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Originally published Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Neighborhood of the week

A neighborhood that's affordable, accessible and in Seattle

Neighborhood of the Week: The south end of Beacon Hill is attracting attention among home shoppers because of its close location to downtown Seattle and the new light-rail line, affordable housing and a diverse mix of residents.

Special to The Seattle Times

South Beacon Hill

Distance to downtown Seattle: About 7 miles

Schools: South Beacon Hill is served by Seattle Public Schools and is home to recently renovated Cleveland High School, which opened in 1927. The neighborhood also has been home to private St. George School (preschool through eighth-grade) since 1921.

Recreation: Van Asselt Playground, 7200 Beacon Ave. S. The 9-acre park features a basketball court and fields for soccer or baseball/softball, a wading pool and community center. John C. Little Sr. Park at 6961 37th Ave. S. The 6-acre park, formerly called the 37th Avenue Park, includes picnic shelters, a plaza, children's play area, landscaping and a community garden.

— Seattle Times news researcher David Turim

Looking for accessibility, affordability and diversity?

That defines the sometimes-overlooked, historically blue-collar South Beacon Hill neighborhood, where buyers can find a home in good condition for $350,000-$450,000, minutes from downtown Seattle.

"We don't have to listen to the traffic reports on the radio, since we can get downtown without using the freeway" says local resident David Nicholson, who also is a John L. Scott Real Estate agent.

It's a short trip by car or bus now and will be even faster when the new Sound Transit Light Rail opens next year, with its main route along Beacon Hill's eastern edge and a station on North Beacon Hill.

The resurgence of North Beacon Hill, home to Amazon.com's headquarters, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and bordering the Chinatown International District, started in the early 1990s.

South Beacon Hill has taken longer to catch on, but with housing prices out of reach of middle-income buyers in much of Seattle, more people are taking a look.

The revival of Columbia City to the east and the hip Georgetown to the west are an asset to South Beacon Hill, providing nearby nightlife, dining and shopping options. South Beacon Hill is mostly residential with few commercial businesses; locals take it as a sign of originality and independence that it's the largest neighborhood in Seattle without a Starbucks.

MacPherson's produce stand near the Veterans hospital is a shopping hot spot, usually crowded with bargain-hunters stocking up on an array of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Beacon Hill has a rich history. Local pioneers Henry Van Asselt, Jacob Maple and John Holgate settled in the area in the 1850s, harvesting timber near the Duwamish Tribe's village of Tal-tal-jus, according to HistoryLink.org.

The Seattle Indian Wars of 1854-56 drove away settlers until Union Army veteran M. Harwood Young moved to area to start a real-estate development in 1889 and named it after the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood in his hometown, Boston.

Development of Jefferson Park Municipal Golf Course began in 1915 and Cleveland High School opened in 1927.

Most homes in the area were built from the late 1940s through the 1970s, with a few older homes including Craftsman-style and brick classics from the 1920s and '30s.

Always an area of affordable housing, most houses are of modest size and design. An exception is Lockmore, a pocket of large, upscale homes along an eastern-view bluff just south of Columbian Way and east of Beacon Avenue that looks more like Laurelhurst or North Admiral in West Seattle than Beacon Hill.

The neighborhood also is spelled Lochmoor by some, said Nicholson who said he relies on the Lockmore spelling taken from the plat name and legal descriptions.

Historically, South Beacon Hill is a stable neighborhood, with many families occupying their homes through generations.

There are several areas of new homes, most notably the NewHolly community, a 1,400-home Seattle Housing Authority redevelopment that mixes market-priced and subsidized homes and condos in a totally new neighborhood with parks, green spaces and a community center/library/family center complex.

"This is the first neighborhood I've lived in where I've hung out with my neighbors," says NewHolly resident Edward Bartholomew, as he watches his 10-month-old daughter, Ella, toddle around the tidy New Holly campus lawn.

"We have progressive dinners, spontaneous block parties, all kinds of activities. Five babies were born on our block the past year!" Bartholomew says.

"There's so much diversity and such a sense of community here. It takes an effort to bring all the cultures together, but there's willingness on all sides, and lots of hope for the future."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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