The Harvard-Belmont Historic District is located the west slope of Capitol Hill, just west of Volunteer Park, and is roughly bounded by Bellevue Place, Broadway, Boylston, and Harvard avenues.
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 20th century.
The district encompasses an exclusive residential area on the western slope of Capitol Hill. Seattle was the embarkation point for The Klondike Gold Rush of 1896, an event which created a new social and financial class of people, the Nouveau riche. The group attempted to flex their financial muscle in a variety of ways, they joined elite social organizations like the Arctic Club or paid for the construction of skyscrapers such as the Hoge Building.
In 1901, Seattle railroad builder H.C. Henry created another venue for demonstrating the new, elevated status of that segment of society, when he decided to locate his home in the Harvard-Belmont neighborhood rather than on the traditionally important, but increasingly middle-class First Hill. In an attempt to make his home the best as seen anywhere on the West Coast, Henry spared no expense.
A decade-long frenzy of building in Seattle followed. The beneficiaries of the new-found financial power hired architects, both local and Eastern, who by 1910, had created at least 45 extravagant Victorian, Neo-classical, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival houses, in the Harvard-Belmont neighborhood.
In the following decades Prairie-style houses, apartment buildings, the Cornish School, and the Century Women's Club became part of the neighborhood.
Throughout the years, the Harvard-Belmont Historic District has remained a prestigious neighborhood of carefully tended gardens, tree-shaded streets, and picturesque, elegant homes. 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 a process by which their neighborhood became a preservation district and the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District received approval for designation, in 1980.
The Harvard-Belmont Landmark District represents gracious, residential quality living in an urban setting. A substantial, well-established, and well-maintained residential fabric encompassing expansive estates and unpretentious houses, a mix of urban cultural and commercial institutions, within a framework of tree-lined streets, well-maintained grounds, and distinctive natural features, define the character of the district.
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 abruptly downward to the west, providing many of the properties with dramatic vistas.
A deep wooded ravine marks the northern boundary separating the Sam Hill House from the properties around St. Mark's Cathedral. To the south, the East Roy Street boundary 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.