N.D. HillName: N.D. Hill Building
Year Built: 1889
Location: 635 Water Street
Area: Downtown Port Townsend

In 1888, at the age of 65, Nathanial Davis Hill undertook the ambitious development of the corner lot at Water & Quincy streets.

One of the two most ornate structures in downtown Port Townsend, this building was designed by noted Seattle architect Elmer H. Fisher. It is principally Italianate in design, but also shows Grecian and Romanesque influences. He designed a skylighted central court, square-headed windows on the lower floors and small-scale Romanesque arches on the top floor. The exterior roof line is well known in architectural circles for its richly decorated eaves with their underlying corbels. Built by Hill, a retired pharmacist, in 1889, at a cost of $25,000, the building remains a beautiful example of the grace and affluence of early Port Townsend.

Hill arrived in the Northwest in 1852, and after a stint of farming and managing an Indian agency on Whidbey Island, he came to Port Townsend. Ultimately he became one of the most successful and well-respected men in the Washington Territory. He was the first manufacturer of medicinal drugs in the area. He was also involved in banking, railroads, saw mills, and telegraph companies. As a territorial representative and county commissioner, Hill became one of the leaders in the drive for statehood.

Hard times fell on Port Townsend in the 1890s, and the Hill family sold the building. Thus began a long period of poor maintenance and neglect. The building was finally placed on the tax rolls, where it remained for many years.

In recent times the building has been recognized for its historical importance and is now enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places. A complete program of renovation and restoration has been undertaken and currently continues. The foundation has been strengthened, the masonry repaired, a new roof has been applied, and a sprinkler and alarm system installed. The interior walls and woodwork have been restored, with close attention to authenticity. The AAA-approved Waterstreet Hotel occupies the entire second floor. It is the result of a 1990 renovation project. The brickwork and metalcraft are considered fine examples of late 19th century craftsmanship.

See also: The Waterstreet Hotel

Data modified from the National Register of Historic Places, the former Victorian Festival Heritage Home Tour, property owners and other sources. All material copyrighted by PTguide.com.

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