FOLLOWUP: SW Thistle stairway’s future, and past

Last week, we reported on SDOT’s online survey looking ahead to 2017 work on the much-used SW Thistle stairway east of Lincoln Park, and nine other stairways around the city. That led to a variety of questions, and today we have answers, thanks to a comment from, and followup e-mail exchanges with, project manager Greg Funk. First:



Funk sent those photos in response to our question about when it was built. While he hasn’t found the exact date, he says records show that it “was approved in May 1945” and that the photos show “the stairway was close to being done in February 1948.”

He also notes that the Thistle stairway includes historical materials: “The stairway is constructed of concrete slabs that used to be the base for the old streetcar, and the R/R tracks were cut up into sections for the rail posts and painted white. The slabs are stacked on top of each other with a brick spacer to give a roughly 6-7 inch rise.”

Since Funk’s comment mentions what sounds like extensive work – “The stairs will be updated so there will be more consistent run rise and upgraded rail on both sides” – we asked what will happen to those historical materials: “If we can, we will build over the existing stairway – it saves on disposal cost, and that’s the plan for this location. Old rail will be cut and scrapped.” (No lighting changes, he says, in case you were wondering.)

As for the project timeline and duration: “It will be closed for about 2-3 months; we have not set a date, but we want to try and be done before summer kicks in, as this is a heavily used stairway.” (Among those who use it – the project manager himself.)

P.S. He says that next year, they’ll get word out earlier about the stairway-work list for 2018 – you should see that list by next March. And if you haven’t responded to the stairway survey for 2017, it remains open through Friday.

10 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: SW Thistle stairway's future, and past"

  • Rick December 27, 2016 (2:49 pm)

    Is Greg any relation to Dave Funk ?Kid I haven’t seen high school days when we were councilors down at Camp Cisbus in Gifford Pinchot.

  • Rick December 27, 2016 (2:51 pm)

     Oops,I meant counselors.

  • ktrapp December 27, 2016 (2:55 pm)

    Very nice!  I run up those stairs, so my two-cents on the survey was for a more consistent rise and run of the steps.  Too bad about the lighting though (but not unexpected).  Having some lights would let me do some more night time routes around there.

    Interesting to see that bike track on the left side of the second photo.  I didn’t think it had those.  And looking on Google Street View, it looks like the bottom portion doesn’t.  But at least it does still exist on the top section, even if it could use some bush trimming.

    • wetone December 28, 2016 (9:20 am)


       “Interesting to see that bike track on the left side of the second photo”

      I believe that is a gutter/trough with stairs graded towards. Many stairways have similar setup to help collect and move water from hillside. Keeping erosion/undermining minimal. 

  • nw December 27, 2016 (3:20 pm)

    From my observations in West Seattle now going on into 40 yrs alot of the concrete slabs and steel rail track from streetcars had been reused in the area maybe beyond too. I salvaged some back in the 90s steel track from a bulkhead being removed from mee kwa mooks the contractor let me have also hauled tonnage to seattle iron and metal when they were on harbor island $$. Good news about the stairway maybe I will actually go walk it for once before and after to appreciate the difference. 

  • TheAdmiral December 27, 2016 (6:47 pm)

    I would love it if we could add a few new stairways in the Admiral/Alki area…

  • Mark Erskine December 27, 2016 (9:18 pm)

    Glad to hear the steps are getting some badly needed attention.  I do the steps 3-4 times per week. I love how they’re basic. I think a better uniformity will help everyone. Well placed low voltage lights that don’t bother neighbors would have been nice for our dark months, but keeping them simple is good too!

  • John December 28, 2016 (9:52 am)

    The historical photos reveal how the hillsides had been clear cut.  

    No clearing like that would be allowed today.   

  • 22blades December 29, 2016 (10:34 pm)

    This is an interesting website I ran into years ago. I’ve always found these stairways really interesting in that they have street names assigned to them .

    • WSB December 29, 2016 (10:46 pm)

      We’ve featured Jake and Cathy, who are West Seattleites, over the years. They’re now at

      The street names are because the stairways really are part of the city-owned right of way. The slopes were too steep for the street to connect, in many spots, like this one, where Thistle stops atop the stairs but continues (a short way, until ending at Fauntleroy) at their end.

Sorry, comment time is over.

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann