Seattle Now & Then: The Pontius Home

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Cascade neighborhood, named for its public grade school (1894), now long gone, might have been better named for the Pontius family.  Immigrants from Ohio, they purchased many of the forested acres north of Denny Way and east of Fairview Avenue.
THEN: The Cascade neighborhood, named for its public grade school (1894), now long gone, might have been better named for the Pontius family. Immigrants from Ohio, they purchased many of the forested acres north of Denny Way and east of Fairview Avenue.
NOW: The Colwell Building at the northwest corner of Denny Way and Stewart Street opened in 2000.  It was named for Rev. David Colwell, the Congregational minister who is credited with starting the Plymouth Housing Group, which and builds affordable housing in Seattle for the homeless and working poor.
NOW: The Colwell Building at the northwest corner of Denny Way and Stewart Street opened in 2000. It was named for Rev. David Colwell, the Congregational minister who is credited with starting the Plymouth Housing Group, which and builds affordable housing in Seattle for the homeless and working poor.

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. 

The Photographer Theo Peiser's advertisement in the 1887 Polk City Directory presents his case with wit which it is somewhat stretched is still a sincere exception to the  facile fun had with much contemporary huckstering.  It is also a good - if implied - recommendation from his primary teacher and the thousands of poems that were once regularly printed in the nation's periodicals.  It seems to me.
The Photographer Theo Peiser’s advertisement in the 1887 Polk City Directory presents his case with wit which if somewhat stretched is still a sincere exception to the facile fun now had with our merciless huckstering. It is also a good – if implied – recommendation from his primary school teacher and the thousands of poems that were once regularly printed in the nation’s periodicals. It seems to me.  CLICK CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

A detail from the 1908 Baist Real Estate Map showing some of the reach of the Pontius additions.  CLICK-CLICK to ENLARGE.
A detail from the 1908 Baist Real Estate Map showing some of the reach of the Pontius additions.   North is at the top.  CLICK-CLICK to ENLARGE.

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.

PONTIUS-MANSION-with-kids-web

ABOVE:  With some of Mother Rhyther’s children on the porch and front steps and BELOW without them.

Pontius-mansion,-Denny-Way-SEPIA

First appeared in The Times on Feb. 5, 1995.
First appeared in The Times on Feb. 5, 1995.  CLICK-CLICK to ENLARGE
Until the Amazon and Vulcan developments accelerated throughout the neighborhood, both the Pontius Farmhouse and its nearby mansion were on blocks thirteen and 24 of the Pontius 4th Addition just north of Denny Way.  The footstep of the mansion shows in the lower-left quarter of the Baist map on lots 8 & 9 of its 13th Block.  By 1908 the farmhouse was gone.
Long before the Amazon and Vulcan developments rocketed through the Westlake and Cascade neighborhoods, both the Pontius Farmhouse and the nearby mansion were on blocks thirteen and 24 of the Pontius 4th Addition just north of Denny Way. The footprint of the mansion shows in the lower-left quarter of the Baist map printed above on lots 8 & 9 of its 13th Block. By 1908 the farmhouse was long gone.  The mansion was later razed for the Greyhound garage, which is now no more.  When I photographed the “now” I was, I turns out, about one lot east of the proper prospect.  Note the alley crossing north and south  through block 13 between John and Denny Way in the map.   Most likely that is the alley figuring in the above look at Greyhound across Denny Way.  The “now” shot dates from the mid 1990’s when it was used in The Times for the feature on the big home, which is printed again immediately above this “now” shot.  Immediately below this caption we’ve inserted the thirty-first of the Times feature writer Margaret  Pitcairn Strachan’s well-wrought study of fifty-two Seattle mansions.  Some were still standing when she produced her weekly series in 1944-45.  I have covered many of these same big homes in the last 34 years and confess to having often borrowed from Strachan.
Margaret   feature on the Pontius family, their homes, enterprise and often stressed family life.  CLICK CLICK CLICK THIS and there is at least a chance that you can read it.)
Margaret Strachan’s feature on the Pontius family, their homes, enterprise and often stressed family life. CLICK CLICK CLICK THIS and there is at least a chance that you can read it.)

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. 

ST-dec-1---99-REAL-ESTATE-WEB

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.

A Dec. 30, 1910 clip from The Times.
A Dec. 30, 1910 clip from The Times.
An investiment opportunity that leans on the salesman's understanding that the expected "extending of Stewart Street making a  boulevard from Westlake to Eastlake" will double the values of lots nearby.
An investment opportunity that leans on the salesman’s understanding that the expected “extending of Stewart Street making a boulevard from Westlake to Eastlake” will double the values of lots nearby.

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.

David Colwell in The Seattle Times report of September 7, 1967 on his first sermon before his then new - to him - Plymouth Congregational congregation.
David Colwell in The Seattle Times report of September 7, 1967 on his first sermon before the  Plymouth Congregational congregation.

WEB EXTRAS

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.

THEN: An early portrait, circa 1911, of The Silvian Apartments, one of Capitol Hill’s abiding architectural jewels.  (Courtesy, Bill Burden)

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day.  (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist.  (Courtesy, Swedish Club)

THEN: Photographed in the late 1950s, the floating restaurant’s huge on deck hooligan got no competition as yet from the Space Needle (1962) in breaking the horizon.

THEN: We have by three years or four missed the centenary for this distinguished brick pile, the Littlefield Apartments on Capitol Hill.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

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THREE OLD MCDONALDS

1. From FIRST HILL

This early 1890's McDonald pan looks north from near Union Street and Terry Avenue on First Hill.   Wallingford is on the far shore of Lake Union. Above the center of the subject and a little to the left, the Pontius mansion tower breaks the horizon.  About two large lots to the east you can also find the farm house that is feature at the top of all this.   It was this pan that solved the frustrating problem for me of locating the earlier Pontius home.  There it is!  And just below is a detail of that telling part of McDonald's helpful pan.
This early 1890’s McDonald pan looks north from near Union Street and Terry Avenue on First Hill. Wallingford is on the far shore of Lake Union. Above the center of the subject and a little to the left, the Pontius mansion tower is seen with the lake. About two large lots to the east you can also find the farm house that is featured at the top of all this. It was this pan that solved the long abiding and frustrating problem for me of locating the earlier Pontius home. There it is! And just below is a detail of that telling part of McDonald’s helpful pan.  CLICKCLICKCLICK to enlarge.

 

A detail that shows the Pontius mansion, on the left, and the Pontius farm house on the right.  (Courtesy, MOAHI aka The Museum of History and Industry.)
A detail that shows the Pontius mansion, on the left, and the Pontius farm house on the right. (Courtesy, MOAHI aka The Museum of History and Industry.)

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2. From DENNY HILL  (This McDonald pan was given its own feature on June 29, 2003.)

Clip McDonald Capitol-Hill-fm-Denny-Hill-THEN-WEB

Clip-McDonald-cascade-fm-Denny-WEB

clip McDonald Capitol-Hill-fm-Denny-Hill-NOW-2003-WEB

One can fine the Pontius mansion on the far left of this detail taken from the above McDonald pan from Denny  Hill.   But not, I think, the farm house.
One can fine the Pontius mansion on the far left of this detail taken from the above McDonald pan from Denny Hill. But not, I think, the farm house.  The grading beyond and up Capitol Hill follows, I believe, the line of John Street.

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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.)

McDonald-capitol-Hill-fm-Q.A-hill-WEB

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FOLLOW A FEW FEATURES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD (Or Near It)

First appeared in Pacific, April 14, 2002.
First appeared in Pacific, April 14, 2002.

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First appeared in Pacific, March 21, 2002.
First appeared in Pacific, March 21, 2002.

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First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 11, 1988.
First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 11, 1988.

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Gethsemane Lutheran, nearby at 9th and Stewart.
Gethsemane Lutheran, nearby at 9th and Stewart.

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Zion Lutheran (German) at Stewart and Terry, and back-to-back with the Swedes.
Zion Lutheran (German) at Stewart and Terry, and back-to-back with the Swedes.

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The Greyhound depot, nearby at 8th and Stewart.
The Greyhound depot, nearby at 8th and Stewart.

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The WARD home at Boren and Pike.  First appeared in Pacific, January 3, 1999.
The WARD home at Boren and Pike. First appeared in Pacific, January 3, 1999.

7. WARD-HOUSE-boren-and-PikeTHEN-WEB===

Fini: THE WAY OF ALL FLESH – AND PROPERTY

A March 30,  1902 Times report on the Margaret Pontius funeral.
A March 30, 1902 Times report on the Margaret Pontius funeral.
Her son Albert follows in the spring of 1914, leaving his portion of the family wealth to his oldest brother Frank, who was once the city treasurer.   Which may suggest to some of us that it is time to think of giving our stuff up while we can still describe it, and give much of it outside the family, that is  with love, which is philanthropically.
Her son Albert follows in the spring of 1914, leaving his portion of the family wealth to his oldest brother Frank, who was once the city treasurer. Which may suggest to some of us that it is time to think of giving our stuff up while we can still describe it, and give much of it with love outside the family, that is philanthropically.

5 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Pontius Home”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
    Thank You,

    Tony Petroske
    Mt. Vernon

    1. Hi Tony,

      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.

      Best,
      Jean Sherrard

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