill and other Seattle neighborhoods affected by the construction of the Interstate 5 Freeway stage a protest. Seattle police escort approximately 100 "Stop the Ditch" marchers along the proposed route of the project through a seven-block segment downtown. This action glimpses what would become a more formidable movement against more highway projects in Seattle.

The Everett-Seattle-Tacoma Superhighway was planned in 1951, and the legislature approved it in 1953. The Federal Defense Highway Act of 1956 made the project possible. One of the first voices to rise against the route was former Seattle Mayor George Cotterill (1865-1958), who was concerned about the effects of building the route through a slide-prone area. Residents of First Hill were concerned about the separation of their neighborhood from the rest of the city and about pollution and noise. Architect Paul Thiry (1904-1993) supported a lid over the freeway where businesses and apartments could be built. Downtown interests were concerned about the loss of parking spaces and the increase in traffic.

The federal government would not pay for these enhancements and state officials, including Governor Albert Rosellini (1910-2011), were unwilling to delay the project. The freeway opened in 1967. 

Sources: Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works (Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1998), 94-97;  Don Duncan, "100 Marchers Call for Freeway Lid," The Seattle Daily Times, June 1, 1961, p. 1.
Note: The date of this timeline essay was corrected on December 3, 2011.

Related Topics:   Roads & Rails

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You