Early day Seattle was started as a lumber town. Settlers were savvy enough to see the economic potential in selling the timber to the many ships that were calling on Seattle. The original part of town was built around and on the water using wood. In fact, the town’s first water system was made by drilling logs out and connecting them together. The old buildings we see today were built after the great fire and most of them were built out of brick and stone.
Much of the city burned in 1889 and this provided an opportunity to raise the ground level well above the water level. By raising the ground level, the early Seattleites were able to rebuild their crude sewer system that allowed backflows in their water closets and those occurred twice daily at high tide. The toilets became fountains and unaware of this, newcomers became known as “wet backs”.