The Rich Life on Capitol Hill
A Review by Elana Chan
In some cities, architectural tours focus on "the tallest" or "the grandest" or "the most expensive".
So what can you expect from SAF's Harvard Belmont walking tour?
Not just a few residential blocks, but a collection of well-preserved homes in this historic landmark district.
And grand and expensive these properties are! Sitting high on the west slope of Capitol Hill, these houses (or mansions in some cases)
were once home to Seattle's leading industrialists and businessmen. The sheer size of these structures suggests that they could have been
airlifted from the countryside or suburbs or from movies like Gone with the Wind or Meet Me in St. Louis.
Some even have circular driveways adorning the front of the house. These were originally built for carriages, but are just as practical for cars.
Private gardens (not yards) are hidden from street view.
In reality, the Harvard Belmont district (and its breathtaking views of Lake Union and beyond) is located only minutes from downtown Seattle.
While I had little interest in starring at other people's houses, I enjoyed seeing first-hand a number of architecture styles.
This tour showcases residential revival styles such as Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian.
During the early 20th century, the neighborhood's original residents co-opted design influences from Europe and the East Coast.
As a result, this tour offers a welcomed opportunity to compare and contrast these residential gems and engenders a discussion of how
designers interpreted and added their own touches to the original styles.
So how exactly is Harvard Belmont preserving its appearance as one of Seattle's seven historic landmark districts?
Construction of new structures and renovation of existing ones in the district are regulated to ensure that the designs blend into
the landscape with other structures in the district. For example, the Merrill Court Townhouses, built in the 1980s,
have architectural details that mimic that peak roofs and brick facade of the Smith House located adjacent to the property.
In the past decades, Seattleites have been actively preserving its historical buildings through landmark designations.
In addition to Harvard Belmont (which became an official city landmark district in 1980) there are six other Seattle historical landmark districts,
and over 350 individual landmarks. Preservation in the Harvard Belmont district includes not only the homes,
but also streets, street furniture, signage, lighting standards and accessories, landscaping, walled drives and retaining
walls as well as visual focal points and views into and out of the district. Thanks to these efforts, we preserve more than just
"the tallest", "the grandest" and "the most expensive", but also those with historical value to the city.
Photo: Jack McKean. All imagery featured on this site is the sole copyright of the photographer and is used by permission.
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