Killer Infographics just made the move from Fremont to Capitol Hill. It’s an exciting new neighborhood to explore, full of art, food, and amazing happy hour opportunities. It’s also full of rich history, and we jumped at the chance to dig into our new neighborhood’s past.
Capitol Hill wasn’t always hipsters, condos, and fancy restaurants. It started out, just like the rest of Seattle, as deep woods. Seattle’s timber industry logged it off in the 1880s, and in 1900, a man named James Moore bought the first parcel of land that would become today’s Capitol Hill and began to develop it.
As the city grew, it spread out from Pioneer Square and downtown, creeping up the hill. By the mid 1910s, the Hill was full of furniture stores, funeral homes, and Seattle’s largest concentration of auto dealerships. Many of the old buildings still standing in the Pike/Pine neighborhood are early-20th-century garages.
Capitol Hill’s residential north end became Seattle’s biggest Catholic neighborhood, so much so that Seattleites started calling the Hill “Catholic Hill.” Many of them were blue-collar families: Boeing laborers or dock workers. They attended church at St. Joseph’s and sent their kids to Holy Names Academy or Seattle Preparatory School. In the 1970s, Boeing laid off more than 40,000 of its Northwest employees, and many of these families lost their incomes. The depression hit Seattle, and especially Capitol Hill, hard. Thousands of families left. Businesses all over the Hill closed. Near SeaTac, a billboard appeared that read “Will the last person leaving Seattle — turn out the lights.”
Ironically, this depression sowed the seeds of Capitol Hill’s counterculture revival in the 70s and 80s, as well as its development boom in the new millennium. As the neighborhood fell into disrepair, rents dropped. Taking advantage of the dirt-cheap cost of living, artists, ex-hippies, and activists moved in. So did LGBTQ people looking for a community. Gay Pride Week took over Broadway in 1982 and was held on the Hill for the next 25 years. With tons of gay bars, counseling centers, and events, Capitol Hill welcomed queer culture like few neighborhoods in the country.
In the last 10 years, big development and the city’s tech boom has changed the face of the neighborhood. Now gay rights activists and artists rub shoulders with programmers and tech millionaires. Today, the Hill is home to innumerable Seattle touchstones: Dick’s Drive-In, Volunteer Park, Cornish College of the Arts, the offices of The Stranger, the Egyptian, the Capitol Hill Block Party, Elliott Bay Book Company, and hundreds of the city’s most beloved restaurants, galleries, bars, and boutiques. It’s a microcosm of Seattle, and Killer Infographics is beyond excited to be a part of the thriving and diverse neighborhood that is Capitol Hill.
Written by Ian Denning