This is the farmhouse where Margaret and Rezin Pontius raised their five children: three boys, Frank, Albert and Lincoln, and two girls, Mary and Emma. The photographer was the prolific Theodore Peiser, whose pioneer studio was one lot south of the southeast corner of Marion Street and Second Avenue, or was until the Great Fire of 1889 destroyed it and most of his negatives. Either this print escaped the flames, or the undated subject was recorded after the fire.
That’s Margaret posing near the front porch. By this time the three sons were all grown and working in town. Lincoln, the youngest, was a machinist, Albert a blacksmith, and Frank, the oldest, a druggist and for the years 1887-88, King County Treasurer. The year for Peiser’s visit was, I’ll speculate, about 1890. There are several homes climbing the Capitol Hill ridge on the horizon behind Margaret. All of them were built on land that she, with her sons, had sold. First settled by Rezin in the late 1860s and platted in 1880 as the Pontius Addition, north of Denny Way it extends east from Minor Avenue up Capitol Hill as far as 14th Avenue.
In the 1879 Pitt’s Directory for Seattle, Margaret is listed as a “farmeress” on the “Lake Union Road.” By 1890, the Pontius farmhouse was also a real estate office, and the family’s fortune multiplied with an influx of neighbors, of which there was a growing swarm following the fire. By then, Rezin was long gone, having disappeared after an argument with Margaret. Thereafter, by Margaret’s authority, he was a forbidden subject. When needed, she listed herself as a widow. After Margaret’s death, Rezin was reunited with his children, living out his life with Frank in Bothell.
ABOVE: With some of Mother Rhyther’s children on the porch and front steps and BELOW without them.
In 1889 Margaret built the family a Gothic mansion with a landmark tower about a hundred feet west of the farmhouse. Margaret was known for her conflicting passions of great charm and violent temper, which were conditioned by her charities. She gave much of her steadily increasing wealth to the care of children. After her death in 1902, the Pontius Mansion became the Mother Rhyther Home for Orphans in 1905 and continued so until 1919.
Above a Dec. 1, 1899 adver for Pontius lots and below it a Dec. 30, 1910 notice regarding the removal of a house in the way of extending Stewart Street to Eastlake Avenue and so at least in part through the site of the Pontius farm house and garden.
If I have figured correctly, with the help of other photographs and real estate maps, the Pontius farmhouse originally rested both beneath and beside the footprint for the Colwell Building, a six-story apartment with 124 units for low-income tenants, seen in the “now.” Opened in 2000, it was named for Reverend David Griffith Colwell, the Congregational minister who helped found the Plymouth Housing Group in 1980, which now manages one thousand units of low-income housing in twelve structures. With his death in 2001, Colwell left a legacy of good works, including twenty years of helping the homeless in Seattle.
Anything to add, boys? Surely Jean. Ron Edge has found a half-dozen links from the neighborhood, much of it the Pontius domain, which climbed up Capitol Hill to its summit on 14th Avenue. We used only a few of the stories we have told from that real estate kingdom. Below these links I’ll introduce a few earlier ones and three McDonald panoramas from the early 1890s that include the Cascade neighborhood – and much else. In all three the Pontius mansion can be found and in one of them their farm house as well. Their quite close to each other. Ron also appears below – in the second link- if our readers open it. It is a Peterson & Bros pioneer photo Ron found of another farm in the neighborhood. Jean posed Ron in the “now.” Together we, Ron, Jean and I, figured out the farm’s location a few blocks north of the Pontius farm.
THREE OLD MCDONALDS
1. From FIRST HILL
2. From DENNY HILL (This McDonald pan was given its own feature on June 29, 2003.)
3. From QUEEN ANNE HILL (It is more difficult to find the Pontius big home in this McDonald pan to the southeast from Queen Anne Hill, but it is there on the far right if you click-click-click.)
FOLLOW A FEW FEATURES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD (Or Near It)
6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Pontius Home”
Reblogged this on Janet’s thread.
Having read your post, I now have an idea where “Pontius Road” (80th Ave NE, now, also known as Meridian) in Bothell got its name! I wonder about where Pontius lived in Bothell. I live about a block off of Pontius Road.
I often find your column interesting but have you ever considering changing its title to “Then and Now”? I keep wanting to see it this way because the then always comes first as it surely should.
I suppose many have left this same comment.
Thanks for your comment about the name of the column – it has gone by that monicker since Paul first began it in 1982; 33 years later and it’s still going strong. Originally, I believe, the whimsical aspect of “now and then” as in “We travel to Paris now and then” or “Now and then, I eat at a wonderful restaurant” won out over the more exact “then and now” those many years ago – but interestingly, given its long history, you are the first to complain in the ten years I’ve been associated with the column. Perhaps it’s too late to change the name of this feature so late in the game, but we understand the sentiment.