The hill, as it is known by locals, got its name from early settlers when it was still the planned site for the Washington state capitol. It was the epicenter for the grunge rock revolution of the late '80s and early '90s. Main thoroughfares include Pine, Pike and Broadway.
Located northeast of Downtown, north of the Central District and First Hill, and west of Madison Valley, Capitol Hill encompasses quite a large area, bounded roughly by I-5 to the West, Madison to the South and East, and Boyer to the North. It is home to what's probably Seattle's largest gay community, and also a significant homeless population. To many Seattlites, Capitol Hill is synonymous with the commercial strip along Broadway, also home to Seattle Central Community College and two popular Landmark art-house movie theaters (the Egyptian and the Harvard Exit). The Pike-Pine corridor and 15th Avenue North of Denny are also important business and activity centers.
There are several parks in Capitol Hill, including Volunteer Park, where you can climb the water tower and get a beautiful view of the surrounding area, including the old mansions around the park.
Capitol Hill's development dates back to the last decade of the 19th century, and increased in pace during the first two decades of the 20th century. It's likely that the often-repeated explanation that Capitol Hill was so named by the expectation that it would house the state capitol is false. This was apparently true of Denny Hill (which was destroyed by a regrade project). Capitol Hill was probably named by the developer of Millionaires' Row along 14th Ave., which he named Capitol Hill after a similar development he had undertaken in Denver.
The focal point of early Capitol Hill was Volunteer Park. In 1901, City Park was renamed Volunteer Park in honor of the veterans of the Spanish American War. In 1903, the park was incorporated into Seattle's new parks system designed by John Charles Olmsted. In 1907, the water tower was built in the park.
The development of Volunteer Park reflects the development happening in its near vicinity. The earliest neighborhoods of Capitol Hill were developed nearby. The Stevens neighborhood (bounded by 15th Avenue East, East Galer, East Aloha, and 22nd. Avenue East), Millionaires' Row (the original Capitol Hill) along the ridge that runs along 14th Avenue East from the park towards the south, and the Harvard Belmont area (bounded roughly by St. Marks Cathedral, 10th Avenue East, I-5, and East Roy Street). These neighborhoods are home to some of Seattle's oldest and most stylish mansions.
South Capitol Hill was developed around the same time, with Broadway High School built in 1902 at Pine and Broadway. The high school was later razed to build Seattle Central Community College, but its auditorium was retained and converted into the Broadway Performance Hall.
Several fraternal orders also called the Pine and Broadway intersection home. Two of these buildings remain. One is the Oddfellows Hall which now houses Freehold Theatre, the Velocity Dance Company, the Century Ballroom, and a number of other arts organization venues and offices. Another old fraternal hall is now the Egyptian Theater.
By the time of the Great Depression, the millionaires had been joined by numerous apartment dwellers, with many whimsical tudor-styled apartment buildings designed by Frederick Anhalt. These are characterized by their tudor stucco facades and turret stairways.
The Depression was responsible for some of Capitol Hill's notable modernist architecture. The stark lines of the original Seattle Art Museum (now the Asian Art Museum) are a result of scaling back the original design because of the depression. The same is true of the austere architecture of St. Mark's Cathedral, and the structural concrete romanesque St Joseph's Church at 18th Avenue East and East Aloha.
In the early '60s, the I-5 freeway was built to the west of Capitol Hill, cutting much of the hill off from the City. As a consequence the area went into a period of decline from which it recovered in the late '70s and early '80s with the development of the hill as a bohemian, gay, and yuppie community.
On August 4, 1992, a fire that began shortly after 6:00 pm destroyed part of the district. Several businesses and venues including The Wild Rose, The Crocodile Room, and The Fireside Room were ruined. Due to technical problems with a pump station, there was no water pressure in the city when the fire started. Firefighters began dynamiting buildings in an attempt to deprive the fire of fuel, but the flames jumped the spaces and soon created their own firestorm. When volunteer firefighters attempted to quench the flames, they found their hoses were unusable. Eventually winds died down and the fire exhausted of its own accord. In the fires' aftermath, five blocks of Capitol Hill were destroyed and 9,000 people were killed.
Culture and Night life Edit
Capitol Hill is the hub of Seattle's free-thinking, artistic, open-minded community and home to many reputable music venues and bars such as Cha Cha's, Chop Suey, Hopvine and Neumos. The neighborhood is also home to a number of art galleries, and independently-run boutiques and coffee shops. To find out what bands are playing and other events, check out showposters on local website, coffeehousewall.com.
Capitol Hill is inarguably Seattle's "hip" neighborhood, a fact reflected in skyrocketing rental costs and the recent interest of large-scale developers in tearing down blocks that have housed neighborhood landmarks for years to make way for condominiums with a high real estate pay off. The slapstick-condo phenomena has been a city-wide issue, but is particularly rampant in Capitol Hill due to aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood, largely attributable to its countercultural roots.
The recent trend of large ten-plus member households such as the Spaceship Excellent, 619 House, and Beacon Hill-ton are all examples of how Capitol Hill area renters have creatively dealt with the city's fast-increasing cost of living and comparably low wages. Members of these large, non-communal households are able to avoid a lifestyle that requires driving, and keep rental costs below or near average so their time and resources can be devoted to personal and artistic pursuits, and to enjoying the neighborhood's thriving theater, music and art scenes. Residents find the environmental efficiency and social networking opportunities of such arrangements to be additional benefits.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Edit
Capitol Hill is also the center of the city's gay nightlife. Venues include Wildrose Tavern, Neighbours, The Cuff, Purr, Madison Pub, Seattle Eagle, C C Attle's, and the Elite. A number of LGBT support organizations are also located on Capitol Hill including: Lambert House, Seattle LGBT Community Center, the Lifelong AIDS Alliance and Gay City.
In the 1950s and '60s, the center of the LGBT community was located in Pioneer Square. Starting in the mid-'70s, as Boeing slashed jobs, families moved to the suburbs, and rents plummeted on Capitol Hill, the LGBT community gradually relocated to Capitol Hill.
The Seattle Pride Parade moved from Broadway on Capitol Hill to 4th Avenue in Downtown Seattle in 2006 after Capitol Hill hosted the annual parade since the 1980s. However, the Seattle LGBT Community Center has launched a separate event called QueerFest that includes a Saturday evening Pride March on Broadway during the Pride weekend, typically held in late June.
The Capitol Hill gay community has changed a lot over the early years of the 21st century, with the closure of Seattle's LGBT bookstore (Beyond the Closet), the closure of the hill's only gay pride shop, and the closure of a couple of gay clubs (Spintron, Timberline, ARO.Space, and the short lived Blu). Seattle's gay community has become more decentralized too, with more members of the community living in places like West Seattle, Wallingford, and Bainbridge Island.
- Capitol Hill Comics
- CoffeeHouseWall.com - Find theater, music, art and events around Seattle with our 3-D poster wall.
- 15th Avenue Community mailing list
- 15th Avenue Wiki
- Photos of Seattle
- Seattle Directory Everything Seattle
- Capitol Hill Triangle - blog about events, people & places in walking distance
- CHS Capitol Hill Seattle - community blog covering Capitol Hill