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Originally published Friday, November 8, 2013 at 10:18 AM

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Seattle’s hill of many names: First, Pill and Goat among them

Seattle’s steep First Hill has been called many things, including Pill Hill for the many medical facilities on it. But lately it’s been called Goat Hill because you need to be a goat to climb it successfully.

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Goat Hill? West Edge?......yeah right. MORE


LET US celebrate Goat Hill, the latest of the imaginative names given to First Hill, or parts of it, since the original settlers first climbed it in 1852. They named it for its obvious distinction: The roughly 366-foot, tree-covered ridge (near Broadway and James Street) that lifted from the central waterfront like a green curtain was the first hill to climb when trailblazing east to the “big lake” eventually named Washington, or when following the “Indian Path” that reached the lake roughly in line with the present Yesler Way.

I learned of the “Goat” tag only recently, when railroad historian Noel Holley shared with me the photo shown here. His friend, Wade Stevenson, shot it from the Smith Tower while visiting Seattle from Othello. Holley figures “it was about 1960.” This, then, is a late look at First Hill’s western face before the freeway cut across it.

Another friend, First Hill historian Stephen Edwin Lundgren, confirmed the hill’s newest moniker and then directed me to whom we may fairly call its creator: Jim Napolitano, a King County major project manager. While working on the county’s newest additions to the hill — a multistory parking garage at Sixth Avenue and Jefferson Street, and the Chinook Office Building on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Jefferson and Terrace streets — Napolitano heard enough variations on the same complaint, “You needed to be a goat to get up there!” that he suggested that the new public-works campus be named for goats. So now it is a new Goat Hill garage that clings to the steep southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Jefferson Street. (I knew the cheap thrills of the challenging dirt parking lot because I often used it in the 1970s while visiting City Hall for research.)

Through its mere 162 years of development and complaints, First Hill — or parts of it — has had many names including Yesler, Pill and Profanity. This last was a folk creation of the late 1890s, when lawyers and litigants started using “bad language” during their steep climb to the King County Courthouse, which sat on the hill about 300 feet above Pioneer Square.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at

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