Site of Pontius Mansion

1250 Denny Way

Pontius
Seattle City Light Denny Substation, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Transforest (Lead Pencil Studio, 2019), Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Denny Substation Project proposal, Courtesy Seattle City Light
Seattle Greyhound Garage, 2009, Photo by Edward Russell (CC BY 2.0)

The City Light Substation here is built on the site of the former Pontius Mansion. In 1865, Rezin and Margaret Pontius migrated from Ohio to Seattle, where Rezin began to speculate in real estate, including buying a 160-acre tract that included this property as well as the land to the north. But Margaret and Rezin did not get along and he eventually left Seattle — and his family — and moved to California. She continued to buy and sell land and eventually platted her property.

In 1889, she built a three-story, many-gabled Queen Anne-style mansion, paneled in cedar and golden oak. It featured five bedrooms plus servants’ quarters, front and back parlors, and a plumbed bathroom with zinc bathtub, a feature considered by many Seattleites to be one of the marvels of its day. When she died in 1902, her estate was valued at $200,000. Three years later, Olive “Mother” Ryther moved her “Home for Abandoned Children” into the Pontius home, tacked up her motto “God Giveth Grace To The Lowly,” and used the decaying mansion as an orphanage. Mother Ryther remained in the house until 1920. The Ryther nonprofit still serves young people in Seattle.

Margaret Pontius’ landmark mansion survived until 1930, when it was replaced by a garage and repair shop for the North Coast Transportation Company, a predecessor of the Greyhound Line. Seattle City Light acquired the land in 2009 and opened its new substation in 2019 to provide power to South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle.

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