Capitol Hill (Seattle)

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Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill, as seen from 9th Avenue and Pine Street looking east.
Capitol Hill, as seen from 9th Avenue and Pine Street looking east.
Map of Capitol Hill's location in Seattle
Map of Capitol Hill's location in Seattle
CountryUnited States
City CouncilDistrict 3
Neighborhood CouncilEast District
Police DistrictEast Precinct, E1-3
Established [1]Annexed to Seattle on Feb. 4, 1886
Founded byJames A. Moore
Named forPotential State Capitol
 • Total1.64 sq mi (4.2 km2)
 • Total32,144
 • Density20,000/sq mi (7,600/km2)
ZIP code
98102, 98112, 98122

Capitol Hill is a densely populated residential district in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is one of the city's most prominent nightlife and entertainment districts and is the center of the city's LGBT and counterculture communities.


Capitol Hill is situated on a steep hill just east of the city's downtown central business district.

The neighborhood is bounded by Interstate 5 (I-5) to the west, beyond which are Downtown, Cascade, and Eastlake; to the north by State Route 520 and Interlaken Park, beyond which are the Portage Bay and Montlake neighborhoods; to the south by E. Union and E. Madison Streets, beyond which are First Hill and the Central District; and to the east by 23rd and 24th Avenues E., beyond which is Madison Valley.

Capitol Hill's main thoroughfare is Broadway, which forms the commercial heart of the district. Other significant streets are 10th, 12th, 15th, and 19th Avenues, all running north–south, and E. Pine, E. Pike, E. John, E. Thomas, and E. Aloha Streets and E. Olive Way, running east–west. Of these streets, large portions of E. Pike Street, E. Pine Street, Broadway, 15th Avenue, and E. Olive Way are lined almost continuously with street-level retail. Overall, the character of the neighborhood is mostly mid-rise buildings with an eclectic mix of businesses.

The Pike-Pine corridor (the area between Pike and Pine street from Boren Avenue through 15th Street is another main thoroughfare of the neighborhood, full of coffeeshops, bars, restaurants, and other food or music related businesses.

The highest point on Capitol Hill, at 444.5 feet (135.5 m) above sea level, is in Volunteer Park, adjacent to the water tower. Capitol Hill is also responsible for half of Seattle's 12 steepest street grades: 21% on E. Roy Street between 25th and 26th Avenues E. (eastern slope), 19% on E. Boston Street between Harvard Avenue E. and Broadway E. (western slope) and on E. Ward Street between 25th and 26th Avenues E. (eastern slope), and 18% on E. Highland Drive between 24th and 25th Avenues E. (eastern slope), on E. Lee Street between 24th and 25th Avenues E. (eastern slope), and on E. Roy Street between Melrose and Bellevue Avenues E. (western slope).

Panorama of Capitol Hill during blue hour as seen from the 40th floor of 1525 9th Ave.


Capitol Hill c. 1917

Circa 1900, Capitol Hill was known as 'Broadway Hill' after the neighborhood's main thoroughfare. The origin of the neighborhood's current name is disputed. James A. Moore, the real estate developer who platted much of the area, reportedly named it in the hope that the Washington state capitol would move to Seattle from Olympia. Another story states that Moore named it after the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, his wife's hometown. According to author Jacqueline Williams, both stories are likely true.[3]

Due to its one-time large Roman Catholic population, Capitol Hill was frequently referred to as Catholic Hill up until the 1980s.[4]

View of Fourteenth Avenue, an area known as Millionaore's Row (published 1909 in an Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition pamphlet

Capitol Hill contains some of Seattle's wealthiest neighborhoods, including "Millionaire's Row" along 14th Avenue E. south of Volunteer Park (family residences on tree-lined streets) and the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District.

A Fred Anhalt apartment building on Harvard Avenue E

Capitol Hill also has many distinguished apartment houses, including several by Fred Anhalt, as well as a few surviving Classical Revival complexes such as the Blackstone Apartments. However, the neighborhood's architecture did not fare so well in the decades immediately after World War II. Architect Victor Steinbrueck wrote in 1962 of the "tremendous growth of less-than-luxury apartments" that at first "appear to be consistent with the clean, direct approach associated with contemporary architecture" but whose "open outdoor corridors" totally defeat their "large 'view' windows" by giving occupants no privacy if they leave their blinds open to enjoy the view. "Most tenants close their blinds and look for another apartment when their lease runs out."[5]

Since 1997, Capitol Hill has hosted the Capitol Hill Block Party annually in late July, an outdoor music festival that occurs on Pike Street between Broadway and 12th Ave and Union and Pine Street.

Bus transit service to and within Capitol Hill is provided by King County Metro, including electric trolleybus routes 10, 12, 43 and 49 of the Seattle trolleybus system. The First Hill Streetcar line, which opened in January 2016, terminates in the neighborhood.

The Capitol Hill station of Link Light Rail opened in March 2016, as part of the University Link extension. A large 3-building development is currently under construction above the light rail station, with construction estimated to be complete in 2020. This will bring significant height and density increases in the Broadway corridor of Capitol Hill. The zoning exception was made by the City Council in exchange for an increase above the typical minimum percentage of affordable housing units. The new buildings will include 41% affordable units.


A club from a much earlier era: a sign over the rear door of the Harvard Exit Theatre recognizes the Woman's Century Club, founded in 1891; the club constructed the building in 1925 to serve as its clubhouse, and still meets there regularly.

Large-scale gay residential settlement of Capitol Hill began in the early 1960s. Accordingly, this district is home to a sizable number of gay and lesbian couples making Capitol Hill Seattle's "gayborhood".[6]

Capitol Hill has a reputation as a bastion of musical culture in Seattle and is the neighborhood most closely associated with the grunge scene from the early 1990s, although most of the best-known music venues of that era were actually located slightly outside the neighborhood. The music scene has transformed since those days and now a variety of genres (electronica, rock, punk, folk, salsa, hip hop and trance) are represented.

The neighborhood figures prominently in nightlife and entertainment, with many bars hosting live music and with numerous fringe theatres. Most of the Hill's major thoroughfares are dotted with coffeehouses, taverns and bars, and residences cover the gamut from modest motel-like studio apartment buildings to some of the city's most historic mansions, with the two types sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder.

Capitol Hill is also home to two of the city's best-known movie theaters, both of which are part of the Landmark Theatres chain. Both theaters are architectural conversions of private meeting halls: the Harvard Exit (now closed permanently) in the former home of the Woman's Century Club (converted in the early 1970s) and the Egyptian Theatre, in a former Masonic lodge (converted in the mid-1980s). There is also Seattle's only cinematheque, the Northwest Film Forum, which in addition to screening films, teaches classes on filmmaking and produces film alongside Seattle's burgeoning filmmaking community. The Broadway Performance Hall, located on the campus of Seattle Central College (SCC), also hosts a variety of lectures, performances, and films. These theaters respectively host showings for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival every year. The cast of MTV's Real World Seattle: Bad Blood lived in and were filmed in Capitol Hill during 2016.


Stacks of coffee beans ready for roasting at Caffé Vita

Besides the large Seattle-based chains—Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee (now owned by Starbucks), and Tully's Coffee—Capitol Hill has been home to some of the city's most prominent locally owned coffeehouses. The neighborhood is considered a test market for coffee houses by Starbucks Corporation, which placed two stealth Starbucks stores on Capitol Hill in 2009 and 2011.[7]

Landmarks and institutions[edit]

Kerry Hall is the original building of the Cornish School and now the last piece of the Cornish College of the Arts remaining on the Hill (the rest is now in the Denny Triangle).

Registered Historic Places on Capitol Hill include the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District, in which is located the original building of the Cornish College of the Arts; Volunteer Park, in which are the Seattle Asian Art Museum and Volunteer Park Conservatory; and The Northwest School.

In addition to Volunteer Park, parks on the Hill include the exquisite fountain and lawn themed Cal Anderson Park, Louisa Boren Park, Interlaken Park, Roanoke Park, and Thomas Street Park. Lake View Cemetery, containing the graves of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee, lies directly north of Volunteer Park, and the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery north of it in turn.

St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral dominates the North Capitol Hill skyline.

Also on the Hill are The Northwest School, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hamlin Robinson School, St. Joseph School, Holy Names Academy, Seattle Hebrew Academy, Seattle Preparatory School, Seattle University, Seattle Central Community College, and St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral.

The oldest African-American church in Seattle is located on 14th Avenue, between E. Pike and E. Pine streets. The First African Methodist Episcopal Church was originally incorporated in 1891 as the Jones Street Church (when 14th Avenue was called Jones Street). The church was constructed in 1912, replacing the large house where congregations were previously held on the same site. It was designated as a Seattle landmark in 1984.[8]

The First Methodist Protestant Church of Seattle, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was remodeled and is now[when?] occupied by a design and marketing firm.

There is one Jewish synagogue near Capitol Hill. Temple De Hirsch Sinai, whose Alhadeff Sanctuary was designed by B. Marcus Priteca, among others, is just south of Madison Street, placing it technically in the Central District.[9]


  1. ^ "Seattle Annexation Map". Archived from the original on 2012-06-14.
  2. ^ a b c "Based on King County Census Tracts 64, 65, 74.01, 74.02, 75, 76, and 84" (PDF).
  3. ^ Seattle Neighborhoods: Capitol Hill, Part 1 — Thumbnail History
  4. ^ Atkins, Gary (2003). Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging…. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 272–292. ISBN 978-0-295-98298-4.
  5. ^ Victor Steinbrueck, Seattle Cityscape, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1962, p. 73.
  6. ^ Hill, Chrystie. "Queer History in Seattle, Part 2: After Stonewall". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  7. ^ Your local indie coffee shop may be a Stealth Starbucks
  8. ^ Mary T. Henry. "HistoryLink File #1621". First African Methodist Episcopal Church (Seattle). Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  9. ^ Temple De Hirsch Sinai

External links[edit]