First Hill was not really so exclusive, and these two residences are proof. While trim and even pleasing, they are not fancy.
WHEN I FIRST saw this pioneer print pulled from the Museum of History & Industry files, I recognized none of it and yet sensed all of it. By the qualities of its housing stock, hilltop topography that is kind to construction and the street work, this, I thought, is First Hill.
For judging my hunch, I quickly went to the top of Coppin’s water tower, where photographer Arthur Churchill Warner recorded clear impressions of that then-adolescent neighborhood in 1890 or ’91. Of course, I did not actually climb the tower, which was razed after being purchased by the city in 1899, but rather studied the Warner panorama that looks from high above the intersection of Terry Avenue and Columbia Street.
Warner’s revealing photograph can be found on page 142 of “Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill,” Historic Seattle’s book on what we think of as Seattle’s first exclusive neighborhood. However, First Hill was not really so exclusive, and these two residences are proof. While trim and even pleasing, they are not fancy. In the Warner pan, they can easily be found at the corner of Columbia and Boren.
On the left, at 1016 Columbia St., is a typical box house of the time, with some trimmings. There were many more examples of modest residences like this in every Seattle neighborhood. Next door, at 1020, the three stairways to three front doors make this row house appear bigger than it is. Its central tower gestures at the grandeur of its neighbors, many of the city’s biggest homes. Within two blocks are the Lowman, Hanford, Carkeek, Stacy, Lippy and Ranke mansions, and many more were under construction.
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Of those, only the Stacy mansion at the northeast corner of Boren and Madison survives, as the University Club. The corner row house was razed in 1952, and probably its smaller neighbor, too.
“Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill” is well-illustrated and worth a look. It is an admirable study of the diverse history of this neighborhood, which includes among its preserved mansions the Dearborn House, home since 1997 for Historic Seattle.