Seattle's a unique city in that it still relies on many of the same infrastructure that it was originally built upon. While the underground portions of the city are now tourist attractions, it originally served as a great location for both installing outhouses and the distance from Elliot Bay for hauling in water for flushing and cooking purposes.
Before the turn of the century, Thomas Crapper brought an outhouse replacement to Seattle - the Crapper. Unfortunately, it needed to be connected to a centralized sewage system. Originally they pumped water into the bay, but as you'd imagine, life that close to the water led to serious problems in the early residences of the town. Flooding and exploding toilets were common due to incoming tides, leading to increased interest in plumbing improvements in the city.
After a major fire that nearly destroyed the city in 1889, buildings were rebuilt with 8-foot high walls on either side of the sidewalks and began to fill them in in order to raise up the street level to deal with the water problems. This created the underground tunnels in the city, making it very easy to install plumbing systems in older buildings without the need for extensive excavation or retrofitting.
Another benefit of the fire led to a realization that Seattle needed a proper water supply system, leading to water mains bringing water from high-altitude sources surrounding the area. Some of these large cedar water mains are still in use today.
97% of Seattle residents had flushing toilets by the 1940s and upper-class homes began installing second or additional half-baths in order to accommodate larger families and more luxurious lifestyles.
If you've been taking your plumbing for granted lately and worry that your system may need a check-up, contact Pioneer Plumbing and Heating today and we'll bring your plumbing up to 21st century standards.