Capitol Hill is the second most densely populated neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, after Belltown (the north part of downtown). It is the center of gay life in Seattle as well as a center of its counterculture, while also home to some of the city's grandest mansions.
The origin of the neighborhood's name is disputed. According to one story, James A. Moore, the real estate developer who platted much of the area, named it thus in the hope that the Washington government would move to Seattle from Olympia. According to another, Moore named it after the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, his wife's hometown. It is thought by the editors of HistoryLink that the true story is a combination of the two.
Prior to Moore's naming it so in 1901, Capitol Hill was known as Broadway Hill.
Due to its one-time large Catholic population, Capitol Hill was frequently referred to as Catholic Hill up until the 1950s.
It is bounded by Interstate 5 to the west, beyond which are Downtown, Cascade, and Eastlake; by Washington State Route 520 and Interlaken Park to the north, beyond which is Montlake; by E. Pike and E. Madison Streets to the south, beyond which are First Hill and the Central District; and by 23rd and 24th Avenues E. to the east, beyond which is Madison Valley.
Its main thoroughfares are Lakeview Boulevard E.; Bellevue, 10th, 12th, 15th, and 19th Avenues E.; and Broadway (north- and southbound) and E. Pine, E. Pike, E. John, E. Thomas, and E. Aloha Streets and E. Olive Way (east- and westbound). Of these streets, large portions of Pike, Pine, Broadway, 15th and, to a slightly lesser extent, Olive, are lined almost continuously with streetfront businesses.
Always an eclectic neighborhood, since about 1980 Capitol Hill has also had a reputation as the center of gay life in Seattle, although it has never been as exclusively gay as The Castro in San Francisco. Seattle's main gay pride parade abandoned the hill in 2006 for a route from Downtown Seattle to the Seattle Center fairgrounds, drawing a crowd estimated at 150,000, but the dyke march and a neighborhood pride parade still drew a crowd estimated at 50,000. It also has a reputation as the heart of trendy Seattle, and was the neighborhood most closely associated with the grunge scene, although most of the best-known music venues of that era were actually located slightly outside the neighborhood.
A stroll down Broadway or through the Cal Anderson Park will reveal a wide diversity of people, with couples walking dogs, punks hanging out on street corners, technology workers that commute to work across Lake Washington buying groceries and, in the evenings, clubgoers from all over Seattle and Bellevue visiting the scene for a night out. Shopping in the numerous retail stores and boutiques offers everything from African art to Hot Topic and there are many used and vintage clothing stores on Broadway, a few art galleries along East Pike and Pine Streets, and many music stores that specialize in hip-hop, dance and electronica, gothic and industrial, or rare used records.
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 grandest and most venerable mansions, with the two extremes sometimes cheek-by-jowl.
The neighborhood figures prominently in nightlife and entertainment, with many bars hosting live music and with numerous fringe theatres. Capitol Hill is also home to two of the city's best-known movie theaters, both of them part of the Landmark Theatres chain and both of them architectural conversions of private meeting halls: the Harvard Exit, in the former home of the Women's Century Club (converted in the early 1970s) and the Egyptian Theatre, in a former Masonic lodge (converted in the mid-1980s). The Broadway Performance Hall, located on the campus of Seattle Central Community College, also hosts a variety of lectures, performances, and films.
Landmarks and Institutions
- Cal Anderson Park
- Cornish College of the Arts
- Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery
- Lake View Cemetery
- Louisa Boren Park
- Roanoke Park
- St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral
- Seattle Asian Art Museum
- Seattle Central Community College
- Seattle Preparatory School
- Volunteer Park
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