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Pacific Northwest | May 23, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineMay 23, 2004seattletimes.com home
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PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT Spring Home Design

Horton's Haven
Photo
The "banker's home" at Third and Seneca was one of the distinguished residences in pioneer Seattle. Sometime after the banker Dexter Horton's death in 1904, his daughter Caroline sold the valuable lot to the local telephone company. In 1921, the company completed the stately structure that still holds the corner.

 
 Photo
Sometime in the 1870s, Dexter Horton moved with his second wife, Caroline Parsons, (his first wife had died) into their new home at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Seneca Street. From their back porch they could look up at the classical cupola of Territorial University's main building less than a block away. Except for the low fence that enclosed the campus, the landscape was continuous because Fourth Avenue was then still undeveloped between Seneca and Union streets.

Horton arrived in Seattle in 1853 with little more than the clothes he wore. Like most others, he eventually worked in Henry Yesler's sawmill. His first wife, Hannah, worked for Yesler as well, managing the cookhouse attached to the mill. With their combined incomes, the couple opened a general store near the mill and even ventured to San Francisco to try their hand in the brokerage business. When they returned to Seattle in 1869 or '70 (sources disagree), they brought with them a big steel safe and the official papers to start Seattle's first bank.

The popular story that Horton's first safe had no back was discounted much later by his daughter, Caroline, who told off Seattle Times reporter Margaret Pitcairn Strachan: "You don't think my father was that stupid do you?" The daughter speculated that the backless safe was one of her father's jokes, since he was well known "for telling stories and laughing heartily at them."

For all its loft and ornament, the banker's distinguished home was the scene of a constant battle to stay warm in the colder months. Three fireplaces were the entire source of heat. The home's many high windows admitted drafts at all hours.

But when Dexter Horton died in 1904, a few months short of 80, he was still living here.

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

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