Seattle's Capitol Hill gets its name in the fall of 1901.

  • By Paul Dorpat
  • Posted 4/18/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3217
In the fall of 1901, Seattle's Capitol Hill gets its name. Before this it is called Broadway Hill. Most descriptions of how the hill got its name turn on one of two stories.

The Two Stories

By one description -- the sentimental one -- the real estate developer James Moore (1861-1929) chose the moniker "Capitol Hill" for the quarter section of land he purchased in 1900 primarily because his wife came from another Western city that had its own Capitol Hill: Denver. By the second story, the name was picked in hopes of enticing the state of Washington to move its business from Olympia onto Prospect Street.

Some sources say that an early version of this scheming began with city founder Arthur Denny (1822-1899) in the 1860s. This is probably wrong. In her manuscript history of the hill Jacqueline Block Williams provides evidence from early newspapers that James Moore named Capitol Hill, and that he chose the name probably for reasons of both his wife and politics -- or more precisely, promotions.

In the spring of 1901, less than a year after he purchased and began improving the Capitol Hill Addition just south of Volunteer Park, Moore persuaded William H. Lewis, a King County politician then serving in the Washington State House of Representatives, to introduce a bill. It offered both a site for the capital on Capitol Hill and funds to build a Capitol Building. This was not a very serious proposal. It did, however, for a brief while allow locals to imagine the reach of Moore's ambition and to envision his elevated real estate surmounted by the state capitol.

After all, there remained then the old problem in Olympia that while it had the seat of state government it did not have the pants; that is a capitol building worthy of the state.


Sources: Jacqueline Block Williams, "The Hill With A Future: Seattle's Capitol Hill, 1900-1946," manuscript history of Capitol Hill in possession of Jacqueline Block Williams, Seattle, Washington.

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