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Harvard Belmont Landmark District
History of the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District

The Harvard-Belmont Landmark District, situated on the west slope of Capitol Hill above the City's major freeway and representing gracious residential quality in the urban setting, is one such area. The character of the district is defined by a substantial, well- established, and well-maintained residential fabric encompassing both large estates and modest houses, a mix of urban cultural and commercial institutions, within a framework of tree-lined streets, well-maintained grounds, and distinctive natural features.

The topography of the area is typical of those where the first outlying neighborhoods of quality residences were established in Seattle during a decade of rapid growth just after the turn of the century. From the relatively flat eastern boundaries of Broadway East and Harvard Avenue East the land slopes gradually and then more precipitously downward to the west, providing many of the properties with dramatic sites affording views of Lake Union and Queen Anne Hill. The northern boundary is marked by a deep wooded ravine separating the Sam Hill House from the properties around St. Mark's Cathedral. The southern boundary at East Roy Street changes to apartment, institutional, and commercial use and marks the transition to the denser multiple-unit residential area and the commercial shopping strip of Broadway East to the south. Within these boundaries the normally overriding grid system of platting gives way to some diagonal and curving streets that generally conform to the natural contours of the land. H. C. Henry, a railroad builder and a powerful force in Seattle's business community, was the first man of influence to settle in the district. Although his house is now gone, his presence was instrumental in attracting others of like means and ability to the area. During the first decade of the twentieth century merchants, bankers, lawyers, engineers, and then lumber barons, successful businessmen and entrepreneurs built impressive residences along Harvard Avenue East, Belmont Place East and neighboring streets.

In the next two decades some additional large houses were built and some of the existing mansions were sold to equally affluent buyers.

Although many architectural styles are represented in the district, among the buildings of primary significance are a substantial number of residences which exhibit the enduring influence of Richard Norman Shaw. These Shavian houses impart a special quality to the area, a distinctive element which can be found in northern Pacific coast cities (Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Portland). The two Fisher houses on Belmont Place East together with their garage below on Summit Avenue East form a distinctive group of brick and half- timbered dwellings with fine leaded and beveled glass. The M. H. Young House, the C. H. Bacon House, the J. A. Kerr House, and the W. L. Rhodes House are additional examples of the use of brick and half-timbering to evoke the spirit of a romantic medievalism as filtered through the precepts of Shaw.

Other residences display the symmetry of a more classical tradition. The restrained formality of the R. D. Merrill House, the imposing mass of the Chapin-Eddy House relieved by delicate ornamentation, and the strong simple statement of the Brownell-Bloedel House all contribute a sense of solidity and permanence to the district.

Sometimes architects outside the City, such as Charles Al Platte, Hornblower & Marshall, Cutter & Malmgren, and Arthur Bodely, were called upon to satisfy a client's particular wishes. More often local firms with established reputations were commissioned, and works by Carl F. Gould, Somerwell & Cote, Bebb & Mendel, the Beezer Brothers, James H. Schack, Graham & Myers, Blackwell & Baker, and Andrew Willatsen can be found in the district. Interspersed among the mansions of the wealthy bankers, shipbuilders, lumbermen, and merchants are numerous wood frame houses of more modest scale. A few of these were built before 1900, many date from the first decade of the twentieth century, and there are a number of simple residences from the late 1930's and early 1940's.

The 1920's brought the introduction of the Spanish style Hacienda Apartments, the Tudor influenced Anhalt apartment groups, as well as the Cornish School and the Woman's Century Club. These structures, concentrated along the southern and western boundaries of the District, are particularly representative of the Capitol Hill character where a rich mix of architecture, and a successful mix of residential and commercial uses, exists.

Historic Districts

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