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Street Critic | A visit to Roanoke, an island of North Capitol Hill floating beyond 520

Stay-in-place has had a tremendous impact on us all, forcing changes in routines that affect travel, employment, recreation, socialization, as well as physical and mental well-being. It does, however, offer us opportunities often overlooked as we tend to our normal lives. One of the best is taking a fresh look at the landscape around us and exploring overlooked places close to home. One such overlooked place for many of us who live on Capitol Hill includes the Roanoke neighborhood. Had Highway 520 not been built this neighborhood would be squarely within neighborhood consciousness.

Having recently walked (again and again) Pike/Pine, Broadway, Volunteer, and Cal Anderson Parks, as well as 12th, 15th, and 19th Avenues, it seemed a good time to head north and reacquaint myself with what lies just beyond 520.

Despite being bounded west and south by major freeways, the streets north of Roanoke seem ambivalent to the surrounding din and contain a fine collection of public spaces and homes in a variety of styles with many having novel architectural details.

The heart of the neighborhood is Roanoke Park, above, whose full block is resplendent with flowering trees and conifers.

Civic structures are few in this predominantly residential neighborhood, although just south of Roanoke is Fire Station 22, designed by one of our city’s finest architecture practices.

What one does find in relative abundance is a splendid collection of stately homes. There is an Italianate villa, with a tiled, hip roof and unusual window transoms on the first floor.

You will also find an equally rare (for Seattle), Greek Revival home with Corinthian columns.

There is also an even a rarer Swiss chalet.

Less exotic than the chalet, this home has a wonderful first floor with a checkerboard pattern of red and white glazed brick.

Some homes gracing the street are more modest in size but nonetheless pique interest. At this brick house, the mortar between the bricks was allowed to ooze-out (known a mortar bleed) adding a wonderful texture.

Below is another relatively modest-sized house clad with very upscale granite (including solid granite columns and balustrade!).

You will also find an austere, International Style box (it warms the heart).

By no means modest in size, this Tudor-inspired house pales when compared to the blossoming cherry trees that surround it.

Roanoke offers the same lofty perch and similar views afforded to those living further south on the Hill, including one not available from most of Capitol Hill: a sweeping panorama of the Montlake Bridge and the University of Washington Campus.

The bridge is equally well-framed by houseboats, as seen lower down the slopes along the shores of Portage Bay.

The eastern, lowlands along Portage Bay contain a surprisingly large cluster of houseboats as well as a marina.

Seattle’s houseboats are a thing onto themselves, with the same variety of styles as found on city streets including this rather eclectic ‘double Mansard’.

Street-end parks allow one to see the marina and boats up close; however, the pathways are private.


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8 thoughts on “Street Critic | A visit to Roanoke, an island of North Capitol Hill floating beyond 520

  1. You experienced it without the freeway noise and pollution which plagues one side of Roanoke and 520. Hard to imagine you would be allowed to build a twin deck freeway about 20ft from houses with minimal noise walls.

  2. Wonderful piece! The only addition I would make is the magic of Little Lago. It is a restaurant/grocery store that is greater than the sum of its parts. Community building happens there over coffee and wine in wonderful, unplanned ways as every generation makes a frequent stop for dinner, milk, or just a walk by that starts a conversation. Shame such place would be illegal to build in another neighborhood, but lucky it was grandfathered in here.

    • Thank you for the comment. I thought about including Little Lago in this post – it is a great place! I plan on including it when I cover the area north of Shelby and south of the Montlake Cut (the greater Capitol Hill ecosystem/peninsula, as it were). The pics I took of LL are processed and ready to go!

      • Fantastic! I deeply appreciate the long look at this little neighborhood. It is fascinating and a gift to the city.

  3. something to kill the mood – one of these beauties posted above were for sale and even 4 households couldn’t buy it to turn it into a co-op

    these homes are just not for us.

  4. Thank you so much for telling us about this neighborhood. I’ve lived in Capitol Hill for several years and have never thought to go there. I went today and had a lovely walk. I’ll go back to do some more exploring soon.

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