By Jonathan Glover
It’s been 91 years since Levi William “L.W.” Hutton last visited his century-old children’s home in Spokane Valley.
But after Friday’s centennial celebration, in which the bright, bronze statue depicting the late philanthropist was unveiled to the world, you might say he has returned to the bucolic and historic campus that has provided long-term care to kids for a century.
Seated on a bench near two children, the smiling Hutton is immaculately dressed, staring off into the distance in a position of leisure. To his left, a young girl stands excitedly at attention, her arms clasped behind her back as if she’s ready to tell him a secret. On the opposite end, a young man holds a bundle of books as he looks toward Hutton and the girl, his right arm resting ever so slightly on the bench.
Renowned local artist and sculptor Vincent DeFelice, who for about a year toiled away molding and modeling hundreds of pounds of hard metal, hopes the sculpture will “speak for itself.”
“So how does one come to know this man?” said DeFelice, speaking to a large crowd under the settlement’s clock tower Friday morning. “I met the man, indeed. It’s reflected in his children.”
The settlement, built in 1919, is celebrating 100 years this weekend. Built on a 300-acre plot of land down the hill from Arbor Crest Winery, the orphanage, now called a children’s home, has about two dozen children and their live-in house parents occupying four large, historic cottages, with several other buildings along the sprawling campus.
There to dedicate the statue, which will greet workers, children and visitors as they drive past the office building on the south side of the lot, were multiple area elected officials.
County Commissioner Mary Kuney, who has served on the board of 21 women overseeing the settlement for 10 years, directed her message at the children of Hutton, past and present.
“I want the kids to know here today, where you’re at doesn’t define you,” she said. “It’s where you go from here.”
Spokane Mayor David Condon said that as he was driving out to the settlement along the Spokane River, he could see why Hutton would pick this particular spot after catapulting himself into the upper class during the Great Depression.
Along with his wife, May Arkwright, both of them orphans, Hutton became an overnight millionaire when the Hercules Mine in Kellogg struck silver. The two moved to Spokane, first buying the Hutton Building on Washington Street between Sprague Avenue and First Avenue.
Then, when Arkwright, a staunch suffragist and social activist, died prematurely in 1915 of kidney disease, Hutton set out to build his idea of an orphanage, one better than any he’d been in before. It was a novel idea, unseen in Eastern Washington at the time: about a dozen buildings, all lavishly furnished, with full kitchens and several acres for the children to play – and work.
“The life and work of Levi and May is intertwined with all of us,” said Condon. “We’re here today to recognize a monument of the past and even the future.”
State Sen. Mike Padden was struck by Hutton’s forethought to invest his fortune in the settlement before he passed away in 1928, which has helped keep it afloat over the years without much need for outside funding.
“Who would have ever thought of that 100 years ago?” he said.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers delivered the final proclamation, before closing remarks. She said the settlement embodied the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“This day will go down in history,” she said. “I think if Levi were with us today, Levi would be proud.”
There in the crowd were dozens of Hutton alumni, many of whom elected to share stories with one another. Pam Hydrick, who stayed there from 1980 to 1983 and is now a therapist at the settlement, said graduation isn’t goodbye – the family stays together throughout the years.
“It was good,” she said of her time there. “You always want to be with your first family. But that didn’t work out.”
Sisters Shirley Sundstrom and Jackie Turk also lived at Hutton, from about 1974 to 1980. They consider those years some of their best.
“This is our home,” said Sundstrom. “This is where we lived. This made us who we are today.”
Perhaps most famous among those honoring the day was Linda Ruth Tosetti, granddaughter of George Herman “Babe” Ruth. That’s right – The Bambino. The Sultan of Swat.
Or as Tosetti knows him, grandpa.
“You can see from my face we’re blood relatives,” she joked.
Tosetti and her husband flew in from their home in Durham, Connecticut, to take part in the centennial celebration. She said she couldn’t resist after reading about Arkwright and her work in the Washington Women’s Suffrage movement.
Plus, there was another reason. In the 1920s, Ruth, who grew up an orphan, visited the Hutton Settlement during an off-season with the New York Yankees.
Once there, the legend stayed awhile, playing baseball with the boys.
Tosetti said that much like Hutton, Ruth loved helping children and would often visit hospitals and orphanages.
“My grandfather used to say, ‘Take me to the sickest children,’ ” she said. “All he had to do was stick his head in the door. Children who couldn’t walk would run.”