In 1992 I went to New Zealand. This attractive girl there heard I was from the States she asked which state. I said Washington.
She said, “Oh. The Capital.”
I said, “No. I’m from a city near Seattle.” She still had a blank look. “I’m actually from a city called Tacoma.” Her eyes brightened.
“Oh! That’s where Hilltop is. Right?”
Now it was my turn to have a blank look.
“I’m on the other side of the planet. How do you know about Hilltop?”
“It was on Cops last week. Hey, have you been mugged before?”
My point here is that when I say that Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood was known the world over as a crime-filled, scary place to live, I’m not kidding. Since then things have changed substantially.
Today’s 5 Question Friday is with someone who knows this first hand. Her name is Amy Potter. She lives in Hilltop and she writes the neighborhood blog HilltopTacoma.com. She’s also a high school English teacher at a Native American school in the area. It’s safe to say, she’s exactly the sort of person who is making Hilltop and Tacoma a better place. Here’s Amy’s answers:
1. What changes have you seen in Tacoma’s Hilltop in the time you’ve lived there?
In the seven years I have owned my home here on Hilltop, I have seen many changes. When I first bought the house, the neighborhood was a bit scary. Drugs were all around, a prostitute set up shop on my porch one winter when the home was vacant, homeless men pushed carts full of their belongings around, and some people’s behavior was just plain odd. I remember a man came by while I was gardening one day and tried to sell me old curtains that looked like they’d just been taken from a Motel 6. Now it is much different. We spend much of our time on the porch watching people, cars, and fire trucks go by. More and more people are buying homes knowing that they are helping to make it a better place. Our MLK corridor, however, has not weathered the years well. We have lost many local businesses and it is a bit of a ghost town. The business heart of our neighborhood needs help.
2. What is the biggest misconception people have about Hilltop?
Some people think this is a dangerous place plagued with gangs and guns. I’m not going to say we don’t have problems, but I don’t choose to see the negative. Our friend, Prince, who’s from Fresno, told us that down there people still refer to it as “Killtop.” It is simply not that at all. Hilltop is warm and friendly. Come as you are, stand on the sidewalk, look at the realness of our people, and enjoy.
3. It’s clear that you love your neighborhood. Why do you love living on Hilltop?
The people here are fun. They’re storytellers. They have something to say if you take the time to ask. Hilltop is vibrant and full of life. It has taught me that everyone can find their place in the city.
4. What’s something Hilltop needs that it does not have?
Hilltop needs a thriving business district. We need investors and business owners to trust in our neighborhood’s future. A street named after Martin Luther King Jr. should not be suffering.
5. What do you see for the future of Hilltop?
I see Hilltop continuing to grow with positive change. More and more people are realizing that this is a wonderful little piece of Tacoma, not just a place to drive through on the way to somewhere else. I think we’ve moved past the days where we wanted to take the streets back. Now we need to look into the past when people settled here with high hopes for the future and figure out how to move forward.
I want to thank Amy for participating in 5 Question Friday. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out HilltopTacoma.com, you really should.
As always, if you or anyone you know wants to be a part of 5 Question Friday or if you would like to suggest someone for it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
– Jack Cameron
I have to agree with Ms. Potter. Besides being safer, some of the most gorgeous Victorian homes in the nation are in the Hilltop of Tacoma. In fact, even east Tacoma made This Old House magazine last year. Many people knew this would happen. Now, with a few changes to county tax codes, we might entice quite a few high tech businesses to come to Tacoma and make this town extremely nice. Thanks for the positive article, Jack.
Nice post but I believe Tacoma PD never was a part of COPS. I think I have only seen one episode where Pierce County/Lakewood entered the city limits on a chase..
I don’t ever remember a TPD episode of Cops either, but that was the conversation I had with the girl. For all I know there’s an episode where a Pierce County Sheriff referenced Hilltop or something.
I have seen episodes of COPS in Pierce County many times.
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…not just a place to drive through on the way to somewhere else. Drive as fast as possible in order to get someplace else. If find yourself in Hilltop after dark, you’re in danger of finding out just how warm and friendly it really is.
“Killtop” isn’t infamous for nothing.