Editor’s Note: This article was originally published July 25, 2016. It has been updated with the latest information.
Samuel Hill only spent a portion of his life in Seattle, but the businessman and philanthropist made his mark on the burgeoning region in the early decades of the 20th century. His notable projects include the Maryhill Museum of Art and Maryhill Stonehenge, but the most iconic building he left behind within the Seattle limits is the neoclassical mansion at 814 E Highland Drive, designed by architecture firm Hornblower & Marshall around 1908.
Hill used the mansion to entertain many international dignitaries during his lifetime, although he originally built the place for his friend Crown Prince Albert of Belgium to visit. (The Crown Prince never made the trip, though.)
The Seattle Times wrote of the estate back in 1932 when it originally went up for sale. They speak of the place with the kind of purple prose you don't quite find in the papers anymore.
That indefinable air of remoteness, intrigue and melancholy which caused the old mansion to stand out on its lonely street as if plucked from the heart of a horror tale, is slowly but effectively being dispelled.
They describe a residence that includes a secret passageway from the master suite and walls covered in "transparent colored photographs of Northwest land and sea-scapes."
Many of the original features are gone, thanks to various renovations that occurred over the years, including one that converted it into a duplex sometime after 1937. But the concrete exterior looks very much the same from the outside.
It last hit the market in 2008 for $4,750,000, but was eventually delisted.
In the meantime, the property got a remodel. Last July, the property is popped up for a whopping $15 million, and it’s stayed there ever since. It’s the most expensive Seattle listing by $1.2 million.
The reason for the jump from under $5 million to eight figures? A massive renovation. We'd call it a studs-out remodel, but there are literally no studs in this concrete block of a home.
With the help of Stuart Silk Architects, interior design from Garret Cord Werner Architects and Interior Designers and landscape design by Richard Hartledge, the new version is a blend of old and new that tries not to let one overwhelm the other.
In the dining room, original steel beams that run the length of the home have been exposed to juxtapose the elegant modern redesign. In the master suite, the original floors and fireplace remain. Outside, gas-lit lamps build an ambiance similar to what it might have been like back when Hill himself roamed the grounds.
One of the most curious-looking spaces in the home has to be the gym. That's because it was originally the horse stable. You can still see where the big stable doors once stood and the tall openings in the wall where the horses looked out from. These days it's not only a gym but a spa room with a steam shower and sauna.
Also worth nothing: The home comes with the oldest working sundial in Seattle, which happens to be located on the property.
Initially, the home’s spot on the National Register of Historic Places kept its taxes practically nonexistent. But after the home made the news last year, the King County Assessor took a closer look and sent a $50,000 tax bill.
Still, at .3 percent of the home’s value, that seems like a steal for whoever can afford to buy the home in the first place.
- 814 E Highland Drive [CBB]
- 814 E Highland Drive [Estately]
- Sam Hill [RW]
- Revivals [HL]
- Sam Hill Mansion [NWS]
- Hill House [NRHP]