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Now & Then: Mary Denny's home on First Hill, ca. 1899
Mary and her daughter Margaret Lenora followed friends to First Hill, Seattle's first somewhat exclusive neighborhood.
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MARY AND Arthur Denny, Seattle's "mother" and "father," moved from Alki Point to the forest on the east shore of Elliott Bay in 1852. There, they kept close to the waterfront for nearly a half-century, prospering while Seattle grew as rapidly as their many children.
When the city began its explosive growth in the 1880s and sustained it through the Great Fire of 1889 and beyond, many of the first and most fortunate settlers fled to the hills from the growing populist confusion downtown. But not the Dennys, who kept to their Gothic farmhouse and small barn on First Avenue where now the Seattle Art Museum stands.
When Arthur died in 1899, though, Mary and her still-single daughter Margaret Lenora followed her friends to First Hill, Seattle's first somewhat exclusive neighborhood. They lived in this stately Tudor mansion at 1220 Boren Ave., named for Mary and her brother Carson's family. Here they grew old and, after a life of considerable good fortune, some bad inevitably ensued.
By 1916, six Denny/Boren family funerals has been conducted at the First Hill home, including Mary's in 1911 and Margaret Lenora's in 1915. At 88, Mary died of natural causes. Margaret perished extraordinarily in a wreck — a plunge into the Duwamish River from the deck of the Allentown Bridge. From this home, all the deceased were carried to the family's tomb site nearby at Lake View Cemetery.
Sensitive to how gender roles have changed in the ensuing century, we may still be touched by how, before his own death, Arthur described Mary: "She has been kind and indulgent in all my faults, and in all cases of doubt and difficulty in the long voyage we have made together, without the least disposition to dictate, a safe and prudent adviser."
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