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Harvard-Belmont Landmark District

Located on the west slope of Capitol Hill, the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District is significant to the City of Seattle as a well-preserved, essentially residential neighborhood which retains its individual identity as an area of fine homes built by the city's leading financiers, industrialists, merchants, and businessmen in the early years of the twentieth century.

The combination of urban and almost pastoral qualities, the tree-shaded streets, the several open vistas, and the wooded ravines to the northwest, all create a neighborhood of outstanding and enduring character. In order to recognize, preserve and protect the significant assets of the Harvard-Belmont area, residents initiated the process by which their neighborhood became a preservation district and the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District was approved for designation in 1980.

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.

Certificate of Approval must be issued before changes can be made to individually designated City Landmarks or to properties within the City's eight historic districts

Refer to the District Guidelines and other relevant resources for information regarding design standards and other considerations.

Please consult the Guide to Acing the Certificate of Approval Process before starting the online application process. For help with the online submittal, watch this How-To video.

A Certificate of Approval issued by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board is required prior to the issuance of any building, demolition, street use, or other permits for proposed work within the district that is visible from a public right-of-way. This includes:

  • Exterior alterations or additions to any structure,
  • New construction, and
  • Addition or removal of major landscape and site elements such as retaining walls, gateways, trees or driveways.

1. What is the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District?

Designation as a landmark district helps ensure the preservation of this special mix of urban cultural and commercial institutions within a framework of tree-lined streets, well-maintained grounds, and distinctive natural features. More than half of the buildings within district boundaries date from the first decade of the century. The lively eclecticism and high quality of its houses, mostly constructed between 1905 and 1910, give the district an architectural integrity and visual continuity, while the history of the commercially venturesome and socially prominent families who settled there imparts a sense of Seattle's most dynamic period of growth. A second surge of building activity in the 1920s brought distinctive apartment groups and important institutional buildings to the southern edge of the district, which nonetheless retained its essentially residential character. The area today remains a prestigious neighborhood of well-maintained homes, carefully tended gardens, tree-shaded streets, open vistas, and picturesque natural features.

Neighborhoods

Sarah Morningstar, Acting Director
Address: 600 4th Avenue, 4th Floor, Seattle, WA , 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94649, Seattle, WA, 98124-4649
Phone: (206) 684-0464
Fax: (206) 233-5142
seattleneighborhoods@seattle.gov

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