Your Destination Guide to Seattle

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Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill

© Matthew Rutledge

Named for Boston’s Beacon Hill, this neighborhood in southeast Seattle is anything but a copycat. The top of this 350-foot incline affords views of downtown, the First Hill neighborhood, the Rainier Valley, and Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains on a clear day—but good luck finding one of those.

The area is residential, largely populated in the 1950s and ‘60s by Boeing employees before their relocation to the suburbs. Today it’s an amalgamation of ethnicities—the majority Asian—who have opened businesses along Beacon Avenue South.

Aside from its views, Beacon Hill has a history all its own. Before the Puget Sound region was settled, members of the Duwamish Indian tribe lived on the hill in longhouses and fished Coho salmon from Lake Washington. White settlers arrived in the 1850s and brought with them a vast array of diseases that slowly decimated the native populations. By 1892, the city had opened a “pesthouse”—a quarantine hospital for smallpox patients. The hospital closed in 1914 and its patients were moved to the Firlands Sanitarium north of Seattle.

Lawbreakers in the early 1900s were housed in stockades and allowed to work off their sentences by clearing land set aside for what is known today as Jefferson Park. This park, covering an area of 52.4 acres, includes the Jefferson Park Golf Course, tennis courts, walking paths, a children’s play area, cricket grounds, and a plot for lawn bowling.

Among the neighborhood’s notable buildings is the 16-story art deco Pacific Medical Center that once acted as a United States Marine Hospital. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 but it closed two years later to be converted into offices for the online retailer giant Amazon.com. The company’s headquarters remain in Beacon Hill.

Another park, the Beacon Hill Playground, is located adjacent to Beacon Hill Elementary and is a popular spot for families with kids. Its three acres contain ADA-accessible basketball hoops and tennis courts, a wading pool, picnic tables, soccer and softball fields, and a play area.

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