Christopher P. Higgins purchases first land from federal government in Seattle's future Crown Hill neighborhood on April 5, 1871.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 3/28/2001
  • Essay 3145
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On April 5, 1871, Christopher P. Higgins purchases 160 acres from the federal government in what would become a portion of the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Crown Hill is located in northwest Seattle, north of Loyal Heights and Ballard. Higgins paid $200 for the 100-square-block area. His purchase included land from NW 85th Street to 95th Street and from 15th to 24th avenues NW.

After 1855, before land could be homesteaded or purchased from the United States, the federal government required a survey of the land. During the last week of August 1859, Deputy Surveyor William Carlton, a compassman, two chainmen, and an axeman surveyed the land that Higgins purchased.

A Forest Fire

While surveying along a line that would become 15th Avenue NW, they found the fire-charred remains of a forest that extended for quite a distance north of NW 85th Street and apparently included at least a portion of Higgins' land. Four years earlier, another survey crew had discovered evidence of the same fire.

Proceeding west along the future 85th Street they entered a "burnt area" at about 12th Avenue NW which extended west for about 20 blocks and at least as far south as NW 70th Street. The fire likely occurred sometime in the late 1840s or early 1850s.

School Lands

In 1853, when the Federal Government established Washington Territory, they allowed the territory to retain two square miles out of each township (36 square miles) to be used for school purposes. In the township between Denny Way and NW 85th Street that included Magnolia, Ballard, and a portion of Queen Anne, the sections usually allotted to the territory (sections 16 and 36) were mostly to be found under Puget Sound. In 1870, to make up for this deficiency, the territory chose 527 acres in sections 1 and 2 which included the future site of the Crown Hill retail district south of NW 85th Street.

In January 1888, George G. White and Norman Colt applied to homestead the land. Their applications were refused. They appealed the decision, challenging the territory's right to select this land for school purposes, but they lost. During the next five years, at least seven others applied to homestead the same land, and they too were denied. The land to the northeast of NW 85th Street and 15th Avenue NW was also withheld for school purposes.


"The Washington Tract Books," Vols. 126 and 127, Record Group 49, Pacific Northwest Region National Archives, Seattle, Washington; Bureau of Land Management, "Cadastral survey field notes and plats for WashingtonTownships 25 and 26 North, Range 3 East," University of Washington Microfiche M-3066, Newspapers and Microform, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, Washington.

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