Neighborhood of the week
On the quiet side of the bridge
Though Genesee Hill is often overlooked because of its location, residents of the neighborhood in West Seattle say that's OK, it has some of the best views around.
Special to The Seattle Times
Genesee Hill (West Seattle)Population: About 2,945
Distance to downtown Seattle: 7 miles
Schools: The Genesee Hill neighborhood is served by Seattle Public Schools.
Recreation: Schmitz Preserve Park, 5551 S.W. Admiral Way. The 53-acre park, Schmitz Preserve, was donated to the city in pieces between 1908 and 1912. Schmitz Preserve Park has an old-growth forest, walking paths, hiking and nature study.
— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf
Centrally located in West Seattle, the quiet, residential neighborhood Genesee Hill rises high above Puget Sound, a collection of modest post-World War II bungalows and newer multistory view homes.
While trendier quarters like Capitol Hill, Belltown and Ballard have been transformed by explosive growth over the last decade, Genesee Hill and other parts of West Seattle have bloomed more quietly.
Growth has been slower in part because getting here requires a trek across the West Seattle Bridge. This three-mile stretch of highway crosses over the Duwamish River mouth, the shipyards of Elliott Bay and the industrial Harbor Island, a divide that has kept the area somewhat isolated from the rest of the city.
"West Seattle was kind of like Mayberry," said David Paxton, a West Seattle-based real-estate agent who grew up in Genesee Hill. "We were mostly left alone, because of the bridge."
Now, a walkable and revitalized downtown and "dynamite views" are drawing people from all over, Paxton said.
A recent transplant to West Seattle, Tyler Sullivan, 36, is one of those people who had never set foot across the bridge until two years ago. Born and bred in Ballard, he came to visit friends who'd migrated from North Seattle to West Seattle because, as he put it, "they could afford places."
His friends took him out to The Junction. Named a century ago for the intersection of two streetcar lines that once crossed at California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street, that corner is still a major commercial hub.
New businesses such as Bakery Nouveau and Cupcake Royale have added to the area's cafe culture, joining mainstays Husky Deli and Easy Street Café and Records. The proximity of grocery stores, sushi joints, brew pubs and other services like banks and car-repair shops enhance the area's quality of life.
Almost immediately, Sullivan began looking for his own home and now he lives a five-minute walk from The Junction near the corner of 46th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Oregon Street.
Sullivan, who works as a critical-care nurse at Harborview Medical Center, found a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot house in his price range. There he shares the living room and kitchen with a tenant who rents the downstairs bedroom.
Sullivan also appreciates the neighborhoods' many parks and often takes his Catahoula cattle dog Raya jogging in Schmitz Preserve Park.
The 53-acre preserve near Genesee Hill's northern border contains a patch of rare old-growth forest. It's named for the West Seattle pioneer family whose patriarch Ferdinand Schmitz was a prominent banker.
The Schmitz family left an indelible mark on the neighborhood when they donated the park's largest parcels in the early 1900s. The family also preserved and donated land that borders the neighborhood's western edge, including a steep, brambly slope, which flattens out near Alki Beach.
That park, called Me-Kwa-Mooks, serves as a reminder that the region was once inhabited by the Duwamish Tribe. A placard quoting Chief Sealth notes: "Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or sad experience of my tribe."
It was the subdividing and subsequent sale of Schmitz family-owned land that allowed Bob and Rita Yeasting to build their home near the top of Genesee Hill.
Bob Yeasting grew up in the area and remembers when it was mostly woods.
In 1963, he purchased a lot from the Schmitz family for $14,000 and hired a contractor to build the home in which he and his wife raised four children.
Neighborhood pride is evident in carefully tended yards throughout the neighborhood, and the Yeastings' yard — xeriscaped with river rock and watched over by a carved bald eagle — is no exception. Yeasting points across the way to a triplet of new view homes that went up on what was once a single lot.
"You can see most of the known world from up there," said Yeasting of one of the rooftop decks.
Kate Murphy moved into one of the homes about nine months ago. She and her husband, Shawn — a renowned sound engineer — moved from Bainbridge Island with their daughter, Tyler, and two rescue dogs.
"We looked at Shoreline, Magnolia and all over West Seattle," Kate Murphy said of their hunt for the perfect view. "We searched for 18 months."
They wanted the view, but the friendly, egalitarian feel of the neighborhood was an added bonus.
"West Seattle is an amazing community," she said. "You have every economic level, and no one shows off. It's probably one of the most comfortable areas I've lived in. If we had tried to find a good neighborhood, we couldn't have found a better one than this."
Information in this article, originally published March 10, 2007, was corrected March 12, 2007. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the location of The Junction.