Port Townsend Washington
Holly Hill House
Visited by polite former Hill Family spirits,
who heartily approve of the restoration efforts!
Holly Hill House is a beautiful two-story Victorian home, built in 1872. When we visited it in 2012, the property was for sale. As of 2013, it is a private residence and no longer a bed and breakfast. The rooms in its Carriage House, however, are still available for visitors to rent. The Carriage House contains the so-called Holly House Guest Rooms.
Holly Hill House got its name from the ancient holly trees that were originally planted when Robert and Elizabeth Hill lived there. Perhaps holly trees only have to be planted once. They must be pretty hardy to have lasted so long. They appear to have received excellent care over the past 100 plus years.
Inside the ring of space made by the 20 holly trees are two ancient trees, original to the late 1880s Hill home. An ancient, upside-down Camperdown elm was grafted three times to itself and then re-rooted by the Hills’ Chinese gardener. It is listed on the historic tree registry. The second equally old, but smaller tree, a weeping mulberry, was also grafted to its own roots, probably by the same Chinese gardener. The hawthorn and plum trees also still alive in the garden are from the same era.
The Holly Hill House garden is an authentic Victorian garden, which has been well taken care of for over 100 years. The whole property is enclosed by a white picket fence, with 88 roses planted just inside it. The idea to plant so many rose bushes was Elizabeth Hill’s, who loved roses.
Inside Holly Hill House
While the original house was built by the Hunt family, it has evolved somewhat to meet the needs and tastes of its various owners. Fortunately, the house’s beauty and unique qualities have been kept mostly intact.
“Distinctive features of the house include the unusual fireplaces, stippled woodwork, ornate moldings, hand-cast hinges, built-in hutches, many original light fixtures (which were changed from oil to electric), and a cozy sitting porch.”
Something about Holly Hill House has inspired all those who owned it to create their perfect dream home. The upgrades made by Colonel Robert and Elizabeth Hill have been admired and kept. In the parlor, a marble fireplace was added by the Hills in 1898. Built-in hutches and cabinets were added by the Hills in the huge dining room. A second floor addition over the kitchen was built in 1900 to create a master bathroom.
Other owners have also added their personal touches and changes to reflect their tastes and meet their needs. The old parlor, made into a bedroom in the late thirties, was also used as Lizette’s sitting room, a library, and an office.
The kitchen has been remodeled at least four times. A fireplace made from the original bricks was added in the 1970s.
When Holly Hill House was opened as a bed and breakfast, by owners Greg and Nina, there were three bedrooms with private baths, meaning that closets and walls were moved to make space for bathrooms sometime in the house’s history. Colonel Robert’s Suite was huge, and could sleep 10 people. The Carriage House had two more glorious rooms, enlarged by Greg and Nina, so they could offer guests beautiful accommodations.
The foundation of Holly Hill House was laid in 1864, by JJ Hunt, the operator of the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Water Street. He was deeded the land in 1872. With his wife Helen he built the original house, but didn’t live there very long. In 1880, the house was passed down to Mary Hunt’s descendants, who sold it to Robert Cosby Hill and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1884.
Robert C. Hill grew up with his family in Pennsylvania. He fought in the army during the 1800s Indian Wars, and reached the rank of Colonel. He came to Port Townsend, Washington, to join in business ventures with his brothers Nathan and Humphrey.
Hill was a mover and a shaker. When he started The First National Bank with his associate Colonel Henry Landes, he became quite well-to-do. Robert was well-liked and highly thought of by the people of Port Townsend, who elected him Mayor in 1885.
He and his wife, Elizabeth made this house their special home, adding personal touches and renovations. Lots of roses and unique trees were planted in the yard. Holly Hill House was their very favorite place, their dream home, where they raised their three sons: Horace, William, and Harry.
As the Hill family did a lot of entertaining, they added built in cabinets and hutches in the dining room, a huge space. Around 1900, they added a second floor to the kitchen wing, as they wanted to add a bathroom to the Colonel’s bedroom suite.
Robert and Elizabeth’s son and daughter-in-law, William, and his wife Lizette, moved in and raised their family there as well. William’s life was cut short due to a stroke in 1937, during a 4th of July speech he was making in front of the townspeople. Both William and Lizette lived in the house until their deaths. The house, however, stayed in the Hill family for ninety six years!
In 1980, it was sold to people outside the family, the Slaters, who loved it and were willing to do some restoration work on this now fixer-upper opportunity with great bones and many lovely features. In 1984, they were awarded The Mary Johnson Award for their restoration efforts. While owning this property, they did their best to keep the gardens in great shape, and the home as well.
When Greg and Nina bought the property, Holly Hill House evolved into a bed and breakfast. They continued the tradition of taking upkeep and restoration seriously, while taking steps to renovate the structure to meet the needs of their business, like expanding and improving the rooms in the Carriage House. They were known for their hospitality and great breakfasts, which must have pleased the more socially ardent spirits.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Restoration of a historic property by people not in the original family can act like an environmental trigger, drawing spirits into this world to more openly enjoy the improvements made to their cherished place. The first reported paranormal activity started when the house was sold to the Slaters.
People who love their home and/or die in it, like to visit or stay there in the afterlife. Patriarch Robert Hill died in an upstairs bedroom. Perhaps his wife, Elizabeth, also died in this house. She loved her home, her rose garden, and loved to host social gatherings as well, including music recitals. William and Lizette, who also loved the family home, also died in the house.
People who look forward to accomplishing something good or being honored in some way, can get frustrated if they die before they can accomplish their task or receive their honor. They want to stay or visit here because they want to enjoy what they had when they were still alive. William Hill suffered a stroke during a public speech. He was very proud to be the main speaker. He died five months later at home.
People dedicated to helping others, sometimes try to continue to help in the afterlife, or they choose to simply stay with the spirit of the person who died. After William suffered a stroke, his faithful wife, Lizette, who dearly loved him, turned the ladies parlor in the Holly Hill House into a convalescence room, where she took care of him, until he died five months later in December. She then made his old room into her sitting room.
Several paranormal groups have done investigations, claiming to have evidence of the spirits’ presence, but none of it has been published, possibly out of fear of others stealing it, or perhaps for other reasons.
It is not known who or how many spirits may visit or stay in Holly Hill House. It is thought to be between two and four. Here are the possibilities:
The Entity of Patriarch Col. Robert Hill
In the upstairs bedroom where Robert Hill died, the smell of cigar smoke has been noticed by people still in this world.
The apparition of a gentleman, dressed in old-fashioned clothing has been seen on the staircase.
The Female Entity of Elizabeth Hill
She had many fond memories of her life here.
As she raised her family in this house, and adored her roses, she may be the presence felt or noticed in the first floor rooms, the kitchen, and in the large garden.
People have heard piano music being played, despite the fact that there was no piano in the home. While this may be just residual energy, it may also be a sign of Elizabeth’s presence, as she relives fond memories of the many fine music recitals she hosted.
The Entity of William Hill
His spirit has been seen in the old, original ladies’ parlor, where he passed away. Perhaps he likes the library set up in this space.
He may also have been seen on the central staircase.
The Entity of William Hill’s wife, Lizette
Her presence has been felt and perhaps seen in rooms located on the first floor, especially where William Hill struggled to get better.
Perhaps so, in a mild way, though little information has been made public that would confirm the presence of spirits.
The owner at the time of the writing of Jeff Dwyer’s book, Ghost Hunter’s Guide To Seattle And Puget Sound, told him that the home wasn’t haunted by anyone, despite what others have said.
Other people and paranormal investigators have claimed to have had the personal experiences listed above, which is entirely possible, as the spirits may not want to scare the owner, and are careful not to show themselves when their home has been so well taken care of. This would be very impolite!
No hard evidence has been made public by paranormal groups, such as AGHOST, one of my favorite investigation organizations. They were the source for Jeff Dwyer’s story on Holly Hill House. It could’ve been a private investigation, where the owners didn’t want anything specific published.
Some of the spirits may just visit from time to time, and are by nature very low key, benign, polite entities who don’t go out of their way to be noticed by the people who share Holly Hill House with them.
611 Polk Street
Port Townsend, Washington 99368
NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – DON’T DISTURB THE NEW OWNERS
The Holly Hill House can be found in uptown Port Townsend on the corner of Clay and Polk Streets.
- Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Seattle and Puget Sound
By Jeff Dwyer
- Holly Hill House page on PTGuide.com
- Holly Hill House page on The Innkeeper.com
- “Haunted Washington” page on Washington State Ghost Society.com
- “Washington Ghosts” page on Haunted Travels.com
- Holly Hill House listing on The Bed and Breakfast Directory
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr