Apartments & Development on the Hill

by Kim Myran and Scott Jennings
Reference/Images:   Historic Apartments



by Kim Myran

After the Great Fire of 1889, when Seattle began rebuilding, American architecture was in the second phase of the Eclectic Movement.  The first, beginning about 1860, was related to the Gothic Revival and to the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain.  The second phase, which lasted until about 1930, was more academic, influenced by the l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.  It sought inspiration from great past architectural periods, such as the Italian and French Renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman, and late Gothic.  These architectural styles are much in evidence in the early apartments on Queen Anne Hill.      World expositions at this time were instrumental in introducing the general public to new technological advances in science, industry, engineering, and architecture.  The 1892 Chicago Columbian Exposition did much to heighten awareness of architectural styles.  The 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific (AYP) Exposition had an impact on the Northwest, especially Seattle, that was powerful as the Columbian Exposition nationally.  A population educated by the AYP demanded buildings according to the current styles.
Located at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and W. Highland Drive, the Gable House, One W. Highland Drive, was built in 1901 by Bebb and Mendel for Harry Whitney Treat.  Inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, the Gable House has a brick base while tawny bricks and stucco appear in the gable area half-timber detailing.  Through the beveled glass windows is a grand view of Elliott Bay and the city skyline.  The house was originally constructed with 18-inch I-beams in anticipation of a third story.
Between 1922 and 1970 the house was used alternately as an apartment building and a private residence.  In 1975, Gary Gaffner, a lifelong Queen resident and developer with a strong interest in history, purchased the fine old house.  Under Gaffner’s sensitive supervision the Gable House has been tastefully converted to apartments that respect the original design of the building.

    Vintage architecture on Queen Anne Hill is largely an expression of the second phase of the Eclectic Movement in building design that characterized American architecture from the 1890s to 1930s.  Perhaps the most magnificent surviving example of a multiple residence on the hill is the De La Mar.
   The De La Mar, 115 W. Olympic Place, was built in 1908 by George Kinnear as a grand guest house for his friends visiting the AYP Exhibition.   The building is an example of the neoclassical style favored by the Beaux Arts Movement in the 1890s.  Its foundation and ground floor are made of simulated rusticated stone in terra cotta.  The terra cotta ornamentation makes a handsome contrast to the yellow-colored brick that faces the building.
    Twentieth century restoration work has returned the handsome interior to its original appearance.   The “marble” columns and the wainscoting in the entry were made using a lost technique, a cast material covered with a faux marble veneer of crushed colored particles that has the look and feel of marble.  Planned on a grand and elegant scale, the lobby entrance is graced by statuary, stained glass windows, a pair of grand staircases, and richly carved mahogany.  Today the De La Mar has 39 apartments with high ceilings and much original woodwork.  Earlier restoration work was improved upon by Mel Kaufmann and a local group of investors in the early 1970s, and in 1978 the De La Mar was designated a Seattle City Landmark.
The Chelsea Family Hotel was built in 1907 through the collaboration of Charles R. Collins, engineer, and Harlan Thomas, architect.  Built to initially serve AYP Exposition visitors in 1909, the goal was to create an elegant building with spaces that would remind the guests of home, or a place one would want to call home.  It would offer the refined visitor a quiet retreat from the hubbub of the city and a grand view of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Puget Sound.  The Kinnear-only streetcar stopped across the street, and it was only a ten-minute ride to downtown Seattle, where a connecting car went north to the AYP site, on the University of Washington campus.  For the first ten years, the hotel was the scene of many social occasions, including dinners, weddings, and Halloween parties.  In 1913 a Montessori school was started at the hotel.
   The Chelsea project had a major impact on Collins’ and Thomas’ lives and work.  For a number of years Charles Collins lived with his family at the Chelsea.  Thomas went on from the Chelsea, his first major project, to design the Sorrento Hotel, the Corner Market Building in the Pike Place Market, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Building, the Rosita Villa Apartments, and the Amalfi apartment building.   He built his family home at 804 W. Lee Street and eventually became a highly influential figure in Northwest architecture, serving as the Director of the University of Washington School of Architecture from 1928 to 1940 and a partner in the architectural firm of Thomas, Grainger and Thomas.
    Around 1917 the elegant hotel was sold to an investment company, which converted it into apartments and closed part of the lobby and lower dining room.  It was not well maintained and by the 1960s it had badly deteriorated.
    However, the Victorian Revival sparked renewed appreciation of turn-of-the-century buildings, and in 1977 Dr. Steven Yarnall rehabilitated the building and restored it to its original appearance in every detail, including the leaded-glass windows.  In 1978, large through the efforts of architectural historian Miriam Sutermeister and the Queen Anne Historical Society, the exterior of the Chelsea, including the loggia, was officially designated a Seattle Historic Landmark.  On October 3, 1991, the building was damaged by a major fire.  However, restoration work was completed immediately.
   The Amalfi, named for the Amalfi Coast of Italy, 1306 Queen Anne Avenue N., was designed by Harlan Thomas.  Built in 1915, the Amalfi is less refined than the Chelsea and the exterior of the building is eclectic in a less formal, rustic, Italian style.  Overall the building has a bulky, massive look, with heavy, graceless balconies on the front.  The original balconies were cantilevered and support beams span the entire depth of the building.
    The Amalfi was designed for residents with an active social life and included a ballroom in the basement.  But few balls were ever held there and eventually the space was converted to an apartment during the post-World War I housing shortage.  In 1950, the Amalfi was converted to a cooperative.  In 1992 the building received a facelift.
   The Victoria Apartments, 120 W. Highland Drive, were designed by John Graham Sr. in the Tudor style of English Gothic, which is reflected in the details of the portals and the window moldings.  A center courtyard provides the surrounding 44 apartments with good natural light while assuring tenants’ privacy.  The exterior is composed of red brick with terra cotta trim around the entrances, windows, and cornice, with cast-stone lintels and sills.  The interior is rich in detail and color.  At the entrance vestibules and elevator halls there are marble floors with matching marble wainscot.  The Victoria Apartments were renovated in the 1970s.
After World War I the Northwest experienced tremendous growth.  Several architectural styles were predominant in the apartments that were constructed as part of the building boom.  The influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement continued and is seen in the popular English brick, half-timber style.  The typical apartment building, designed by Fred Anhalt, a local builder, is characterized by this style and by close attention to landscaping around the buildings.  In addition, bungalow and courtyard apartments became popular and were a step closer to the feeling of having one’s own place — even if it just meant a back stoop.
   The apartments at 1320 Queen Avenue N. are a fine example of the Arts and Crafts Style as interpreted by Fred Anhalt.  They were originally built in 1927 as family apartments and meant to be homes.  Anhalt designed a series of entrances shared by several apartments.  Built in the English Tudor style, with steeply-pitched roofs, random brick colors, stucco and a half-timber look, the apartments are nestled into the nearby steep hill.
    Paralleling the Arts and Crafts style was the Mediterranean Style, which was viewed as very romantic and found expression in the bungalow and courtyard designs of the late 1920s.  Typical features include stucco exterior, flat roofs, arched windows and doorways, and narrow casement windows, often with leaded glass.
   Seville Court, at the corner of Aloha Street and First Avenue N., is an Anhalt Mediterranean courtyard complex.  The detailing on these apartments is similar to that of a courtyard complex at the corner of Boston Street and Bigelow Avenue N.  Both of these buildings have stucco walls, tiled roofs, leaded glass windows and an applied, detailed scrolled arch embellishment.  The leaded glass on the Boston building has a slightly different pattern than the typical leaded glass of this period.
   The Villa Costella, 348 W. Olympic Place, was built in 1928 on the site of John Kinnear’s grand house.  Thought to have been built by John Beardsley and Fred Anhalt, the Mediterranean theme is carried out in the interior of the building, which retains much of its original character.  The floors of rich red Spanish tile alternate with wood and those made made of a combination of tile and polished slate.  The walls are thick plaster with timber-beamed ceilings.  Each unit has an electric faux fireplace just deep enough for one metal log textured to simulate bark.  Building manager Val Reel affirms that after 60 years, most of the electrical logs still function and even give off enough heat to make the room cozy.  From the living rooms, French doors open onto spacious decks, from which tenants enjoy a sweeping view of downtown Seattle.  A deep overhang provides outdoor seating sheltered from the rain.
In 1925 a design and ornamentation concept was introduced to the general public at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris.  The style was meant to complement the machine age and one of the principal characteristics was its emphasis on the future.  It was one of the first popular styles in the United States to break with the revival traditions represented by the Beaux Arts period.  Soon Art Deco themes and forms were used in literally every aspect of art and design from household appliances to building design.
   The application of Art Deco elements to architectural design added variety and emphasis to facades, as well as breaking down the building mass to a friendlier scale.  Classic details on buildings were replaced by Egyptian, Assyrian, Celtic, Persian, Mayan, Incan and Native American geometry, incised in stone, wood and bronze.  The wide use of Egyptian motifs reflected excitement resulting from the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.  With their bold horizontal banding, these buildings are impossible to ignore.  Ornamentation was focused at the base and top of the buildings.   The movement reached its height at the time of Seattle’s construction boom of 1928 to 1931.  As a result, the city has the best preserved collection of Art Deco buildings north of San Francisco.
Photo: The Denny Mansion, at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Republican Street remodeling into a multi-family residence, ca. 1930s.  Courtesy University of Washington Special Collections.

The De Lar Mar entrance courtyard is entered through a wrought-iron gate, flanked by a pair of brick posts capped with terra cotta.  In the courtyard there is a pond also trimmed in terra cotta and adorned with a statue of a maiden on a lamppost designed by Julian Everett.  Entering the building, one is greeted by a mosaic tile oat of arms on the floor emblazoned with “De La Mar” and the sentiment “I think better by the sea” in Latin.  Photo by Isabel Egglin

Delamar Apartments, southeast corner 2nd Ave W and W Olympic Place, 1974-06-08


Photo:  The Chelsea Family Hotel, 620 W. Olympic Place, is typical of the late Eclectic Movement.  The Chelsea is a mix of English, Renaissance and Italian villa styles.  The English element appears in the U-shaped plan, with the two flanking wings of the building establishing a symmetry that is repeated throughout the building in the bay windows, leaded glass transoms, and other features.  The Italian influence is evident in the tiled arches that lead one from the entrance to the courtyard.  This photo, taken at the building’s completion, shows the arbor for the rooftop.  Courtesy Pemco Webster and Stevens Collection, Museum of History and Industry.

Note:  The print edition includes a list of “Selected 20th Century Multi-Family Residences on Queen Anne Hill.”  These include De La Mar Apartments (1906), Chelsea Apartments (1907), Kinnear Apartments (1909), Victoria Apartments (1921), Villa Costella (1928), Alexander Hamilton (1929), Anhalt Mediterranean Apartments (1930), the Queensborough, & Bayview Manor (1961)
Not on the list:  Anhalt, Elfrieda (1932),  Leslie, Lomita Vista (1907)


1940 to 1993

by Scott Jennings
 Looking down on Queen Anne Hill late in 1940, one could easily have seen various buildings devoted to specific uses such as hospitals, hotels, clubs and apartments.  At this time there were very few buildings over 40 feet high except on the south and north slopes, where some reached 60 feet.  Uniformity of yard size in the residential districts would also have been obvious.  These and other characteristics of the community’s buildings were shaped by a series of city zoning regulations determining allowed uses, lot coverage and building height.
   Queen Anne was typically zoned for R-2 use along most of the lower level sloped areas and arterial streets such as Queen Anne Avenue, West Galer, and Boston Streets, and Aurora Avenue.  Seattle’s zoning codes of the late 1940s explicitly stated that R-2 zoning designation allowed apartment houses, boarding houses, hotels, clubs, and fraternal societies, memorial buildings, uses permitted in the less-restrictive R-1 zone, and in some cases hospitals.  Most of the hill was also governed by a 40-foot height restriction, although some parts of the north and south slope had 65-foot limits, and the Uptown area, from Harrison to Roy Streets, had an 80-foot limit.  This kind of zoning is reflected in the large number of typically small, brick, two- or three-story apartment buildings scattered over the hill.  These patterns continued with a few exceptions until a new zoning code went into effect in 1955.

     In 1955 the existing Seattle zoning code was totally revamped, with new designations assigned to the zones.  No longer was the language of the code succinct.  Building heights were now limited by both an area’s classification and by the location of the building on its site.  The effect of the new regulations was that high-rises became legal in some areas formerly restricted by lower height regulations.  The code also required off-street parking for tenants, which in effect reduced the number of rental units that could be built on a parcel of land.

Architecture in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s was undergoing a transformation.  Since the early 1920s, progressive American architecture was under the influence of the National Style.  Originating in Germany at the Bauhaus School, under the leadership of Walter Gropius, the International Style was devoid of the ornament and decoration that had characterized architectural design for centuries.  Concrete, steel, and glass were the most commonly used materials.  Structural expression, glass banding, and a strong horizontal emphasis were trademarks.
Many found the International Style somewhat harsh and a radical change from the well-established norms of architectural design.  Eventually, this harshness was softened by the influence of elements of Functionalism and Rationalism.  In addition, regional and personal variations were expressed through color, lively surfaces, and textures.
     The architectural firm of Stuart and Durham designed two apartment buildings on the hill:  the Queen Vista Apartments, 1321 Queen Anne Avenue, completed in 1949; and the 19-unit Aloha Terrace, 212 Aloha Street.  Built in 1947 as two three-story buildings clustered around a stepped courtyard, the Aloha Terrace design reflects the preference of this period for simply massed, non-adorned brick buildings.  The originally rented apartments were converted to a cooperative in 1957.  The Queen Vista has 85 apartments and, reflecting contemporary regulations, has 53 underground parking spaces.
Skyline House, 600 W. Olympic Place, won an American Institute of Architects award in 1956 for its designers, Durham, Anderson, and Freed.  Built by E. S. Lovell, the original design incorporated 85 luxury units in an eight-story T-shape featuring multicolored balconies that offered residents a spectacular view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Range.  The entry is defined with two massive columns which support the cantilevered apartments above, and the sound of gurgling fountains welcomed the residents as they entered the glass-lined lobby when the building was new.  By the 1990s the building had been painted a drab mustard color and the fountains were filled with cedar chips, but the building continues to be an important Seattle example of an innovative period of architectural history.
By the late 1950s, Queen Anne Hill, with its good public transportation service and fine views, was often chosen as an ideal place for retirement.  Bayview Manor, 11 W. Aloha Street, is designed to take advantage of the stunning location on Queen Anne Hill’s south slope.  The main residential portion of the ten-story building forms a concave, south-facing curve.  In designing the very large structure, John Graham and Co. used simple massing, long horizonal forms, a variety of textures, and the original use of primary colors to highlight the balconies.
Built on the site of George and Angie Kinnear’s mansion, reminders of the Kinnear era are a carved mantel near the library and some stained glass windows outside the chapel.  Out on the grounds trees planted by Angie Kinnear continue to shade the site.  The Italianate fountain topped by cherubs is all that remains of the extensive south-facing gardens that once surrounded the gracious home.
The 1970s were a time of struggle for Queen Anne between commercial interests and those wishing to preserve the neighborhoods.  Battles were fought, laws were changed, and a few came out winners.  Memories still linger for those who were deeply involved.
     The 1900s zoning code, which permitted high-density residential housing in selected inner-city neighborhoods, started the problem.  While the concept was very reasonable in light of Seattle’s population growth, the residents of Queen Anne’s south slope opposed this trend, and the ordinance prompted many citizens to request down-zoning of their neighborhoods.  When the Dillis B. Ward mansion was destroyed and the Continental Apartment Building at 100 Ward Street went up in what was considered a “single-family neighborhood,” people became alarmed and angry, but nothing happened.
     However, diligent citizens were watching, and in the 1960s a multitude of citizen groups formed, determined to preserve the neighborhood and the view corridors.  These  groups included Concerned West Slope Residents, the North Queen Anne Preservation Association, the Galer Street Community Action Committee, the Steering Committee of West Slope Residents, and the North Queen Anne Association.  In 1968 The Queen Anne Community Development Council, an informal community government organization, drew up recommendations for preserving the residential character of the community’s neighborhoods which were not approved by Seattle City Hall.
In the early 1970s the United South Slope Residents (USSR) formed a dynamic citizens’ group that successfully reversed the commercialization of the south slope residential neighborhoods.  Headed by architect Art Skolnik, the ad hoc group was well-organized, well-connected and, equally important, well-funded when the need arose.  A petition was circulated and 4,800 signatures were gathered demanding that all high-rise property on the south slope be down-zoned to low-rise.  The stage was set for the battle to begin.
     The developers were busy obtaining permits for projects before any zoning changes were approved.  Polygon Realty Corporation was one which had a permit denied.  Alfred Petty, City Building Permit Superintendent, concluded that “established zoning on Queen Anne does not appear to be in the best interest of the local community.”  Polygon promptly filed two lawsuits:  the first one contested the superintendent’s decision, the second contested the city’s decision to downzone some of Queen Anne Hill.
     USSR joined in the court case, financing lawyers’ fees with grassroots fund-raising efforts, including tours of the community’s elegant old houses.  The citizens were victorious, for the courts sided with city and upheld the denial of Polygon’s permit.  The decision, based on environmental concerns, was a major one, since it clarified that all future projects would have to be evaluated on environmental grounds as well as zoning laws to obtain permits.  USSR has remained a viable citizen’s organization since its inception as it continues its watchdog role, periodically reviewing controversial projects.
During the 1960s and 1970s Queen Anne’s demographics changed and the number of school-age children dropped drastically.  West Queen Anne High School was slated for closure and possible demolition.  However, the neighborhood quickly rallied and was successful in achieving protection for the old school through placement on the National Register for Historic Places in 1975, and designation as a Seattle City Landmark in 1977.  The school closed in 1981.
     The building was converted to a 49-unit condominium building that retained the historic character of the school.  The playfields were converted into landscaped gardens with parking hidden beneath.  Through creative lease agreements with the school district, Historic Seattle was able to ensure that West Queen Anne School will be preserved for many years to come.
     Following this precedent a similar program was followed at the closure of Queen Anne High School in 1981.  Conversion of the school to the apartment building, The Queen Anne, is the hill’s finest example of adaptive reuse of a historic building.  Designed in 1909 by James Stephen, the Beaux Arts Movement design took its inspiration from the late English Renaissance palace style.  It is constructed of concrete, unreinforced masonry, and heavy timber, and features elaborate terra cotta detailing at the cornice and entries.
     As with the West Queen Anne School conversion into condominiums, the Seattle Preservation and Development Authority and the Seattle School District cooperated to preserve the historic building while transforming it into a 139-unit luxury apartment building.  Following the design of The Bumgardner Architects, the 1929 auditorium and gymnasium wings were demolished and the exterior terra cotta detailing was restored.  The old Queen Anne High School was placed on the Washington State and the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and welcomed new residents.  Queen Anne High School, living a new life, continues to stand proudly at 201 Galer Street.

     In 1974 the old Queen Anne Community Church building, several old neighboring houses, and Hansen’s Sunbeam Bakery were redeveloped into a restaurant-shop complex named the Hansen Baking Company.  The buildings were connected with covered walks and a central court, complete with fountains, benches, and landscaping, provided a reprise from the outside world.  The complex was not a successful venture and the Hill and Roats Co. acquired the property in 1988.  After a bitter battle between the developers and the preservationists, the old church and baking company were demolished in 1993 as plans progressed for its redevelopment.

The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) was created in 1939 to provide low-income housing and related services for the people of Seattle, including the elderly, handicapped, and disabled citizens.  Although noble in its cause, the authority’s projects are not typically welcomed by neighbors on the hill.  Of the 10,000 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing units in Seattle, in 1992 there were 363 units in six Queen Anne locations:
Center West, 533 Third Avenue W, 1969, 92 units, designed by Price and Assoc.;
Olympic West, 110 W. Olympic Place, 1971, 76 units, designed by Sullam Smith and  and Assoc.;
Queen Anne Heights, 1212 Queen Anne Avenue No, 1971, 53 units, designed by John Y. Sato and Associates;
Carroll Terrace, 600 Fifth Avenue W., 1985, 26 units;
West Town View, 1407 Second Avenue W., 1978, 59 units, designed by Dudly and Ekness; and
Michaelson Manor, 320 W. Roy Street, 1985, 57 units, designed by Architects Virgil and Bradbury.
By the late twentieth century, land available for building large apartment and condominium complexes was scarce on Queen Anne Hill, and developers turned to building on the more difficult sites around the hill.
     The Wharfside Pointe Apartments, 3811 14th Avenue W., is an example of the problems that can accompany development on marginal building sites.  As excavation started in 1987, the history of the site began to unfold.  Pre-construction soils testing had failed to reveal extensive charcoal dump sites.  Also, a former fuel depot from the early 1900s had left behind leaking tanks with contaminated soil to be cleaned.  A soils engineer was required on the site full-time to analyze soil as the project proceeded.  In addition to these problems, there were difficulties with new zoning regulations which required that the building be of a mixed-use type.  New city regulations also required community participation in the planning of the project.  After considerable discussion, several thousand square feet of retail space was built into the ground floor of this 130-unit apartment building.
At times zoning code changes made with the intention of creating a more pleasant environment for the community resulted in a proliferation of poorly-designed structures built with the sole intent of crowding the maximum development allowable on the parcel of land, thus increasing developers’ profit margin.  Occasionally, good projects are built by competent architects and developers such as the Le Parc Condominiums, designed by Roger Newell and developed by James Paul Jones in 1992.  The four-story 13-unit project, located at 1231 Fifth Avenue N. overlooking Lake Union, proves that it is possible to design within the constraints of the current zoning codes and create a pleasant environment for both the users and the community.
The Cornerstone condominiums epitomize what multifamily construction will be like in the years to come.  In 1993 vacant land to build new projects is nonexistent.  Zoning laws are firm and any future multifamily structures will have to be built on sites occupied by single-family homes located in multifamily zones, on industrial sites no longer able to expand, or on sites occupied by dilapidated apartment structures.

     Fortune Development’s Cornerstone project, on Aloha Street and Fifth Avenue N., is built on the former site of the Green Garden Food Co., a pickle factory that had outgrown its facilities.  The mixed-use project, designed by Lagerquist and Morris, has 35 condominium units with  52,000 square feet of commercial retail space on the ground floor.

Scott Jennings is a Florida-raised transplanted architect living on Queen Anne Hill with his wife Kim, also an architect, and son John.  His hobbies include renovating historical structures and boating in local waters.
Kim Myran is an architect.  Originally from Hawley, Montana she joined the Army after school and was educated at the University of Idaho.  She lives in Seattle, is a captain in the Army Reserves, and residents in a historic building on Queen Anne.


The Community of Pioneers North of Seattle –1853-1860

Chapter Four of Queen Anne:  Community on the Hill, published 1993
by Kay F. Reinartz, PhD

    The noble army of courageous, enduring, persistent, progressive pioneers who threaded their way across the western wilderness prove that an age of marvelous heroism is but recently past.

   The knowledge, foresight, faith and force exhibited by many of these daring men and women proclaimed them endowed with the genius of conquerors.

                        Inez Denny
                        Queen Anne Pioneer
                        Blazing the Way, 1909


On January 1, 1852, the European American population in the vicinity of Elliott Bay was 31:  11 men, six women, and 14 children.  The next year, 170 residents were counted in the newly-created King County, Oregon Territory.  By 1854 there were four claims on the west side of Lake Duwamish (Lake Washington), four more along the south shore of Elliott Bay, and one in Rainier Valley.  Settlements were also quickly forming in the Duwamish and White river valleys.

The area north of the Seattle settlement is officially designated in the government survey as Township No. 25, North Range, No. 3, East, Willamette Meridian, Territory of Washington and includes districts that later became known as Denny Hill (Denny Regrade), Queen Anne Hill, Lake Union, Smith Cove (Interbay), Magnolia, Ross, Fremont and Salmon Bay (Ballard).  Between 1853 and 1859 approximately 15 land claims were filed, mostly by single men, for land in this area north of Seattle.  Some of the claims were only partially within the Queen Anne community and in a couple of cases the settler’s homestead is located just outside the boundaries.  In spite of their isolation, the north district settlers became well-acquainted and functioned as a single informal community working together, visiting, and looking after each other when illness or other trouble befell a household.  All of these settlers are included in the following discussion of the early years.

These adventurous pioneers shared cultural, political, and religious values.  They were mostly American-born, not immigrants, and came to the Northwest from the middle states, e.g. Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  They were very experienced with the conditions of living in a primitive outpost, far from the securities and comforts of civilization.  With few exceptions, they grew up in frontier conditions.

Those whose political allegiance is known were Whigs, abolitionists, and pro-Union in the Civil War.  They were remarkable in that many were intellectuals, deeply religious in the Protestant faith, and teetotalers.  Their strong support of temperance was not in total harmony with frontier life, where hard drinking was commonplace and used by men to relieve the stress of an unbalanced social life.  Although most of these pioneers were bachelors, the male leaders among the north district settlers had families with them, which critically influenced their shaping the course of local history.

While not far apart in terms of miles, the density of virgin forest made travel slow and difficult, which in turn isolated each homestead.  The native people’s trails crisscrossed the area, connecting Lake Union with the bay and cove.  The trails also connected their semi-permanent camps on Lake Union at Smith Cove, and in the vicinity of Battery Street.  Trails also linked the permanent Shilshole people’s village on Shilshole Bay to the camps and waterways.  These native trails around the perimeter of the hill, as well as game trails, were used by the early settlers for many years and in some ways later became the routes of paved roads.

In December 1852 David and Arthur Denny and William Bell, all members of the Denny Brothers party, decided to explore the area north of Seattle in their search for pasture land.  The area was only vaguely known to the Seattle pioneers through accounts by the natives.  Skirting around the west side of the two hills directly north of Seattle (Denny and Queen Anne) the trio fought their way through incredibly dense vegetation.  Bell, discouraged by the steady rain and slow progress, turned back around 2p.m., but the brothers continued on until they reached tidewater, called Shilshole by the native people (now known as Salmon Bay).

The early darkness of December overtook them, making returning to the settlement impossible.  They had not come prepared for camping and had neither food nor bedrolls, and their clothing and matches were soaked.  However, as seasoned frontiersmen they found dry wood inside logs and under downed timber and soon had a warm fire, ignited with the flash of David’s musket.  Sheltered from the cold winter rain by the wide spreading branches of a giant cedar, they passed a safe night.  In the morning, they trekked back to Seattle, meeting up with Bell in the cove which would become known as Smith Cove.  Bell had come looking for them with his pockets full of hardtack.

That winter the Denny brothers showed the cove to several newcomers to Elliott Bay, including Dr. Henry Smith and Henry Pierce, and later Ira Utter and Osborn Hall.  All found the cove a favorable location, as the land was relatively flat and open, making only light clearing necessary, and had direct access to Puget Sound.  The main disadvantage of the site from the perspective of the newcomers was its proximity to the Shilshole village located on Salmon Bay, in the vicinity of the present-day Ballard Locks.

About  six weeks after he spent a damp night under the great cedar on the north side of the hill, David Denny and Louisa Boren Denny were married on January 23, 1853.  In the early morning, the couple had gone to the beach to collect clams and oysters for their wedding dinner.  Next they gathered evergreens from the forest and fashioned garlands with which they decorated the fireplace mantel, doorways, window sills and dining table of Arthur and Mary Boren Denny’s cabin.  The bride helped her sister Mary prepare the wedding dinner of clams, oysters, salmon, wild duck, potatoes, baked beans, stewed wild berries, biscuits and cake.

Shortly past midday, Louisa climbed the ladder to the cabin loft and put on a soft white mull dress she had made in Cherry Grove and pinned in her hair a bit of cedar greens and bright berries she had also gathered that morning.  David donned his only jacket, pinned some cedar and berries to the lapel and joined Louisa in front of the fireplace.  With 15 settlers, including seven children, and a handful of native people looking on, David “Doc” Maynard, Justice of the Peace, performed the civil ceremony.  Henry Yesler, King County Clerk, recorded the marriage, the second one in Seattle, on a slip of paper which was given to the couple.

After the ceremony and wedding dinner, the bride and groom walked down the bluff to their canoe, laden with their few wedding gifts, including a pair of chickens from Doc Maynard — a valuable gift, for it meant a supply of fresh eggs.  Before dark they paddled about a mile and a half north and climbed up the steep, muddy hillside to the cabin on their 120-acre donation claim, which they dated January 24th, 1853.  The claim ran from Lake Union to Elliott Bay, with its boundaries on the north and south being marked by today’s Mercer Street and Denny Way.
Below:  David and Louisa Boren Denny with daughters Emily Inez and Madge Decatur, c. 1858

In the summer of 1853 the Smith family from Wooster, Pennsylvania, established their homestead in the cove that lay on the northwest side of the hill, and the cove became known as Smith Cove.  The family was Dr. Henry Smith, 22, Abigail Teaff Smith, 61, his mother and a widow, and sister Ellender Smith, 16.  The Smith family had traveled with a wagon train the summer of 1852 that was organized under the epic name “Far West Emigration Expedition,’ with Henry serving as assistant to the expedition’s physician, a former teacher in medical school.

Leaving his mother and sister in Portland, a settlement of about 150 people, Dr. Smith decided to walk north to Puget Sound country, which had been highly recommended to the California-bound trio.  In the second week of his walk, in an unremitting downpour he met and befriended Henry K. Pierce.  They completed the journey together, traveling by water from Olympia to Seattle.  Meeting the Denny brothers, they were shown the cove area where Smith selected land because he was convinced it was the natural route for the future railroad to enter Seattle.  In addition, he saw the potential for large commercial docks where the cove opened into Elliott Bay.  Pierce chose land on the north side of Salmon Bay.

After spending the winter in Portland with his mother and sister, Smith returned to the cove early in the spring of 1853 and built a log cabin.  Abigail and Ellender came by ship in early summer and planted potatoes and onions.  Soon after arriving at the cove Abigail Teaff Smith selected land and filed her own claim immediately north of her son’s.

Full of curiosity about the area, the two young Henrys, Smith and Pierce, spent what free time they could manage exploring.  In the autumn of 1853 they headed over to the White River.  As they paddled downriver one day, another canoe overtook them and pulled alongside.  This canoe held a white man of short stature who wore overalls tucked into his boots, a blue flannel shirt and a slouch hat covering a head of long black hair.  His companions were Native American paddlers.  Smith relates:
 We fell into easy conversation on that ever new topic, the weather, the wildness of the country, richness of river bottom soils, etc. etc. and I eventually asked if he was looking for a claim.
“No,” he said, “I am not much of a farmer — I have my hands pretty full already and expect to have more irons in the fire soon; the country needs workers.

So the two canoes passed the hours, traveling side by side with the men conversing until they reached Seattle.  Smith invited the stranger to visit him at the ranch in the cove and they parted ways.

A few days later Smith and his family, Henry Pierce, and every other man, woman and child around the Sound crowded into Yesler’s Mill to meet the newly-appointed territorial governor, Isaac Stephens.  When the governor stood up, Smith and Pierce were astonished to see that it was none other than their fellow traveler of a few days earlier — still dressed the same as on that day.  Smith immediately dubbed him “Puss ‘n Boots,” a moniker applied to Napoleon, who also was short and wore his pants tucked into high boots.  Many in the territory called Stephens “Hat and Boots,” since that was often all one would see of him as he explored the region by native canoe.  As he was paddled up and down the rivers of Washington, he would typically lie in the canoe studying a map spread across his chest and only his hat and boots visible.  Governor Stephens was glad to see the two Henrys and made the promised visit to the cove a few days later.

The summer of 1854 was a busy one in Smith Cove.  Lumber was hauled from Yesler’s Mill to the cove by scow and ox team for a comfortable two-story frame house, which was built on Abigail’s claim.  (The exact location of this house is unknown.)  Smith hired natives from the large camp located nearby to turn over the sod for an orchard.  Then he, Abigail, and Ellender, along with native helpers, spent long days planting a large grafted apple orchard, the first of its type in King County.  They began harvesting apples in the third year.

During the summer of 1854, Smith left his house one day determined to cut a trail to Seattle.  At that time the only route to the settlement was via canoe.  It was a bright sunny day, but within the hour clouds rolled in and he had to rely on his compass to determine the route.  Smith noted at noon that the compass had reversed its poles and was elated, since he interpreted this to mean there were iron deposits nearby.  He continued walking all afternoon — but without intersecting Seattle.  Finally, at nightfall he spied a clearing and shake-built cabin.  He immediately concluded that it was John Nagle’s place east of Lake Union (Eastlake), and sat down on the rail fence to consider if he should spend the night with John or walk into the settlement.  We have Smith’s own words on what happened next:
While sitting there, I could not help contrasting his improvements with my own.  The size of the clearing was the same, the only seeming difference was that the front of his faced the west, whereas the front of mine faced the east.  While puzzling over this strange coincidence, my own mother came out of the house to feed the poultry that had commenced going to roost, in a rookery for all the world like my own, only facing the wrong way.  “In the name of all that’s wonderful,” I thought, “What is she doing here? and how did she get here ahead of me?”  Just then the world took a spin around, my ranch wheeled into line, and  lo! I was sitting on my own fence, and had been looking at my own improvements without knowing them.

Ellender Smith, 18 in 1854, is described by contemporary Cornelius Hanford as “a beautiful girl and lovely character.”  Needless to say, Ellender did not remain single for long.  The energetic, enterprising businessman Charles Plummer was the lucky bachelor who married the rosy-cheeked Ellender Smith on New Year’s Day, 1855.  They were married in Plummer’s newly-built mercantile, which was festively decorated with garlands of evergreen and holly.  The sociable Plummer invited everyone in the community to enjoy a dinner and dance right there in the store.  In the spring Plummer put his carpenters to work on a large home for his bride, which was the showplace of Seattle for years.  Sadly, Ellender would die giving birth to twin boys in 1858.

In January 1853 two newcomers to Elliott Bay, John Ross and Edmund Carr, met and agreed to search for suitable land for their claims.  A few days after New Year’s Day they paddled a native canoe from the small freshwater lake (Lake Union) to Salmon Bay via a shallow, swampy channel which they portaged.  The place where the waters of the lake flowed out to the sea they named the Outlet (vicinity of Fremont).  Continuing west, Ross and Carr came to a shallow bay which they named Salmon Bay because the day they explored it the waters were teeming with salmon.  The native people living on this bay called it Shilshole and themselves the Shilshole-ahmish (people of Shilshole).  Ignoring the natives’ names, the settlers gave the name Shilshole Bay to the little bay north of Magnolia, by which name it is still known.

Attracted by the idea of convenient water transportation to Puget Sound, John Ross selected a 148-acre tract of land on the north side of Queen Anne Hill and built his cabin at the Outlet.  Edmund Carr selected land about a mile further west, on the south side of Salmon Bay, next to Dr. Henry Smith’s.  In the twentieth century Ross’s homestead is the site of the Seattle Pacific University campus and Carr’s land is occupied by the Fisherman’s Terminal.

Back in Illinois in the winter of 1851, when Thomas Mercer was dreaming of Oregon Country, he envisioned his wilderness home being on a lovely lake.  The fulfillment of his dream was Lake Union, which he described as “hidden away in the tremendous forest,” and “a mirror-like lake surrounded by deep, dark evergreens of the primitive forest.”  Deer trails led from the forest to the water’s edge and flocks of duck and geese made the lake their home.  A Native American trail skirted the shore of the lake to the Outlet that led to Salmon Bay.  Mercer called Queen Anne Hill “Eden,” for he felt he had reached the Promised Land.

Thomas Mercer’s claim lay directly north of David and Louisa Denny’s claim, with today’s Mercer Street marking the shared boundary.  The eastern boundary of Mercer’s claim was the meandering shoreline of Lake Union, the western boundary was about Queen Anne Avenue, and the northern boundary became Highland Drive.

Mercer furnished his rustic home  [[featured in “Early History of Queen Anne“]] with simple hand-made furniture, three large double beds, a table and chairs.  Some shelves and clothing pegs along the walls completed the rooms.  A treasured piece of furniture in the Mercer home was a little blue rocker in which Nancy Brigham Mercer had rocked her babies back in Illinois.

After completing the two-story log cabin in the summer of 1853, he returned to Salem where his daughters were waiting, and brought them back together with his team and wagon.   They traveled overland to Olympia, where everything was loaded onto the steamer for Seattle.

As the boat pulled up at Yesler’s Wharf that sunny September day, all eyes were on Thomas Mercer’s team of big horses, Tib and Charley, the first horses in the Seattle settlement.  In the following days a steady stream of Duwamish people passed by Mercer’s place to examine the team.  With their first glimpse of the wagon they pronounced it to be a “Boston Kayim” (foreigner’s canoe).  When they heard the creaking of the wagon as it was being pulled, they called in a “chik, chik,” a musically alliterative expression which the girls took an immediate liking to, declaring it matched the creaking sound the wagon made as it bumped over logs, stumps and rocks.

Tib was coal black, and Charley snow white.  Mercer liked to joke that he had the “most perfectly matched team in town.”  This was indeed true, because it was the only team for several years.  Tib was an exceptionally fine horse.  On the overland journey, Native Americans they encountered had recognized this and had attempted to buy her several times.  Charley died within a few years, but Tib lived many more long years and was well-known and loved by the Seattle pioneers.  When his old friend and helper died, Mercer buried her in the orchard on the homestead and today her remains lie below the modern streets of brick and concrete in the vicinity of Taylor Avenue and Roy Street.

While Mercer’s team attracted the interest of the natives, the pioneer women’s hearts went out to Mercer’s motherless daughters, and the girls were offered homes in other cabins.  However, Thomas and his eldest daughter Mary Jane, 14, were determined to keep the family together.  Between the two of them they divided the most difficult homemaking tasks and the younger girls helped with the simpler chores.  Susie Mercer recalled later, “we helped our father with just about everything.”  Mercer often told his daughters, “Now girls, whatever’s worth doing is worth doing well.”  Susie liked to tell that “if we didn’t do a job properly, such as sweeping, he’d sweep and show us how.”

Fifty years later, Susie Mercer remembered her father’s care of herself and her three sisters in the 1850s, particularly “his patience, his sweetness, his kindness, [and] his constant thoughtfulness in raising the four motherless little girls.”  Susie relates how in the first cold winters, after they moved onto the homestead when they lacked adequate bed covers, to keep his two littlest children warm at night he slept crosswise in the bed with his arm around each child curled up in the corners.  Susie Mercer commented on these days:  “Looking back, I can’t see where we had many hardships.  Life was simple, but we had plenty to eat — lots of wild berries and salmon and trout.”

The Mercer family soon had neighbors.  David and Louisa Denny’s second home on Queen Anne Hill, their “house in the swale” [vicinity of the Seattle Opera House], was about four city blocks away.  However, the vegetation was so dense that it took David and Tom two months of hard labor with an axe, mattock, and crosscut saw to just make a narrow trail between their two places the winter of 1854-55.  It took several decades of logging and clearing before they could clearly see each other’s homes, although they could see the light from the cabin windows at night, which was a comforting sight.  Inez Denny reports that “for many years we looked across the alley to see the smoke from the fire on the Mercer hearthstone winding skyward, for they were our only neighbors.  … We were not so lonely as we might have been with no human habitation in our view.  Then we knew we could always claim the cheerful greetings and friendly visits.”

Many who arrived in 1854-55 shared Dr. Henry Smith’s vision that the valley between the two hills (Queen Anne and Magnolia) would become a center of the area.  Indeed, many newcomers were convinced that “the city” for the region would grow in the Smith Cove area rather than the Seattle settlement.  The cove was deemed a more favorable town site for commercial enterprises since the ground was level.  Around the fireplace settlers talked of how the sloping hillsides to the east and west of the cove would be the perfect location for the city’s residential district.

Among those filing claims for land around the cove between 1833-35 were Erasmus Smithers, Edmund Carr, Francis McNatt, Osmine Frost, and David Stanley, all single men.  On the south end of Lake Union another bachelor, John Nagle, 24, a German immigrant, filed claim on a homestead.  William Strickler, from Page County, Virginia, age 26, settled across the Outlet from John Ross.  A man of good education and means, he quickly bought four lots of Carson Boren’s land for $1000 in 1854.  Just across the shallow tidewater of Salmon Bay Ira Utter, 24, and Osborn Hall, 22, two college men from upstate New York, had claims close to Henry Pierce.

Soon after Mercer arrived with his team, the bachelors homesteading on the north and west sides of the hill turned out to help widen and smooth the trail through the woods leading north from Seattle to the Mercer homestead at the foot of Eden Hill.  Rough as it was, it was the first road built in the Seattle area.  It ran from Yesler Way to the corner of Roy Street and Taylor Avenue.

Osmine Frost, already 45 years old when he arrived in King County in the summer of 1854, was old by frontier standards.  Frost was born in 1809 and had grown up on the Kentucky frontier.  He, like so many others, was directed to Doc Maynard when he arrived in Seattle, and Maynard suggested that Frost look at the district north of Seattle for a land claim.  Frost soon selected a 160-acre section directly west of Henry and Abigail Smith’s and Erasmus Smithers’s claims in the cove.  Little is known of Frost’s background.  Frost’s closest neighbor to the west, David Stanley, came in the late fall of 1854.

At age 64, David Stanley was by far the oldest settler in the area north of Seattle, when the age of the average settler was about 24.  Stanley was born in 1790 in Missouri and had considerable experience living in wilderness conditions.  He befriended Henry, Abigail, and Ellender Smith the day he appeared in the district.  Dr. Smith tells the story:

David Stanley, an old man in his seventies [Smith’s guess] came to the cove one evening in the fall of 1854, looking for a claim.  He came from Missouri, was low in stature and thin to flesh and his voice too was thin from age.  His beard was long and gray, and he wore a blanket overcoat that trailed to the ground.  His wife, he said, who was much younger than himself, had deserted him for a younger handsome many, and, feeling lonesome, he had concluded to spend the remainder of his life by the sea shore, where he could listen during the long nights to the waves beating against the rocks and the monotonous music, he thought, would lull his mind and keep him from thinking.

The next morning was a rainy one, but the old man was anxious to get a claim before they were all taken, and he started off immediately after breakfast.  It rained steadily and hard all day, and much of the time it fairly poured.  All through this drenching storm he waded among beds of drooping ferns and brakes, and just at dusk returned, tired out and wet as a musk rat.

“Rather a bad time for looking up claims, uncle,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “it has been mighty damp all day.”

But the poor old soul had found a claim that suited him on the mouth of Salmon Bay….  There on the beach he built a little log hut and lived for nearly twenty years listening through the long nights to the music of the waves and the shrill cries of the sea-mews.  What a weird story his thoughts would have made!

Smith reports that over the years Stanley was robbed by the natives a number of times — they would enter his cabin when he was gone and take what they wanted.

Needing cash for proving up their claims, in the summer of 1854 neighbors John Ross, William Strickler, Edmund Carr, and Frances McNatt set up a logging camp near Olympia.  At the end of the season they lashed their logs together with ropes and light boom chains, and floated them north toward Yesler’s Mill.  Alas, they hit rough seas and the raft broke up, leaving the logs floating off in every direction.  As the logs disappeared over the choppy waves, the partners helplessly watched the entire summer’s income vanish.

In spite of this loss, the following spring the four men launched another enterprise.  Anticipating the logging of the dense virgin forest that covered the hills around Lake Union, they built a sawmill near Ross’s claim at the Outlet and added a dam to hold back the logs and a footbridge.

Eager to bring work to their mill, the group asked the King County Commissioners, the official governing body for the region (Seattle was not incorporated until 1869) to improve the roads in the north district.  They wanted the road to Mercer’s homestead widened and leveled and a new road opened to their sawmill.  The County Commissioners agreed to this and Carson Boren, Edmund Carr and John Nagle were appointed to view the route.  The road was barely begun when the Indian War erupted and the brave little mill went up in smoke on January 26, 1856.

The pioneers reaching the territory early received gratis land grants.  However, the bargain did not come free of labor.  In the first decade or more, most of the settlers proving up their land claims did little more than clear land and see that they had enough to eat.  There was little cash to buy anything, hence literally everything was made at home.

With almost every square rod of land densely covered with  luxuriant native vegetation, the process of converting the wilderness to farm was Herculean in scope and went on for decades.  It was not uncommon for a settler to work steadily for more than 20 years to convert a 16-acre claim into a farm with at least 20 percent left unchanged, because the land was too marshy, hill, or was left as a wood lot.

Clearing the claim naturally went faster with more workers.  Family members were the main labor supply for most settlers.  When a hired man was available for clearing land it was expensive; the going rate throughout the 1850s range from $40 to $60 a month or $2.50 to $3 a day.  Many men hired labor out to earn needed cash.

Native American men were often hired to help with the logging and clearing at a rate of $1 a day.  While some settlers complained about the work, the Dennys found the natives to be good workers.  Inez Denny reports that “far from lazy, many of them were hard workers and would dig and delve day after day to remove immense stumps of cedar and fir left after cutting the great trees.”

The settlers in the north district often worked together, rotating from claim to claim.  Inez Denny tells that the main help for men with families were their wives and children.  The most common task assigned to children was piling brush and keeping the fires going.  They often made a game out of the chore.   Inez writes “many a merry party turned out at night to ‘chunk up’ the blazing heaps; after nightfall their fire-lit figures flitting hither and yon against the purple darkness suggested well-intentioned witches.”

In addition to hiring out clearing land, there were several other sources of cash.  Yesler’s sawmill, opened in 1853, paid mill hands $30 to $50 a month and more, dependent upon skill level and technical difficulty of the job performed.  Farm hands were paid $30 to $40 a month, with room and board provided.  Artisans and tradesmen, such as carpenters, mechanics, painters, coopers and tailors, made $3 to $4 a day.

The timber from one’s claim could be a source of cash, depending upon the lumber market.  During the San Francisco building boom, before the Indian War in 1856, sawed fir lumber sold for $25/1000 lineal feet (l.f.); cedar lumber $30/1000 l.f.; cedar shingles at $5/1000; pilings, 3 cents/ft.; and squared lumber 16 cents/ft.  By 1857 the California market was flat.  Pilings for building docks and wharves, mostly around the Puget Sound, were the ash wood product in highest demand, and the settlers set aside all trees appropriate for this use as they cleared and burned the trees growing on their land.  It was not until the late 1880s that the lumber industry boomed on Puget Sound.

King County was created in 1853 when it was still a part of Oregon Territory.  It was up to the settlers scattered around King County to fill the civic offices required by their new status.  Seattle was quickly designated the county seat, which placed pressure on those living in and near it to assume responsibility for those offices.  A token payment accompanied a few of the offices, but most were strictly volunteer.

The group of settlers north of Seattle, as a whole, were well-educated and moved by a strong sense of community service.  Thus, they accepted the duties of various civic offices more frequently than most.  Dr. Henry Smith was appointed School Superintendent and Constable in 1853, and in 1854 Thomas Mercer was elected King County Commissioner, the highest office.  William Strickler served as Probate Judge and was elected to the Territorial Council, the legislature in Olympia.  King County records for the 1850s and 1860s show the north district settlers sitting in almost every petit and grand jury, as well as serving as county treasurer, auditor, tax collector, coroner, school superintendent, road viewer, and election judge.  In a given year one individual often served in several capacities.

Thomas Mercer, approximately age 75

After several years of growing tension, open conflict developed between the Elliott Bay settlers and the Native Americans during the winter of 1855-56.  All of the settlers living in the outlying areas moved into Fort Decatur, a crude blockhouse built in the vicinity of First Avenue and Cherry Street of logs David Denny had cut that previous summer on Queen Anne Hill.  With over 70 people living in Fort Decatur that winter, conditions were very crowded.  The Dennys’ second daughter, Madge Decatur, was born in the fort in March 1856.

By August 1856, all hostilities had ended, and the native uprising was officially over.  However, the next decade would prove a hard one for the settlers.  Looking back 82 years later, Susie Mercer observed, “I am convinced that it was the faith and courage of the founders that made Seattle a great city.  They [the pioneers] loved the city all the more because of the work and hardships they underwent.”

Some of the settlers filed reports of their losses at the hands of the natives to the government in hope that they would be compensated — which they never were.  The claims, however, provided some insight into the property and chattel of these community pioneers:  David Denny, claim $97, canoe and stock; Dr. Henry Smith, claim $1306, log cabin and stock; Ira Utter, claim $637.25, log cabin, canoe, furniture, and crop; Erasmus Smithers, claim $1306, dwelling and stock; Edmund Carr, claim $480, log cabin; David Stanley, claim $173.50, loss of crops.

Genuinely interested in homesteading, the pioneers of the district north of Seattle were less discouraged than who had hoped to “get rich quick” through business ventures or the rapid increase in the value of land they obtained through land grants.  These men left, along with many others who feared future uprisings by the native people.

Those who stayed harbored unspoken anxiety over the prospect of other Native American attacks for years.  Louise Boren Denny told her children “for years afterwards it was easy to imagine Indians everywhere.”  Throughout the 1850s Thomas Mercer never went into the woods to cut trees or clear land alone, his daughters reported; one of the girls always accompanied him.  While Mercer worked, her duty was to stand guard with her rifle at the ready in case hostile natives appeared.

In the Battle of Seattle on January 26, 1856, the natives set fire to almost all of the outlying homestead cabins.  When Tom Mercer, David and Louisa Denny, and Dr. Henry and Abigail T. Smith returned to their homesteads in the spring, they were astonished to fine their dwellings intact, although many of their belongings had been taken.

Mercer’s frame house of 1854 was not burned.  After the war the local natives were asked why they had not burned Mercer’s place.  One replied, “Oh, [we thought] Old Mercer would want it again.”  The natives explained that Mercer was ‘klosh tum tum,’ kind, friendly, literally a good heart, and ‘be wawa-ed sahle tyee,’ prayed to the Heavenly Chief or Great Spirit.  They had come to know and respect Thomas Mercer, whose wife had died and who was caring for his children alone.  Mercer had always dealt with them honestly and fairly, and had learned to speak their language.  His gentleness, integrity and kindness had made a deep impression on them.

While his house was intact, the milk cow that Mercer had just bought was gone.  The Mercer girls mourned the loss of their cow, which was a pet, as one of the major tragedies of the Battle of Seattle.

Louise and David Denny’s house in the swale was also spared the torch.  Dr. Henry Smith and Abigail Smith’s frame house was burned to the ground, but the original log cabin and log cabin infirmary were left unharmed.  Like Mercer, the Dennys and Smiths had learned the local native language and way of life, for which they demonstrated great respect on many occasions.  The natives noted this and in return respected Denny and Smith and their klootchman (women) as tillicums (friends).

The winter the settlers spent living in the crowded quarters of Fort Decatur had its bright side for it provided an opportunity for courting.  In spring of 1856 Edmund Carr and Olivia Holgate, who had become acquainted teaching Sunday school at the Methodist Episcopal Church, announced their intention to marry.  The Seattle settlement had shrunk from 250 to about 70 people, and those who remained were serious and resolute.  However, they were also young and optimistic, and the very idea of a wedding and the belief in the future that it represents appealed enormously to everyone.

The community went all out in putting on a grand wedding celebration for the young couple, complete with a feast and a wedding cake.  Cornelius Hanford, Olivia’s brother, comments on the wedding preparations:
The market was nearly destitute of delicacies usually supplied for such an affair, but it is wonderful how pioneer women, with scant provisions, can delight the appetites of the hungry when they try; they did try and made the feast a great success.

In November 1857  Erasmus Smithers, 27, of Smith Cove married the land-wealthy 28-year-old widow Diana Gilmore Tobin.  After living a short time on Smither’s claim in the cove they founded the city of Renton, which lies on her donation claim of 1853.  Smithers held on to his 160 acres in Smith Cove to the end of the nineteenth century when his heirs sold the land.

Unable to work on his claim because he was harassed by the local natives, John Ross decided in the fall of 1858 to go to Portland and then on to Salem.  At Salem he met and married Mary Jane McMillan, age 15, the daughter of Rev. David McMillan, a well-known clergyman from Illinois.  Mary McMillan was born in 1843 in Springfield, Illinois.  In 1853, at age ten, Mary’s family had come to Oregon Territory.  John Ross was 32 at the time of their marriage.

The couple returned to Seattle bringing with them from the Willamette Valley a quantity of fruit tree cuttings.  The settled into a house in Seattle in January 1859, and John hiked out to his claim, packing the cuttings and a spade on his back.  However, he reports in his land grant records that once again the natives drove him off, as they had in 1857 and 1858.  John regularly “commuted” from Seattle to his claim on foot and by canoe for years to fulfill the proving up requirements.

Eventually, Ross planted over 50 fruit trees and invested  $3,000 in improvements.  During these years Ross expanded his land holdings, filing for additional land on the north side of Salmon Bay under preemption law.  In addition, he received a parcel of state school land on Denny Hill in 1860, as payment for carpentry on the Territory University building.

The historic records for the settlers making their living north of Seattle in the late 1850s and 1860s are sketchy.   However, it is known that after the native uprising they were reluctant to live isolated on their claims and many moved into the Seattle settlement, going out to their claims for day work.  David and Louisa Denny moved into a three-room cottage in Seattle, which remained their principal residence until 1860.  Between 1860-1870, the Dennys lived part of the year in the Seattle cottage and the other part in their house in the swale of Queen Anne Hill.  The Thomas family moved permanently back onto their claim around 1860.

*A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of The City of Seattle and County of King, Washington.  New York: The Lewis Publishing, 1903
*Baist Real Estate Atlas.  “Surveys of Seattle.”  Philadelphia:  G. Wm. Baist, 1905
*Bass, Sophie Frye, Pig-tail Days in Old Seattle.  Portland, OR:  Metropolitan, 1937
*Bass, Mrs. Sophie Frye, When Seattle was a Village.  Seattle:  Lowman & Hanford 1947.
*Arthur Denny.  Pioneering on Puget Sound.  Fairfield, WA; Galleon Press, 1965.
*Dickey William and Dillis B. Ward.  Family documents.  “Highlights of the Dillis B. Ward Collection,” prepared by Shorey Book Store, Seattle; Typewritten.
*Hanford, C. H. ,Seattle and Environs, 3 vols.  Chicago & Seattle: Pioneer Historical Publishing Co., 1924l
*Meeker, Ezra, “Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget Sound.”  Seattle, 1905; rpt. 1980.
*Seattle Leaders.  Edited by Edward Desmond.  Pioneer Printing Co., 1923.
*Thompson, Nile R., “The Original Residents of Shilshole Bay,” Passport to Ballard by Kay F. Reinartz, ed.  Seattle: Ballard News-Tribune, 1988.


Queen Anne Historical Society 1971-

NOTE:  this article copied from Queen Anne Community on the Hill, by Kay Frances Reinartz, PhD, published by the Queen Anne Historical Society in 1993.
In 2021, the Society celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding, with a 7/29 event and onward.

The Queen Anne Historical Society was founded in 1971 by the History Committee of the Queen Anne Community Council under the leadership of Louise Locke. The organization incorporated as non-profit and adopted the Kinnear Mansion as the society’s logo.  For over two decades [as of 1993] the society has worked in many areas to advance its mission of preservation of the community’s historic heritage. The society maintains a community history archive and holds bimonthly meetings which feature programs emphasizing community and Washington history.

Highlights of the Queen Anne Historical Society
Achievements with the Names of Leaders

1992-93    Sponsored Queen Anne Community History Book Project — Bob Frazier
1990         *C. H. Black House & Gardens, 615 W. Lee St.
1989         Published reprint of Homes & Gardens of the Pacific Coast, Seattle, 1913 — Michael, Ethel                             & James Kemp-Slaughter
1987        Sponsored first annual Christmas lighting contest focused on historic Queen Anne Blvd.
1986        Dedication of Captain Vancouver plaque at Betty Bowen Viewpoint and celebration —                                    Michael Kemp-Slaughter
1986        *Bethany Presbyterian Church, 1818 Queen Anne Ave. N.
1985        *Queen Anne High School, 215 Galer St.
1984        *Stuart/Balcom House, 619 W. Comstock St.
1984        *Bowen/Huston Bungalow 715 W. Prospect St.
1983        Society Newsletter founded:  “Great Queen Anners” list of historic community leaders                                      compiled for the state “Great Washingtonians” project — Kathryn Seymour
1983        *Handschy/Kistler House, 2433 9th Ave. W.
1981        Queen Anne Oral History Project — Ron Palmer
1981        *North Queen Anne Bridge, over Wolf Creek Ravine
1980        *Brace/Moriarty House, 618 W. Highland Dr.
1980        Cleaned pioneer graves and mapped Mount Pleasant Cemetery, 1980 — Ray Bronson
1980        *Parsons/Gerrard House, 618 W. Highland Dr.
1980        Parsons Memorial Garden, immediately west of 618 W. Highland Dr.
1980        *McFee/Klockzien House, 524 W. Highland Dr.
1979        *Ballard/Howe House, 22 W. Highland Dr.
1979        *Fourteenth Ave. W. Group, 2000-2016 Fourteenth Ave. W.
1978        *Chelsea Apartment Building, 620 W. Olympic Pl.
1978        *Cotterill House, 2501 Westview Dr. W.
1978        *De La Mar Apartment Building, 115 W. Olympic Pl.
1977-81    Queen Anne heritage calendar produced:  1977, Jan Clow; 1979, Pauline Hanover; 1980,                                 1981, Ray Bronson
1977        *West Queen Anne Elementary School, 515 W. Galer St.
1976        *Willcox Wall, west side 8th Ave. W. to 8th Pl. W.
1976        Assisted with historical research in production of historical U.S. Bicentennial edition of                                    the Queen Anne News, 1976 — Jon Bartlett, Susan Christenson, Alice Ellis
1976        Historic walking tour and tour brochure produced — Howard Lovering, Alice Ellis
 *Designated official City of Seattle Landmark