Capitol Hill

cap hillCapitol Hill has a reputation as a bastion of musical culture in Seattle and is the neighborhood most closely associated with the grunge scene from the early 1990s, although most of the best-known music venues of that era were actually located slightly outside the neighborhood. The music scene has transformed since those days and now a variety of genres (electronica, rock, punk, folk, salsa, hip hop and trance) is represented in the people and venues.

Most of the Hill’s major thoroughfares are dotted with coffeehouses, taverns and bars, and residences cover the gamut from modest motel-like studio apartment buildings to some of the city’s grandest and most venerable mansions, with the two extremes sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder.

The neighborhood figures prominently in nightlife and entertainment, with many bars hosting live music and with numerous fringe theatres. At night enthusiastic (and at times eccentric) people fill the streets enjoying the diverse entertainment and the culture of openness and acceptance. Spontaneous street parties have been known to break out with music playing and people dancing in the streets like on Election Day 2008 and the freak snow storm in December 2008 (snow is very unusual in Seattle and can stifle transit). In these instances, police officers observe but will usually let the revelling continue. When clubs do shut down at around 2 AM, people can now flock to the plethora of new street vendors opening up as well as the late-closing restaurants serving quick and tasty food.

Capitol Hill is also home to two of the city’s best-known movie theaters, both of which are part of the Landmark Theatres chain. Both theaters are architectural conversions of private meeting halls: the Harvard Exit, in the former home of the Woman’s Century Club (converted in the early 1970s) and the Egyptian Theatre, in a former Masonic lodge (converted in the mid-1980s). There is also Seattle’s only cinematheque, the Northwest Film Forum, which in addition to screening films, teaches classes on filmmaking and produces film alongside Seattle’s burgeoning filmmaking community. The Broadway Performance Hall, located on the campus of Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), also hosts a variety of lectures, performances, and films. These quaint theaters respectively host showings for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) and the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival every year. Both festivals are notably remarkable in their own right.

With a rich and diverse history, Capitol Hill has been a bastion of arts and culture. Boutiques dot the commercial streets, specifically in the Southern Pike/Pine area. The neighborhood boasts a number of small performing arts theaters, including the Erickson Theater, the Balagan Theater, and the Annex Theater. There are also a number of dance studios, most prominently Velocity Dance on 12th. Not far away, Richard Hugo House hosts literary artists-in-residence and presents a wide variety of public performances, classes, and other events throughout the year. Public art, both government-sponsored and not, can also be seen throughout the neighborhood.