(click to enlarge photos)
The Kenney Home on the western slope of the southern West Seattle ridge was both proposed and first funded by an immigrant couple who never saw it, Jessie and Samuel Kenney. Samuel died in 1894 and Jessie six years later. Her will confirmed the couple’s philanthropic plans for a “home or retreat for such infirm persons of both sexes of above sixty (60) years … who, by reason of poverty, are … unable to adequately provide for themselves, and where such persons, irrespective of their religious or political views, shall be gratuitously supplied as far as may reasonably be, with the shelter, care and comforts of a home, which shall be known as ‘The Samuel and Jessie Kenney Presbyterian Home.’”
As we might confirm from the featured photo, when the Kenney Home opened its neo-colonial landmark in 1909, the nearby forest of 100-foot firs still rivaled its Independence Hall-like tower at breaking the skyline. Our “then” looks north from the intersection of West Othello Street (crossing left-right) and 47th Avenue. In this long block, 47th has been developed with a 40-foot-high trestle, which carried the Seattle Electric Company’s streetcars over a gully that reached from a spring on the Kenney Home campus to the Puget Sound waterfront. While the Kenney Home was being constructed, the streetcar line was extended from the Junction on California Avenue to the ferries at Fauntleroy and beyond to a neighborhood jovially called Endolyne (end of the line). [Here we will interrupt this feature with another of the same block. It first appeared in Pacific on April 9, 2000. ]
Along with this admired landmark’s tower, the new common carrier was a great convenience to the neighborhood and often was referenced in classified ads and other published instructions. For instance, a Seattle Times “Club Meetings” listing for June 4, 1920, advised that the “Social Service Department of the Women’s Century Club will give its annual tea and entertainment for the old women at the Kenney Home. Bring Basket Lunch. Leave Pioneer Square at 11 o’clock.” The “old women” reference reminds me that it was not so long ago that a “retirement community,” in today’s preferred parlance, was regularly called an “old folks’ home.” Whatever the label, the Samuel and Jessie Kenney Home was one of our local firsts.
This Saturday, June 25, The Kenney will be open to all of us. On hand to welcome visitors to this benefit for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society will be the founders’ great-great-great nephew and niece, siblings Stuart and Michele Kenney. Also on hand with historical photographs and memorabilia, revealing how The Kenney has been expanded and renovated over its 107 years, will be experts on the subject from the Society. John Kelly will be there, too. A West Seattle historian who moved to The Kenney in 2008, John is an old friend from whom I often take helpful instructions. He explains, “I coast along here at 95. My grandmother lived until 107, and I expect to be here for a while. So think positive, Paul.”
The historical society’s fourth annual “If These Walls Could Talk” home tour, focused on The Kenney, will run from 3 to 5 p.m. (Tickets are $10 for members, $15 for non-members.) More info: loghousemuseum.info.
Although it would have been a walk, especially for some living in the Kenny, you could approach the retirement home by taking the waterfront trolley to the beach-side terminus south of Alki Point.
Anything to add, boys? Yes Jean, and at the top of this week’s Edgelinks is something we did a while ago on the Seattle City Archives. Your “repeat” shows City Archivist Scott Cline and Assistant City Archivist Anne Frantilla posing in the archive. This coming Tuesday, the 21st, Cline is giving a public presentation of examples from the archives, and he will explain how they help us understand the history of Seattle. I’ll be there and I think Ron will as well. Can you get away from school Jean and join us?
A FEW MORE FEATURES FROM OUR PAST & THE NEIGHBORHOOD