The Hutton Settlement is tucked up against the gentle hills northeast of the Argonne Library and just north of the Spokane River. If you've ever driven this stretch of Upriver Drive, you've no doubt seen it -- and maybe wondered just what it was. The name itself is enigmatic and conjures up images of crumbling 18th-century frontier outposts. But one glance at the community's handsome, sturdy brick buildings and lovely, well-kept grounds will instantly dispel that notion. The warren of a cloistered religious sect, perhaps? A quick trip up the welcoming access road and through the beautiful and neatly ordered campus reveals something else entirely. Even with no one around to guide you, all your questions are at least partially answered by the vibe of this place, which resonates with a sense of history, hospitality and purpose.
After 86 years of quietly serving the physical and emotional needs of some of the Inland Northwest's most vulnerable residents, a history of the Hutton Settlement has finally emerged. In her new book, The Hutton Settlement: A Home for One Man's Family, Seattle-based author and historian Doris H. Pieroth relates the story of philanthropist Levi W. Hutton, an early Spokane capitalist who used his immense mining wealth to build a secure and nurturing community for children orphaned or otherwise in need. She's reading from her book next Thursday night at Auntie's.
Pieroth holds a UW history doctorate and is an independent regional historian and the author of Their Day in the Sun: Women of the 1932 Olympics. She says she was drawn to the Hutton Settlement story purely by chance.
"Out of the blue one day, a friend of mine who retired to Spokane called me and asked me what I knew of the Hutton Settlement. I told her I hadn't heard of it. She explained that the board wanted to have its history written, and she thought I might be interested in doing it."
Levi Hutton, the co-discoverer in 1901 of the Hercules silver lode in Burke, Idaho, completed his namesake settlement in 1919, served as its first administrator and established a 21-woman board of trustees to guide the community into the future.
Though her book was commissioned by the Hutton board, Pieroth says, "I was absolutely intrigued by the whole story, but I told them ahead of time that I was going to research this and write it as I see it. In fact, our agreement was that I would do it without any oversight or input from them as far as editorial control. I was going to tell it warts and all. But I didn't find too many warts."
Thoughtfully annotated and containing dozens of historical photographs, Pieroth's book chronicles the life of this unique and remarkable philanthropic venture, beginning with the story of its founder, a self-made Silver Valley mining magnate who personified the most altruistic aspects of the Progressive Era, through the many inspiring human stories that, to this day, continue to enrich and venerate Hutton's legacy.
Levi Hutton was himself an orphan. His wife, May Arkwright Hutton (a renowned feminist, humanitarian and women's rights campaigner), had been raised by her grandfather. When his wife died in 1915, Hutton embarked on the plan he had been fostering for much of his life: a home-like environment for children in need.
"He had been sent to live with an uncle after his mother died," says Pieroth. "But he had three siblings and they were all split apart. That inspired him to build a place where children in like circumstances could go and live and grow up together, as a family."
Publication date: 10/16/03