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)
While Seattle was building long piers with landmark towers on the central waterfront and first staging Golden Potlatches, the week-long summer festivals that began in 1911, on city streets, an alert and now nameless photographer produced a collection of sharp negatives enamored with schooners, steamers and Potlatch parade floats.
The window shot at the top, however, is unique for her or him. From the northwest corner of First Ave. N. and Denny Way, the subject looks southeast from a fourth floor window – perhaps the photographer’s apartment.
The Regent Apartments were built in 1908. From the prospect, here at the top, one got an unimpeded view of the razing of Denny Hill for the Denny Regrade until 1910, when the Raymond Apartments, whose rear wall is seen here kitty-corner and beyond the billboards, opened its 37 two-room units to renters. The Regent was considerably larger with 59 units. These two apartment houses were part of the earliest brick reconstruction of this “North Seattle” neighborhood that had been swiftly built of wood during Seattle’s first boom decades of the 1880s and 1890s.
The Regent’s managers did not promote this view south into the business district but rather that to the west. A Dec. 15, 1912, classified ad for the Regent reads, “Commanding a view of the Sound and being within easy walking distance of the city, or excellent car service, this building is exceptionally well located. The apartments are first class and modern in every respect. Three rooms at $15 and $20. Four rooms, $27.50 and $30.”
In 1925, after the apartments were sold to a San Francisco investor for “a consideration of $110,000,” the name was changed to the Arkona. This was short-lived. After John and Winifred Paul purchased the Arkona Apartments in 1927 for $150,000, they whimsically changed its name to Pauleze. Winifred died there in 1932, but Paul continued living in and managing their apartment house until 1957, when he too died, but not the punning name. It remained the Pauleze until the late 1970s, when, for reasons we have not found, the name Arkona Apartments was revived.
In the mid-1980s, with the help of Dave Osterberg, a friend who was then the development manager for Environmental Works, acting as guide for the transfer, the collection of negatives of which this subject was one, “came home” to Seattle from the Museum of North Idaho. With a donation to the museum from Ivar Haglund, the negatives were purchased for the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.
Anything to add, dear Paul? At first – and perhaps last – look Ron and I have found a dozen links to past features, all from within the still brief life of this blog: a few years. They are packed with Queen Anne – both upper and lower – history.
The first of these twelve includes brief illustrated essays on sever other Seattle apartment houses, including the Raymond, which is the pie-shaped brick apartment at the corner of Warren and First that partially blocks the view from our window above into both the regrade and the central business district. Following the links I’ll hang a some more images from the neighborhood, either before climbing to nighty-bears, or tomorrow. Meanwhile there is enough included in the dozen links below to keep one engaged for a long as it once upon a time took one to sit thru “Meet the Press.”