Get to Know Your Community: First Hill

This post is part of an occasional series offering insights into unique neighborhoods on Mercer Island and surrounding Lake Washington and the Puget Sound.

This post is the second in a series offering insights into the unique characteristics
of specific neighborhoods on Mercer Island and communities surrounding Lake Washington, including Parkwood, Tarywood, Woodridge, Judkins Park and Newcastle.

Mercer Island

Mercer Island, WA is located on the South end of Lake Washington, just East of Seattle. The I-90 floating bridge and freeway connects the island's North end to Seattle and the Eastside.

Mercer Island is home to a large number of waterfront homes on Lake Washington, with a speedy commute to the major hubs of Greater Seattle, but a secluded, small-town feel at home. The island is approximately six miles long and 2 miles wide, with 22,699 residents and some of the states' best schools. On a list of the most exclusive areas of the U.S, Mercer Island recently ranked number 18.

First Hill

A ridge known as First Hill separates East Seattle from “the North End,” as the northwest part of Mercer Island. First Hill’s eastern boundary is the opposite East Ridge, or 84th Street. The two ridges enclose an area running from Serena Cove along the Island's northern waterfront, to Lucas Hill along the south, at 40th Street. The First Hill neighborhood is located south of I-90, separating East Seattle from the north-end of the island. The area covers 0.168 square miles. The early history of First Hill land development is documented in the first Mercer Island plats of McGilvra and Mercer Park.

Today, First Hill is home to 483 people. The population density of this area is lower than that of Mercer Island as a whole — First Hill is 2,879 people per square mile, while Mercer Island is 3,452 people per square mile. Median household income for this community was $96,983 in 2009 (Mercer Island was $117,231).

First Hill is one of the neighborhoods containing the “lid” (the covered area of I-90, which is part of Mercer Island). A park built atop the “Lid” covering the freeway includes large vent stacks that help move air out of the I-90 tunnel. The stacks look awkward and out of place, and most people are unaware of their real purpose. The Park on the Lid, a Park & Ride, and the I-90 bike path all are accessible on the north side of First Hill.

First Hill Park, at SE 32nd Street and 72nd Avenue SE, is a small neighborhood park that includes an elaborate play structure, including a tree house with a slide, t-ball, basketball, and a picnic table. The neighborhood is also a popular walking and biking neighborhood. It offers some of the most scenic views on Mercer Island. Throughout First Hill are pathways, stairs, and trails that lead to the lakefront, parks, and the downtown business district.

The homes of First Hill were built between the 1940's and the 1960's. Over time, developers have purchased some of the older homes and replaced them with new upper-end homes. Homes recently sold in First Hill were priced between $480,000 and $1,525,000. First Hill has become a very desirable residential neighborhood, primarily due to its easy access to I-90 and a quick commute to Seattle. 

By Ken Urman, Realtor® 

Ken Urman is a full-time Realtor with more than 20 years experience, and is ranked among the top performers in his profession. He lives in Mercer Island, WA. and serves Mercer Island and the communities around Lake Washington. Buyers and Sellers benefit from the power of his experience, professionalism, and perseverance in achieving their real estate goals. Learn why Ken is a better choice for your real estate needs at www.kenurman.com.

If you are looking for a home in First Hill, or you would simply like to learn more about the community, please give me a call at 206-230-0833 or 206-499-4948.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

KBear December 27, 2012 at 07:33 PM
great article..keep em coming!
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA December 28, 2012 at 08:06 PM
First Hill was first pick when we moved to Mercer Island back in 1966. After designing many homes here, I knew this was a great place to raise a family. Here's our First Hill Mercer Island home- there have been two more. JerryG- https://sites.google.com/site/jgropp2/alterationsanadditions
Ken Urman, Real Estate Broker December 29, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Jerry, I live and work on Mercer Island. I definitely cover the entire Island. - Ken
Kendall Watson December 29, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Another outstanding hyperlocal blog about our local Mercer Island neighborhoods! Ken, I guessing Jerry was hoping you'd be writing more about South-end neighborhoods — where he lives nowadays, of course ;-) — He seems to have enjoyed your last blog about Island Point. While we're on the topic, have you ever visited Joshua Thurman's office over at MI Coldwellll Banker Bain? He has a really neat 1920s map of Mercer Island on his wall. I'll have to add a photo of it to this blog.
Ken Urman, Real Estate Broker December 29, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Understand. I920's map would be fun to see. Of course, I can help people with Real Estate anywhere on Mercer Island.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA December 29, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Ken- What I'd really like to see are aerial photos of Mercer Island (back then). I spent many years flying over here in Galvin- and CAApers Flying Club Cessna 172s. Architects do like to look at all things from above. JerryG-
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA December 30, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Ken- Here's our SouthEnd home- https://sites.google.com/site/jgropp2/_/rsrc/1267607022549/PJLRBayWindowJPEG-large.jpg
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA December 31, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Ken- Here's another of my First Hill Homes as written up in the Seattle Times "Roto": https://sites.google.com/site/jgropp2/_/rsrc/1267607012437/Margery-full.jpg?height=624&width=774
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 02, 2013 at 09:18 PM
First Hill has always been popular with the UW Medical School Faculty. Here's a JG home for one of my many repeat clients from that estimable institution. (I was "passed around" said Faculty.) J- https://sites.google.com/site/jgropp2/_/rsrc/1267607019923/MottetLR3-custom-size-600-420-brt-53.jpg?height=420&width=331
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 04, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Woke up thinking about the "Scalzo Scar". Hope Ken'll write about this area (next?). J-
Kendall Watson January 04, 2013 at 05:17 PM
That would be interesting, Jerry, and a challenge for Ken — as I think the developer that platted the area (Scalzo) had a different name in mind (as we discussed offline — "Twin View", a name nobody but planners at City Hall are familiar with). This has to be the only neighborhood on the Island that's named that way — reminding residents of the choices made in the past when the neighborhood was established.
Chris Moore January 04, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Great discussion thread! Does anyone know if Mercer Island, or any specific neighborhoods, have ever been officially surveyed for purposes of documenting the architectural legacy? In many ways, MI was a testing ground for Pacific NW Modernism and is chalk full of terrific examples by the leading post-war designers, Jerry included! My wife and I just move to MI with our two young daughters. Everyone thinks it was for the schools - I tell them it was for the architecture! But, like many places, the wonderful mid-century/recent past legacy is disappearing. Bigger is not better...We moved into to an early 50s ranch that had a very sensitive addition constructed in 1968. We updated the kitchen and took out a few interior walls to open things up, but from the outside you wouldn't know a thing had changed - and we love it. If survey has been done, let me know! Chris Moore, Field Director, WA Trust for Historic Preservation
Kendall Watson January 04, 2013 at 05:28 PM
What a neat idea! What do you think, Jerry? You should be on this like bees to honey...
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 04, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Kendall- You are so right. Medics, teachers and pilots and many other professionals were and are attracted to our unique island. Unfortunately, "DingBat" builders (their term) followed soon after. There's a lot I could (and will) write about this despoilation that continues to this day.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 04, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Kendall- Scars do heal. Drove through the "Scalzo" area today. Really looks pretty nice with many trees- mostly non-native.
Ken Urman, Real Estate Broker January 04, 2013 at 08:22 PM
As a RE Broker and resident I've seen my share of Pacific NW Modernism on Mercer Island. I'm working on one now off West Mercer Way, built in 1978 which is a terrific example. The Island is truly a concentrated environment of NW architectural styles.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 05, 2013 at 01:02 AM
. Ken- Do tell us more about this listing. Address? Architect? Early on, I worked for the master of Pacific NW Modernism- Paul Hayden Kirk. He's never ever been surpassed. JerryG-
Chris Moore January 05, 2013 at 01:12 AM
We are lucky that many of Kirk's designs are extant in the Puget Sound area. Did he do much on MI?
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 05, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Chris- I don't think Paul did much work on Mercer Island. He took a young architect (me) in his one good hand (he was a polio victim) showed me what could be done to design good honest, attractive family homes- for which I've always been terribly grateful. JG-
Ken Urman, Real Estate Broker January 07, 2013 at 10:27 PM
A Black and Caldwell home was just listed for sale on Mercer Island. Built in 1963 it's in our Westside community and has views of Lake Washington. Please contact me, (206 499-4948) if you'd like more information or would like to see it.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 07, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Black and Caldwell did some really nice Ralph Anderson homes- mainly on-island back then. Lovely proportions, natural stained cedar siding, Well-sited, sought-after. Please post the listing so Islanders can see it, pass it to those RA afficionados we might know. (I'm one). JerryG-
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 08, 2013 at 03:15 AM
Thanks Ken- I'll go by in the morning- on my way to the Libe. JerryG- http://media.matrix.nwmls.com/mediaserver/GetMedia.ashx?Key=55097192&TableID=1&Type=1&Size=3&exk=-1080683819&Number=0
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 08, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Kendall- We PatchReaders are still waiting for the "really neat 1920s map of Mercer Island on his (Joshua Thurman's) wall". You promised to add a photo of it to this blog. J-
Kendall Watson January 08, 2013 at 10:56 PM
There you go!
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 09, 2013 at 05:27 AM
Josh- Guess I'll have to come down to your office to really see your '20s MI Map . When's a good time? This is indeed something. How did you come by it? JerryG-
Kendall Watson April 13, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Hey Jerry, Did you ever get in touch with Joshua Thurman? And @Ken, I was wondering in this description of First Hill if you didn't intend to write that the eastern boundary of First Hill is 74th Ave. SE, and not "First Hill’s eastern boundary is the opposite East Ridge, or 84th Street". It always seemed to me that First Hill ran roughly between 72nd and 74th, north to I-90 (I think very few would consider the Roanoke Tavern as a First Hill location, for example) and south to SE 40th St.


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