Something old is something new in Seattle.
Come as you are reads the sign outside Pilgrim Church in the heart of Seattle's Capitol Hill. These words could be the slogan for the neighborhood, home to a captivating cross section of humanity. Here you can find scruffy types shuffling along, apparently unaware that grunge (which had its heyday here) is passé. But just down the street are the well-heeled denizens of Millionaires' Row, where stately dwellings prove that dot-coms may come and go, but a mansion is forever.
Draping over a hilly ridge east of downtown, Capitol Hill is an eclectic enclave. Three colleges lie within blocks of each other (Seattle Central Community College, the Cornish College of the Arts, and Seattle University), providing plenty of customers for the area's museums, coffeehouses, and cool hole-in-the-wall shops.
The Seattle International Film Festival is based here, as is the city's annual Gay Pride Parade. In autumn, the Seattle Fringe Festival celebrates original plays coming out of the neighborhood's small but notable theaters, including the Richard Hugo House and the Northwest Actors Studio. Galleries and cafés open their doors on the first Saturday of each month for Arts Orbit, Capitol Hill's art walk.
It's also home to the Frye Art Museum, where American and European paintings can be viewed for free, and the elegant Seattle Asian Art Museum, with its renowned collection of works from Japan, China, Korea, India, and Thailand, housed in a 1933 art moderne structure in Volunteer Park.
Capitol Hill, according to local lore, got its name from developer James Moore, who promoted the area as the state government's eventual seat. It lies just beyond the section known both as First Hill (because it was an early elite residential neighborhood) and Pill Hill (owing to the cluster of hospitals and medical centers there). Capitol Hill grew up behind it, as a densely populated Automobile Row that was lively with car dealerships and garages.
Though it's an easy walk from the city's downtown hotels, the neighborhood also has its own lodging options. Several bed-and-breakfasts, like the Capitol Hill Inn and the Gaslight Inn, have taken advantage of the area's grand old homes. The stately Sorrento Hotel sits on nearby First Hill.
In its early days, as now, the city's hoity-toity and hoi polloi frequented opposite ends of Broadway, the main drag cutting through Capitol Hill. At its north end were mansions and a park planned by the famous Olmsted Brothers firm.
In 1903, John Charles Olmsted (son of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., designer of New York City's Central Park) drew up his plans for the city's parks and boulevards. Beautiful Volunteer Park was one of the beneficiaries of his artistry.
You can read all about Olmsted in an exhibit atop the park's 1906 brick water tower, across from the Asian Art Museum. The sweeping view of Seattle from this spot was one of the main attractions at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.
Adjacent to Volunteer Park is Lake View Cemetery, where city fathers were once laid to rest. Today, however, the most popular grave sites are those of father and son martial arts film stars Bruce and Brandon Lee.
When rents rose during the days of dot-com opulence, some shops fled Broadway. After the bubble burst and rents dropped, clever entrepreneurs snatched up empty storefronts along Pine Street. Now it's a shopper's paradise, if your tastes lean to vintage chic.
Between Melrose and Bellevue, Pine has become Fashion Row for both hip and retro attire. Le Frock, an 11-year veteran, and 2-year-old Private Screening have been joined by Vu, where owner Huan Vu sells women's clothing of his own design such as hand-painted jeans and embroidered silk blouses. Edie's sports an array of trendy new shoes for men and women.
Up the street is Hello Gorgeous, with a $2 photo booth among its racks of vintage clothes. Next door in Dumb Clothing, owner Paula Fletcher sells her own eye-catching creations. Nearby, Lipstick Traces offers handbags decorated with old 45s in clear vinyl pockets.
Pine Street is also the home of Area 51, a cavernous store of fab furniture from bygone eras. That faux leather chair with the embossed horse head you thought looked so tacky in your parents' den is a great buy here.
Sitting above Area 51 is the General Petroleum Museum. It's actually the private collection of the late Jeff Pedersen, who for 37 years accumulated every conceivable gas station relic. The museum now hosts catered affairs, so it's open to visitors only during preparations for festivities among the ancient oilcans and gas pumps.
Notable restaurants along Pike include Tango, serving up a delectable variety of Spanish tapas, and Blue Willow Teahouse, where you can pair any of 50 exotic teas with each menu item. Try Tung Ting, an oolong from Taiwan, with the dharma rolls.
Despite the shift of focus to Pike and Pine, Broadway is still funky. It boasts the largest vintage clothing store in the neighborhood, Red Light; a charming Japanese gift shop, Kobo; and Dilettante Chocolates, which serves up sinfully delicious desserts. Garage is an auto repair shop turned billiard hall-restaurant co-owned by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready. Inside, you'll find 18 regulation pool tables and a menu that ranges from falafel to macaroni and cheese. At Espresso Vivace, on Denny Way, the baristas take such pride in their lattes that the walls are lined with photos of those having the most artistic merit.
Of course, Broadway is still abuzz long after the sun goes down. In fact, the cast of characters who parade around among the bars, clubs, and other hot spots will make you think you're watching a lavish musical. But be sure to take a bow: You're part of the show as well.
Planning Your Trip
All phone numbers are area code 206 unless noted. Pick up AAA's Oregon & Washington TourBook and Seattle map. For more information, contact the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce at 686-3221, www.capitol-hill.com  or the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, 461-5840, www.seeseattle.org .
Things to do
Capitol Hill Blitz, an art walk the second Thursday of the month, www.blitzcapitolhill.com .
Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., 622-9250, www.fryeart.org .
General Petroleum Museum, 1526 Bellevue Ave. (entrance on Crawford Place), 323-4789.
Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St., Volunteer Park, 654-3255, www.seattleartmuseum.org .
Books:—Bailey/Coy Books, 414 Broadway E., 323-8842.
Marco Polo Travel Bookstore, 713 Broadway E., 860-3736, www.marcopolos.com .
Clothing:—Dumb Clothing, 413 E. Pine St., 322-6630, www.dumbclothing.com .
Edie's, 319 E. Pine St., 839-1111.
Hello Gorgeous, 411 E. Pine St., 621-0702.
Le Frock, 317 E. Pine St, 623-5339, www.lefrockonline.com .
Private Screening, 1530 Melrose Ave., 839-0759.
Red Light, 312 Broadway E., 329-2200.
Vintage Chick, 303 E. Pine St., 625-9800, www.vintagechick.com .
Vu, 313 E. Pine St., 621-0388.
Furniture:—Area 51, 401 E. Pine St., 568-4782.
Gifts:—Kobo, 814 E. Roy St., 726-0704. Lipstick Traces, 500 E. Pine St., 329-2813.
Eats and drinks
Blue Willow Teahouse, 1024 E. Pike St., 325-5140.
Dilettante Chocolates, 416 Broadway E., 329-6463.
Espresso Vivace, 901 E. Denny Way, 860-5869, www.espressovivace.com .
Garage, 1130 Broadway, 322-2296, www.garagebilliards.com .
Glo's, 1621 E. Olive Way, 324-2577. Popular breakfast spot.
Tango Restaurant and Lounge, Latin-inspired cuisine and cocktails. 1100 Pike St., 583-0382, www.tangorestaurant.com .
Capitol Hill Inn, 1713 Belmont Ave. Seven theme rooms in a 1903 Victorian bed-and-breakfast. Rates from $90 to $165. 323-1955, www.capitolhillinn.com .
Gaslight Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1727 15th Ave. Stately 1906 home with nine guest rooms. Rates from $78 to $178. 325-3654, www.gaslight-inn.com .
Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St. Renovated 1909 hotel with highly rated Hunt Club restaurant. Rates from $260 to $2,500. 622-6400, (800) 426-1265, www.hotelsorrento.com .
Photography by Dan Lamont
This article was first published in November 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.