(click to enlarge photos)
Seattle’s “mother” Mary Denny with its “father” and her husband Arthur moved from Alki Point to the forest on the east shore of Elliott Bay in 1852. There they kept close to the shoreline for nearly a half-century prospering while Seattle grew as rapidly as their many children.
When the city began its explosive growth in the 1880s and sustained it through the “great fire” of 1889 and beyond, many of the first and most fortunate settlers fled to the hills from the growing populist confusion downtown. But not the both prudent and confident Dennys who kept to their Gothic farmhouse, small barn, one milk cow and orchard on First Avenue where now the Seattle Art Museum embraces culture between Union and University streets.
When Arthur died in 1899, Mary with her dedicated and still single daughter Margaret Lenora followed her oldest friends to First Hill, Seattle’s first somewhat exclusive neighborhood. They took to this stately Tudor mansion at the southeast corner of University St. – named earlier by Arthur for the State institution he delivered to Seattle – and Boren Ave. – named for Mary and her brother Carson’s family. Here they aged, and after a life of industry and considerable advantage their good fortune was inevitably mixed mortally with some bad.
By 1916 six Denny/Boren family funerals has been conducted here at 1220 Boren Ave, including Mary’s in 1911 and Margaret Lenora’s in 1915. At 88, Mary died of “natural causes.” Margaret perished extraordinarily in a wreck – a plunge into the Duwamish River from the slipper deck of the Allentown Bridge. From this home all the deceased were carried to the family’s grand tomb-site nearby at Lake View Cemetery.
Sensitive for how sexual roles have changed in the ensuing century, we may still be touched by how before his own death Arthur Denny described his Mary. “She has been kind and indulgent in all my faults, and in all cases of doubt and difficulty in the long voyager we have made together, without the least disposition to dictate, a safe and prudent adviser.”
[Click the below TWICE to enlarge.]
Anything to add, Paul? A few old related features Jean.
THE BIG BRICK HOME of BANKER MANSON BACKUS
(Summer of 2003)
Thanks to a 47 year old tip from Seattle Times writer Alice Staples that may well be Carl A. Peterson at the wheel of the motorcar posing at the northeast corner of University Way and Boren Avenue. Behind the driver and his riders is the brand new over-sized home of the banker Manson Backus. Staples wrote a eulogy for the Backus home – and three others shown here – in the spring of 1956 when they were about to be torn down for a modern high rise. She interviewed Peterson.
For a half-century C.A.Peterson was a chauffeur of choice on First Hill. He drove for Backus and others and taught many of his employers to drive. He told Staples, “I watched them build this house in 1904.” Manson Backus the Second – the banker’s grandson — described for the reporter the red mahogany living room with a nearly 12 foot wide fireplace, the wide staircase that wound itself to the third floor, and his banker grandfather’s two electrically operated secret panels that he used as safety vaults.
The Mayflower descendent Backus came to Seattle from New York in 1889 with securities already in his pockets and started the (many times renamed) National Bank of Commerce. By the time the bank president moved into this big home he had lost two wives but had two children. His son LeRoy lived with his own family (including Manson the Second) next door on Boren, here to the left. As high-rise apartments first began to replace the mansions on First Hill many of its established families – Backus included – uprooted to the Highlands.
WARD HOUSE at BOREN AND PIKE
(First appeared in Pacific Jan. 3, 1999)
This view of George and Louise Ward’s over-sized home was sent to me last summer  by Marianne Roulet, who came by it through her friendship with the descendants of Christine Johnson. Johnson arrived in Seattle about 1891, working as a cook until she joined fellow Swedish immigrant Sophia Anderson to open an early-century boarding house in the Ward home sometime after that family moved to new quarters. What is peculiarly delightful about this record is it shows the structure in its original attitude, facing Pike Street just west of Boren Avenue.
This seems to be the best photograph (so far) of a home that has received a lot of attention – especially since attorneys David A. Leen and Bradford Moore answered Historic Seattle’s call to save this cherished landmark by moving it from harm’s way in 1985. A little more than a year later Leen and Moore were receiving clients in their new offices, the restored Ward House at Denny Way and Belmont Avenue, about seven blocks from its original comer.
George and Louise Ward came from Illinois in 1871, settling on a farm south of town, then moving to Seattle for their daughter’s and son’s education. George used his training as a carpenter to build homes and soon also speculated with them. By 1880, he was a partner in Llw’ellyn and Ward, selling real estate and insurance and making loans. He also was active with the Seattle Cornet Band he helped found in 1877.
The Wards built their four-story landmark on the Pike Street slope to Capitol Hill in 1882. The home’s Italianate style probably fulfilled some architectural yearning for the Wards but by 1882 it was moving out of fashion.
George W. Ward’s funeral was’ held in Tabernacle Baptist church on Capitol Hill in the early fall of 1913. Ward was an active Baptist all his life, including his last 15 years as superintendent of the night school attached to the Japanese Baptist Mission here.
The startling differences between this week’s now and then are the results of 110 years of development. The older photograph looks northeast from a 4th Avenue prospect on Denny Hill. The contemporary scene  was recorded in line with the old but from the top of the 4-story garage on the east side of Third Avenue.
FROM ONE HILL TO ANOTHER
(Spring of 2003)
When detailed panoramas like this rare look from Denny Hill to Capitol Hill are printed small we are left for the most part with describing impressions and larger features like the fresh grade of Denny Way, upper-right, where it begins to climb Capitol Hill.
The original print shares the photographer’s name, A.J.McDonald, on the border. McDonald is listed only in the 1892-93 Corbett Seattle Directory. Perhaps the economic panic of 1893 drove him back to California. The California State Library preserves a large collection of his San Francisco subjects but only a few Seattle scenes survive in local collections. Probably most of his Seattle subjects – maybe all -were taken during the photographer’s brief stay here.
The street on the right is Stewart, and its most evident part is the then still steep block between 8th and 9th Avenues. The large box-shaped building at the northwest corner of 9th and Stewart is home for Hendrick Bresee’s Grocery. He appears in the 1892-93 directory with McDonald. Ten years later it was J. M. Ryan’s Grocery. In 1910 the intersection was lowered fourteen feet. One block west at 8th Avenue Stewart was also raised with fill, thereby creating the contemporary gentle grade between 8th and 9th appropriate for the Greyhound Bus Depot built there on south side of the street in 1927.
In 1892-93 Westlake Avenue between Pike Street and Denny Way is still 15 years in the future and Virginia Street, one block north of Stewart, has not yet been developed through the two steep blocks east of 8th Avenue. Cascade School, one of the scene’s future landmarks opened in 1895. But the scene is dappled with many residents. All of them are relatively new, the creations of Seattle’s explosive growth in the early 1890s, including the Gothic steeple of the Norwegian Danish Baptist Church at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and Virginia Street that appears at the border on the left.
Ten years before McDonald recorded this cityscape it was practically all forest. A few stragglers stand above City Park (Volunteer Park since 1901) on the rim of the ridge that in 1900 James Moore, its primary developer, named Capitol Hill. [For more on Capitol Hill history please consult historylink.org]
When Norval Latimer (in the front seat) married Margaret Moore (in the back seat) in 1890 he was the manager of the pioneer Dexter Horton bank. When they posed with three of their children for this 1907 view on Terry Street with the family home behind them, Norval was still managing the bank and would soon be made both president and director as well.
Contemporary photo by Sue Champness
Historical photo courtesy of Jody Latimer Maurer
The LATIMERS of FIRST HILL
(Summer of 2006)
There are certainly two artifacts that have survived the 99 years since the historical view was recorded of the Latimer family – or part of it – posing in the family car and in front of the family home on First Hill.
The scene was almost certainly recorded in 1907 because a slightly wider version of the same photograph shows construction scaffolding still attached to the north side of St. James Cathedral’s south tower, far right. The Cathedral is the most obvious survivor. By the time of the church’s dedication on Dec. 22, 1907 the scaffolding was removed. The second artifact is the stonewall that once restrained the Latimer lawn and now separates the Blood Bank parking lot from the sidewalks that meet at the southwest corner of Terry and Columbia.
In the “now” Margaret Latimer Callahan stands about two feet into Terry Street and near where her banker father Norval sits behind the wheel in the family Locomobile. Born on July 22, 1906, Margaret is the youngest of Norval and Margaret Latimer’s children.
For a while, Margaret, it was thought, might be a third visible link between the then and now — although certainly no artifact. The evidentiary question is this. Who is sitting on papa Norval’s lap? Is it his only daughter or his youngest son Vernon? After polling about – yes – 100 discerning friends and Latimer descendents the great consensus is that this is Vernon under the white bonnet. And Margaret agrees. “I was probably inside with a nurse while three of my brothers posed with my parents.”
Margaret also notes that her father is truly a poser behind the wheel, for he was never a driver. Sitting next to him is Gus the family’s chauffeur with whom he has traded seats for the moment.
The clever reader has already concluded that Margaret Latimer Callahan will be celebrating her centennial in a few days.  Happy 100th Margaret.