In Your Midst

Walking Tour of Historic First Hill

March 2005



A caution before you begin this short tour:  your walk will require a little imagination,
as many of the historic places you will be "seeing" no longer exist!

Start from the corner of Terry and Columbia, Cathedral Place. Before the school was built in 1912, the pro-Cathedral, St. Edward’s Chapel, stood on this spot. It was here that the Cathedral parish was founded on November 13, 1904.  Read more here.
Continue south on Terry past the Frye Art Museum. This is where Bishop O’Dea lived, and where the Cathedral Building Committee met. How many times did Bishop O’Dea check the progress on his new Cathedral from an upper window? Find the old hitching post that originally stood outside of the Frye Mansion.
Go left on Cherry, then left on Boren, past the bus shelter where the home of the world-travelers, James and Mary Lowman once stood. Continue to the corner of Boren and Madison. Where Bartell Drugs now stands in the Swedish Medical Center, was the Carkeek mansion. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Across the street, almost exactly as it was one hundred years ago, is the old Stacy mansion, which still houses the University Club. Some things haven’t changed: it’s still members-only!

Continue down Boren to Spring Street. You are looking at another historic First Hill mansion. This house was purchased for Bishop O'Dea in the 1920s after his home at 710 Terry Avenue burned down.  For many years this home—now known as Connolly House—has served as the residence for the Archbishop of Seattle, currently Archbishop Alex J. Brunett.
Go right on Spring Street, towards the quieter part of First Hill. Just ahead, on Minor, you’ll see the San Marco, a distinctive apartment complex which is one of the oldest on the Hill.

Head north on Minor. This will lead you past two historic homes: Dearborn House, which dates from 1907 (and now houses Historic Seattle), and the Stimson Green Mansion, built in 1901. Continue down Minor Avenue to Union. Imagine the days when this five-way intersection was a playground for hundreds of neighborhood children!
Take a right on Summit. At the corner of Summit and E. Union, you can’t miss the Northwest School. The building dates from 1905 and was designed by Seattle architect James Stephen, who had just built St. Edward’s Chapel and was putting the finishing touches on the new Our Lady of Good Help Church.
Continue east on E. Union past Boylston until you reach the Phillips House. Built in 1902 as a “double dwelling,” or duplex, the Phillips House was a sign of things to come on First Hill, as more and more middle class families moved into the area. With major streetcar lines running on James and Madison, First Hill was beginning to get absorbed into the hustle and bustle of the city. It wouldn’t be long before the gracious mansions of the very wealthy began to give way to row houses and apartment buildings.
Continue down E. Union to the 5-way intersection, where you’ll catch a glimpse of the old Fire Station (now condominiums); then head west on University, past the striking First Baptist Church (1912) towards Boren. Head back to the Cathedral via Boren and discover just how steep First Hill really is!

Other articles in the March 2005 issue:

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