First Hill has possessed several different historical dubbings over time. It was originally known as Yesler’s Hill, after early settler Henry Yesler, who clear-cut the area and set up his sawmill at the bottom. He found that the easiest way to transport lumber to his Mill was to slide it down the road across greased logs, making it the very first Skid Road. Later, the King County Courthouse was placed on First Hill. Attorneys and their clients (who had to climb up the steepest part of the hill to get to the courthouse) apparently cursed and swore as they attempted to summit, and it soon was branded “Profanity Hill". Now the area, dubbed "Pill Hill" by locals, has a more righteous nickname due to its many hospitals.
Capitol Hill, located just north of First Hill, is well known for its main drag, Broadway, which is the hub of Capitol Hill’s commercial district. Businesses, eateries, fine dining, and specialty shops line both sides of Broadway and spice up Seattle with their variety, and at times, controversial themes. Broadway is a fast-paced district, while Madison St., First Hill’s main drag, holds a quieter assortment of cafes and delis, patronized by customers of the pharmacies and hospitals that line the area. Seattle University is a prominent Jesuit school that marks the dividing line between the two hills
Most residents in First Hill tend to be hospital staff and downtown professionals seeking a short commute.
Theaters abound, both for movies and performing arts. There are also weekend street fairs and parades held on and around Broadway. To experience a truly stunning view of the surrounding area, visit the top of the old water tower in Volunteer Park. In addition to the water tower,Volunteer Park offers an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Average Rent: $$$
Small Apartment Buildings
Medium Apartment Buildings
Downtown 5-10 minutes
Eastside 15 minutes, 40 minutes with traffic
Much of the character of this neighborhood is shaped by the predominance of the medical community located on First Hill. Hospitals such as Swedish, Virginia Mason and Harborview are all located in the First Hill neighborhood. These hospitals are widely regarded as some of the top hospitals in the country.
First Hill continues to see development and the character of this neighborhood is rapidly evolving. In recent years First Hill has seen new office, medical, apartment and condominium development begin to transform this neighborhood and bring large numbers of new residents, many of which are not directly connected to the medical industry. First Hill experiences a movement of culture and character from Capitol Hill to the north, which influences the fabric and character of this neighborhood.
Along with its evolving character, the rental housing market has continued to grow and change. The primary type of rental housing that has marked First Hill has been beautiful, small-to medium-sized, classic brick apartment buildings with units that are typically smaller studios and one-bedroom units with hardwood floors. In recent years, due to a continual increase in the medical field and being very close to downtown, First Hill has seen new apartment, condominium and townhome construction.
The Pike/Pine corridor that runs to the east/west between Capitol Hill and First Hill has seen a rapid transformation into one of the more interesting and vibrant parts of the city. In addition to multi-unit properties, there are a significant number of single-family homes and small multiplexes available for rent. While pricing has risen significantly in recent years, you will still see considerably lower pricing for rental housing compared to Capitol Hill just to the north.