Pacific Northwest | August 10, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineAugust 10, 2003seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
SUNDAY PUNCH
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

Built for a Banker
Photo
COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The line of those who lived in the big brick home at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and University Street saw how quickly changes came to First Hill. Built in 1904 for banker Manson Backus, it became a boarding house during the Great Depression and was vacant when it was destroyed in 1956 to be ultimately replaced by the Panorama House.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
THANKS TO a tip from Alice Staples, writing in The Seattle Times 47 years ago, that may well be Carl A. Peterson at the wheel of the motorcar posing at the northeast corner of University Way and Boren Avenue. Behind the driver and his riders is the new, oversized home of the banker Manson Backus. Staples interviewed Peterson to write a eulogy for the Backus home — and three others shown here — in the spring of 1956 when they were about to be torn down for a modern high-rise.

For a half-century, Peterson was a chauffeur on First Hill. He drove for Backus and others, and taught many of his employers to drive. Manson Backus II — the banker's grandson — described the family home as having a red mahogany living room with a fireplace that was nearly 12 feet wide, a wide staircase that wound itself to the third floor, and two electrically operated secret panels that his grandfather used as safety vaults.

The senior Backus came to Seattle from New York in 1889 with securities already in his pockets and started the (many times renamed) National Bank of Commerce. By the time the bank president moved into this big home, he had lost two wives but had two children. His son LeRoy lived with his own family (including Manson Backus II) next door on Boren, here to the left. As high-rise apartments began to replace the mansions on First Hill, many of its established families — Backus included — uprooted to the Highlands.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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