by Ann M. Colford & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ack in Spokane's boomtown years, everybody knew Levi Hutton, the former railroad engineer who'd struck it rich with the Hercules Mine in North Idaho. The wealthy, successful businessman lived at the top of Spokane's society.
Few people knew then that Hutton's early life was far from idyllic. Born in Iowa in 1860, Hutton was orphaned by age 6 and spent his childhood bouncing from relative to relative, separated from his siblings and never really feeling like he belonged. After he'd achieved great wealth, Hutton sought to help other children left orphaned, especially the children of miners who died while working in the Coeur d'Alene Mining District. Following the death of his wife, May Arkwright Hutton, in 1915, Hutton began buying property in the Spokane Valley to create a home for children. He realized his dream in 1919 with the opening of the Hutton Settlement.
Today, nearly nine decades later, Hutton's dream lives on in the same historic buildings. The Hutton Settlement is currently home to 31 children, many of whom will live there until age 18. Although no longer a working farm like it was in Levi Hutton's day, the Hutton Settlement still aims to make the place feel like home.
"One thing that's unique about Hutton is that the kids can still stay in relationship with their families," says resident director Mary Jo Lyonnais-Baun. "They may be apart but they're still involved with family relationships. They can go back home for a visit if it's a good situation, if it's safe."
Children come to the Hutton Settlement today for any number of reasons. Some may have been living with grandparents; some have been in the court system or the state foster care system.
"We see a lot of single-parent homes, drug use by parents -- and that catches up with the family, and the kids need to be in a different environment," Lyonnais-Baun explains. "We get referrals from teachers, state social workers, doctors -- sometimes we even get referrals from our own residents, who see someone they know who should be here. Our kids are just normal children who need that structure and stability." The children live in one of four cottages under the guidance of house parents, "who live in the cottage and do what parents do: getting the kids up for breakfast, setting out chores, getting them to activities."
During the school year, the children attend West Valley public schools; in the summer, many of them go to Camp Lutherhaven for a week at a time. Like most kids, their schedules are full of activities -- just like home.
"Mr. Hutton and what he left, the building arrangements and the cottages -- everything is so well thought-out," says Lyonnais-Baun. "Here we are in 2006 and we still benefit from that dream. We like to think he'd be pleased."
For more information, visit www.huttonsettlement.org or call 838-2789.