Hillman City, Seattle

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Hillman City is a primarily residential neighborhood of southeast Seattle, Washington, located in the Rainier Valley and centered about a mile south of the Columbia City neighborhood.[1] It was annexed to Seattle in 1907 along with the rest of the city of Southeast Seattle.[2][3][4]

The approximate borders of the neighborhood are South Dawson Street to the north, South Graham Street to the south, Martin Luther King Jr. Way South to the west, and 48th Avenue South to the east.


First homesteaded by M.D. Woodin in 1863,[5] Hillman City as a community originated in the 1890s, with a stop on the Rainier Valley Streetcar line as its nucleus. The neighborhood was named after Clarence Dayton "C.D." Hillman, who platted the area and built himself a house there just off of Rainier. Hillman was a real estate developer, and while business practices ranging into the fraudulent eventually landed him in a federal penitentiary, he did bring this neighborhood into existence.[3][6][7] Hillman City resident Mikala Woodward, director of the Rainier Valley Historical Society acknowledged at the time of the centennial of the neighborhood's annexation by Seattle, "We were named after a sleazy charlatan."[6]

While never a serious challenger to Columbia City as the region's main business district, Hillman City did boast a real estate office, grocery, butcher, and hardware store, bakery, tile factory, movie theater, and for a time an opera house and a circular fountain at the intersection of Rainier and Orcas. Like most of the Rainier Valley, Hillman City declined after the mid-20th century; in the 1980s its perhaps best-known institution was the former grocery and butcher shop, which had become Hillman City Boxing Gym (the building is, as of 2011, Lee’s Martial Arts Academy, offering instruction in karate and taekwondo).[3] In 1999, a Department of Neighborhoods study wrote that "Historic Hillman City… is commonly described by residents as deteriorating and depressed. However, with a near continuous facade of streetfront buildings and a modest pedestrian scale, Hillman City has the opportunity, many believe, to become an attractive neighborhood center."[8]

Recent history

By 2007, the neighborhood was showing some signs of recovery, though still a mixed picture.[6]

In August 2013, the Seattle Weekly named Hillman City the "Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood" in Seattle.[9] Some worry, however, that the neighborhood may lose its identity as it changes.[10] The Hillman City Business Association, very active between 2006 and 2010 completed huge efforts to improve the quality of life by organizing community events, patrols and litter cleanups. While rundown buildings, graffiti, and litter still plague certain portions of the neighborhood, these are now considered more of a nuisance than a threat.[10]

In June 2013, a congregation and an arts collective leased a building on the northwest corner of Rainier and Orcas and an adjacent vacant lot, gutted the space, and in early 2014 opened the Hillman City Collaboratory, a non-profit community center and co-working space with a mission to provide space and programs specifically designed to create community and equip change-makers.[11] In 2015, a group called Vision Hillman City held a series of roundtable discussions open to all neighbors and designed to identify neighborhood priorities, create plans for future action, and cultivate a shared neighborhood identity.[12]


  1. Columbia City / Hillman City / Genessee Neighborhood Plan 1999, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  2. Myra L. Phelps, City of Seattle Engineering Department, Public Works in Seattle (1978). ISBN 0-9601928-1-6.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lough's to Lee's: Hillman City through the Ages, Rainier Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  4. "Seattle Annexation List". Office of the City Clerk, Seattle. Retrieved 15 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Greg Lange, M. D. Woodin acquires future site of Hillman City business district for settlement on July 9, 1863, HistoryLink (essay 3109), 15 March 2001. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Debera Carlton Harrell, Hillman City honors past, works to reshape its future, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 26 January 2007. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  7. Wilma, David. "Hillman, Clarence Dayton (1870-1935)". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved 15 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Columbia City/Hillman City Plan, Section 3: Plan Elements , Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, 1999. p.15 of PDF. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  9. Daniel Person, Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood: Hillman City, Seattle Weekly, 6 August 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  10. 10.0 10.1 de Leon, Joseph M. (September 22, 2007). "Hillman City: Renewal, nice price are lures". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 15 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Incubator designed to hatch new social justice ideas in Hillman City". Retrieved 2016-03-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Vision Hillman City". Hillman City. Retrieved 2016-03-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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