WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT
Lowdown On The Denny Cabin
COURTESY OF SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
OUR PUNNING HEADLINE plays with the uncertainty about this historical photograph. Is this the Denny cabin or the Low cabin? To add to the confusion, for reasons that still grieve John and Lydia Low's descendants, the Low cabin is most often called the Denny cabin.
After choosing Alki Point for a town site, John Low hired David Denny to build a cabin beside Alki Beach while he returned to Portland to bring back his family and the rest of what later became known as the Denny Party not the Low Party. The foundation was laid on Sept. 28, 1851, and when the immigrants arrived by schooner on Nov. 13, the cabin still had no roof. Injured by his ax, a dismal David welcomed his older brother Arthur so: "I wish you hadn't come."
While building a second cabin (the Denny cabin), the settlers crammed into the Low cabin. So the Low cabin came first. But in practically every printing of this photograph the structure is described as the Denny cabin, the settlers' first home on Alki. I think it is the Low cabin. Greg Lange, of the Washington State Archives, thinks it is the Denny cabin.
Both Greg and I are members of the growing "Cabin Committee" hitched to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. (Since this is a committee without meetings, you might like to join.) Members agree to two goals: To investigate and share the early history of the Alki town site and its architecture, and to identify where this cabin sat. We want to locate it to within "the length of a medium-sized horse, from nose to extended tail."
The committee will make its public report on Nov. 13, 2005, the centennial of the First Founders Day and the dedication of the Alki Beach landmark, the "Birthplace of Seattle" Pylon.
Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.
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