On the flipside of the scuffed original print, the caption reads “Built in 1869 by Carson D. Boren for his mother Sarah Latimer Boren Denny – it is now the present site of main post office at Third and Union.” Actually this tidy home was built for both Sarah and her husband John Denny, the father of Seattle founders, Arthur and David Denny. She was John’s second Sarah, who, in 1851, with her grown son Carson, joined David and his sons for the seven-month trek on the Oregon Trail to the Willamette Valley. (John’s first Sarah, his wife for 27 years, died in 1841 at the age of 44.)
The Dennys had been a successful farming family of exceptional industry, building successful farms in both Indiana and Illinois before together catching the “Oregon Itch” for the warmer and more lugubrious winters promised in the Willamette Valley. There they built a third farm, while their grown children continued on to Puget Sound’s Elliott Bay to found a town they named after the helpful Duwamish headman, Seattle. In 1858 the parents joined their pioneering children in Washington Territory.
While still in Illinois John Denny had served in the state’s legislature with his friend Abraham Lincoln. Both were admired – and elected – as Whig wits with the gift for telling good stories. Gordon Newell, one of Washington State’s author-solons, described John Denny as an “American pioneer and frontiersman, citizen soldier and homespun politician.” As John’s sense of humor provoked mirth he was often chosen as speaker, or master of ceremonies for community events such as a Fourth of July celebration. In 1868, as a member of the fledgling Seattle Library Association, Denny gave what pioneer historian Thomas Prosch described as a “series of lectures on the progress of science and art,” which Prosch attended.
In her still enjoyed book “Pig-tail Days in Old Seattle,” Sophie Frye Bass remembers her great-great-grandmother Sarah and the atmosphere of her home. (John had died in 1875, the year that Sophie started primary school.) She writes, “Great Gramma’s place was a little white gabled house with wide porches. It had tiny panes of glass on either side of the front paneled door and a funny bell which I loved to ring. I recall the hit-or-miss rag carpet, the marble-topped table with the knitted cover that held the family album and stereoscope. If I were a good girl, I was allowed to peek through the stereoscope, which seldom happened. … On the dresser in the tiny bedroom were bottles of hartshorn and camphor. The little house had the sweetest odor – indescribable – an odor of spices and old mahogany furniture and a whiff of some delicious cake backing in the oven.”
Just for beauty’s sake, I’ll toss in an early morning shot of Rainier, taken from the 80th St. overpass over I-5 last week:
Anything to add, ducks? Jean, proud are Ron and I with our quackery are inserting more features from the neighborhood. However, and frankly, we wonder if in choosing to insert this “The Mountain That Was God” testimony, had you taken note of what we think is an eagle soaring there and not a duck. While we do not blame you, we wonder if you could have been more careful.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: A Denny Home at 3rd and Union”
How about an old picture of the Buick building that was one the NW corner of Westlake and Denny Way?I have several old photos. Was our family business. Did tire recapping during WW II and was a Desito-Plymouth Distributorship before that. Paul Allen now owns it.
Martin Rood. 2067131304