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The Ryther Family

Olive Hannah Spore (more often known as Ollie) was born in Iowa to Scottish immigrants on March 15, 1849. At the age of eighteen, in 1867, she married Noble Ryther (1842-1914), a carpenter and Civil War veteran. The couple soon had three daughters: Amy, Ella, and Mae Bird. Despite this, Noble, a devout Methodist, left his young family in 1874 to serve as a missionary in Washington Territory. He worked at the City Mission in Seattle while building a cabin and doing land clearing and carpentry. It was nine years before he sent for his family, who finally arrived in Seattle in 1883. Although Noble’s original cabin was on the east side of Lake Washington, property records show that he purchased land in today’s Central Area (19th Avenue and E. Fir Street) in 1884, where the family is more likely to have lived. Shortly after Ollie arrived in Seattle in 1884, their son, Allen was born. She continued to work with her husband at the mission, cooking for the homeless men. Ollie found her life-long vocation, however, when a dying mother pleaded with her to take in her four children. These children were the first of thousands that she cared for over five decades. 

Alder Street Home



In 1885, Olive Ryther took in the four children of a neighbor, promising the woman on her deathbed that these children would be raised as her own. These were the first of many children and women that Mother Ryther would care for.


Shortly after taking in those first children into her home, Ollie and Noble founded the City Mission Foundling Home for unwed mothers, caring for pregnant women and their babies. She placed the babies into adoptive homes and helped the mothers find work. Word of her success in caring for sickly children spread, and doctors began sending them to her for care. Within three years of her arrival in Seattle, in 1887, Mother Ryther’s ever-expanding family moved to a house at 813 Alder Street, located west of Yesler Way, in the area currently occupied by Harborview Medical Center and the Yesler Terrace housing development. City directory listings show that the home was called the City Mission Home, but the Ryther's owned the home. Noble continued to work at the mission and earned money by clearing land and building houses, which sometimes kept him away from home for long periods.


Mother Ryther also turned her attention to helping the prostitutes who frequented the area. Her work became so well known that the city appointed her as the women’s jail matron. Since the city had no women’s jail, she cared for prisoners in her own home, barricading them into upstairs rooms. The 1899 opening of the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers allowed her to return to her original mission of sheltering destitute and homeless children. 


Mother Ryther became well known throughout the community as she aggressively sought donations of food, labor, and money to care for the children. The home attracted strong support from prominent Seattleites, including Laurence Colman, a member of one of the city’s most prominent families. In 1902, Colman formed a board of citizens to raise funds to renovate the building, adding indoor plumbing and electricity. However, the board resigned in 1905 after a crisis during which city health officials threatened to close the Home because it did not meet new standards for institutions (the board was reformed soon after). In the same year, the mortgage on the house was foreclosed. Although the Ryther’s owned the house, they mortgaged it to pay the medical expenses of their daughter, Mae Bird, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and eventually, they were unable to make the payments. Lawrence Colman, however, continued to be a strong supporter of Mother Ryther, and soon after the foreclosure, Colman facilitated a move to larger quarters. 



The house operated as a large family home, with older children caring for younger ones and everyone helping with chores such as cleaning, gardening, raising livestock, and caring for babies. Staffing was minimal–a cook, a handyman, and occasional helpers. Children attended public schools and, at the age of 16, were sent to learn a trade. The girls attended one year of high school and then moved on to business college to prepare them for jobs. Mother Ryther’s numerous community contacts were often useful in finding jobs.


The house must have been very crowded. An article in the Seattle Daily Times in 1900 noted that “Mrs. O.H. Ryther, who keeps the foundling home at 813 Alder Street has been invited to take the 24 children of the home on an outing.” The article noted that two babies had been left at the door the previous week and that four boys were up for adoption “to approved applicants only.”




A sketch of the house at 813 Alder Street shows a two-story cross-gabled vernacular structure with a gabled center bay. It sits with a barn on a cleared hillside adjacent to a forest, with no streets or other houses nearby. The origin of this image is unclear, but birds-eye views from the era show that it may be accurate; histories of the Central Area indicate that farming continued until into the 20th century. This remembrance from an 80-year-old woman who moved into the house in 1902, at the age of ten, gives a vivid picture of the rustic lifestyle: It was “an old two-and-a-half story house on a high hill with much ground around it, a large pasture where the boys played ball and the cows grazed. There was an orchard and a large garden spot, as well as a separate cottage where Mae Bird lived. The house had no plumbing, but there was a pump in the kitchen next to a wooden sink. There were a few electric light bulbs on the lower floors, but none in the attic where the older children slept, boys at one end, girls at the other with a partition between with no door. There were two separate stairways that went down outside the building. They used outside toilets, one for boys and one for girls, which were under a covered walkway from the back porch which also led down to the barn. Bathing was done in the kitchen in wooden tubs in which the clothes were washed. Water for bathing and washing was heated in a reservoir on the back of the big cookstove, and on bath nights, in the copper wash boiler. They ate at two long tables, again, one for boys and one for girls with Mother Ryther and some of the mothers at a round table in between. The fate of the house after the Ryther’s left in 1905 is not known, but it may have become a boarding house, a typical use for the neighborhood at the time. It was probably demolished by the 1930s when the area was redeveloped for Harborview Hospital and the Yesler Terrace public housing project. Harborview has continued to expand over the decades, and Yesler Terrace is now being redeveloped into a large mixed-use project.

The Pontius Mansion (1905 – 1920) 



As the home had clearly outgrown the Alder Street house, benefactor Laurence Colman located a much larger facility, the 14-room Pontius Mansion on Denny Way and Yale Avenue North (1262 Denny Way). The mansion had been one of Seattle’s finest houses when it was built in 1889 for Margaret Pontius. Rezin and Margaret Pontius had arrived in Seattle from Ohio in 1865, establishing a farm on 160 acres south of Lake Union. Rezin left the family in the late 1880s, but Margaret stayed on, building a mansion where she lived until her death in 1902. She was very active in real estate, platting and selling her extensive property; when her will was probated, she had an estate of $200,000. After her death, the house went in decline and became a boarding house. Colman arranged a rental for only $100 a month, and Mother Ryther and the children moved there in 1905. It was at this time that the home was listed in city directories for the first time as the Ryther Home. 




The care provided in the new quarters was much the same as before but on a larger scale. Although the home cared for some orphans (who were often placed with adoptive parents), it was not primarily an orphanage. It largely served as a safe place where parents could board children when they themselves could not care for them, usually due to illness or work. The home charged a dollar week for board, if the parent could pay.


All accounts of Mother Ryther note her major characteristics: a strong religious faith, fund-raising zeal, a positive and cheerful personality, and her great strength and energy. She was also known for her lack of interest in keeping records or in following rules she viewed as unnecessary. There were periodic challenges with city policies and neighbors over these years, such as in 1915 when the Ryther’s were forced to remove their cows from the neighborhood –they were no longer allowed in this area. Also, there were several doctors on her new board and this meant she had to bow her head to the rules regarding vaccination and other health matters, which required more money. In 1915, the Ryther Child Home was incorporated, entitling it to support through public funds. These changes came about mainly through the efforts of Laurence Colman who had been her staunch supporter through the years.  




Photographs show that the Pontius Mansion epitomized the Queen Anne style favored by wealthy citizens of the period. It stood two-and-a-half stories, with a complex roofline featuring a side gable roof, gabled dormers and multi-story bays, and two turrets–a tall highly-ornamented conical one and a shorter square bellcast tower. The veranda, with extensive spindlework, extended across most of the facade and around the corner. The large double-hung windows admitted light to the interior.


Because of the mansion’s prominence, newspaper articles described its luxurious furnishings. The first floor had front and back parlors, a large hall of golden oak, a cedar-paneled dining room, a kitchen with a butler’s pantry, and a bathroom with a zinc tub–a rarity at the time. The girls slept on the second floor, which had five bedrooms and a bathroom. The boys slept in the third-floor servants’ quarters, which had no bathroom. The house sat on an entire block, large enough to maintain a cow (while allowed) and a garden, and to have three cottages for the Ryther family and an isolation cottage for sick children. The Ryther Home remained here for fifteen years. The mansion stood until 1930 when it was demolished for a bus garage for the North Coast Transportation Company, a predecessor of Greyhound Lines. That building was demolished in 2012 and a Seattle City Light substation was being built on the site in 2014. The Pontius name lives on in nearby Pontius Avenue N. 




Mrs. Pontius selected John Parkinson (1861-1935), one of the city’s most prominent architects, to design her home. Parkinson arrived in the United States from England, where he trained in building design and construction. He worked in the Midwest and California before coming to Seattle in January 1889, shortly before the Great Fire of June 1889. He completed many important commercial and institutional commissions. Extant works include the Seattle National Bank Building (now the Interurban Building, 1889-90); B. F. Day School. (1891-92); Seattle Seminary (now Alexander Hall, Seattle Pacific University, 1891-93); the Jesuit College (now Garrand Hall, Seattle University, 1893-94). When the economic depression of 1893 halted construction, Parkinson moved to Los Angeles, where he embarked on a very notable career, partnership with his son, which lasted almost until his death in 1935. 

Stone Way Home (1920-1935)



By 1919, the Pontius Mansion that had housed the Ryther Home since 1905 had deteriorated beyond repair and the number of children had outgrown even this large house. Mother Ryther and the board undertook a major fundraising effort for the facility’s first purpose-built home. In January 1919, the city was blanketed with flyers urging people to donate to “buy a brick for the Mother Ryther Home.” Merchants, labor unions, and city employees, among others, gave goods and labor. Groundbreaking for the new building took place on Thanksgiving Day 1919. The cornerstone, donated by the Stone Cutter’s Union, was inscribed “Ryther Child Home, The Open Door for Destitute Mothers and Children, Dedicated to the Life Work of Mrs. O. H. Ryther.” The “big family,” as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described it, moved in only a few months later, on May 7, 1920. The move itself was a festive parade of automobiles driven by local citizens, and the children were greeted with basket lunches provided by the board members.


Although the fundraising allowed construction to proceed, the resulting building may have been smaller than originally planned. An early rendering showed a three-story building of considerably more elaborate design. The architect has not been identified. However, David Myers, a prominent local architect, was on the Ryther Home Board and may have done the design. Despite the urgent need for the new quarters, Mother Ryther was somewhat regretful about it, as it was more institutional that the family-sized cottages she would have preferred. 




Even in this larger, more institutional setting, Mother Ryther continued to maintain a family home atmosphere. Staffing increased, with several “matrons,” a cook, and a handyman, as well as volunteers, but she continued to be involved in the cooking, housekeeping, and child care. The number of children living in the home increased steadily. In March 1920, 75 children moved from the Pontius Mansion. Later that year, Sunset magazine reported that nearly 100 “orphans and half-orphans” lived in the home. By 1928, the Wallingford Journal reported more than 130 residents, with three matrons to assist 79-year old Mother Ryther. Mothers were also sheltered as needed, although the number is not known. For many, the facility served as a daycare center, with mothers leaving their children during the day, returning to eat the evening meal and return home at night.


For the next fourteen years, with financial help from the Community Fund and physical help from several matrons, Mother Ryther carried on until her death. She died in her bedroom on October 2, 1934, at the age of eighty-five. After her death, the building was slowly emptied of the hundred and twenty children and a few adults, then stood vacant while the board of directors studied how best to use the facility and still preserve it as a memorial to Mother Ryther. 




The property on Stone Way N. at N. 44th Street was well located, adjacent to the Wallingford business district, a few blocks from Interlake Elementary School and across the street from Lincoln High School. The property comprised an entire block, with room for a garden, fruit trees and playfields. The grounds also had cottages for family members who wished to live separately with their children.


The imposing two-story building sat above the street with an ivy-covered slope and concrete steps. The building was of wood frame construction in a simple Georgian style, clad with red brick veneer. The symmetrical nine-bay facade had a large projecting portico with a balustrade that was supported by brick pillars and eight slender columns. Most windows had large double-hung six-over-one sash. A very deep cornice and brick parapet capped the building. It measured 98 by 53 feet, with projecting wings at each end giving it a shallow U-shaped plan. A one-story wing was at the north end. 

Ryther Child Center (1935- 1957)



The Stone Way facility closed after Mother Ryther’s death until the board identified the best direction for its future. Mother Ryther’s death marked a crucial turning point for several reasons. The loss of the founder was obviously important. But even more significant were the changes that had taken place in society and the care of children over the five decades of the home’s existence. The disciplines of psychology, psychiatry and social work had provided new tools and approaches. Also, Seattle now had numerous child welfare agencies, each with its own niche, supporters and fund-raising base. Children’s needs had a higher profile as well, with the Social Security Act of 1935 providing assistance for needy children.


In 1935, the University of Washington School of Social Work conducted a study of local needs, which recommended that the home be converted into a psychiatric service center for children exhibiting “emotional instability or behavior problems.” The report observed that Ryther had primarily been caring for children of working mothers, who could be cared for more economically by providing support directly to the family. While the state had provisions for severely mentally ill children, there were no facilities for children who were less emotionally disturbed but still needed care. It was also recommended that Ryther initiate a foster home placement service.


The Community Fund (the organization now known as United Way) was a long-time financial supporter of the home and it became actively involved in shaping the new agency. As the study recommended, the Community Fund Council voted for the Ryther Home to cease working with normal dependent children, shifting its focus to emotionally and/or behaviorally disturbed children. The Stone Way property remained in the ownership of the Ryther Home Board but was held in trust by the Community Fund. A new board was established with representatives from the Ryther Home Board, the medical profession, other children’s agencies, religious groups, labor representatives, Seattle Public Schools, and other relevant organizations.

The new institution, known as Ryther Child Center, opened on October 22, 1935, almost exactly a year after Mother Ryther’s death. It was headed by Miss Lillian Johnson, a nationally known leader in the field of child welfare with a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Chicago and experience as head the Nebraska State Bureau of Child Welfare. Her new staff included a physician, a psychiatrist, a dietician, a nurse, social workers, social work graduate students, and maintenance staff. Miss Johnson was to stay with the agency for 35 years, until her retirement in 1970.


The agency was supported primarily from public contributions given to the Community Fund, later supplemented by welfare payments and parents’ fees. In 1937, additional community support was formalized by the formation of a women’s auxiliary, Ryther Four and Twenty (named for the size of the original group). With the success of the charter unit, Ryther Four and Twenty Clubs, Inc. (now called the Ryther League), was formed in 1947. This organization has been increasingly important in the agency’s growth by raising funds and educating the community about Ryther and its services. 




Ryther Child Center was a pioneering effort, adopting a new approach known as residential treatment. Its objective was to provide a broad range of services to meet a child’s needs over time rather than having to transfer them to other agencies. It had an organized and scientific approach to care, beginning with a thorough analysis of each child’s situation and needs, the causes of the problems, and a plan to address them. While the most disturbed children were placed in residential care, most children were able to remain in their own homes and receive outpatient services. Others were placed in foster care while receiving outpatient services.


The residential care continued to follow the family model of a normal living situation, participating in chores and either attending public school or being tutored. During its first year, 78 children between the ages of 6 and 18 were admitted for residential treatment. Seventy-one of these returned to their families or were placed in a foster home within a short period. More than a hundred children received outpatient treatment. 




Although the details are not known, the large building was most likely remodeled, since there were many fewer children in residence and a greater need for small therapy rooms. The building housed agency and staff offices, a small medical clinic and rooms where parents, children, and staff could talk privately. The residential section accommodated up to 20 children in four double rooms and two small dormitories. An article by Miss Johnson described these as “sturdy, modest living quarters….with “a large pine-lined living room with a fireplace and heavy, sturdy pine furniture specially designed to take daily wear and tear.” The boys’ quarters had pine wainscoting with built-in bunks, while the girls had more feminine rooms with flowered wallpaper and painted white beds. There was a large dining room and kitchen and a playroom in the basement as well as the large outdoor playfield.


When Ryther moved to North Seattle in 1957, the Stone Way building was sold to another agency, United Cerebral Palsy (now known as Provail). The building was demolished in 2008 for the construction of a large senior housing community, University House at Wallingford. 

Ryther Child Center (1957- Present)



As early as 1945, it was apparent that Ryther needed a new facility to deliver its updated services effectively. The Stone Way building had been constructed for residential care and lacked adequate space for offices, conferences, and individual therapy. The building had also deteriorated since repairs had by necessity been delayed during the war years. In March 1949, the Ryther Board voted to search for a property close to bus lines, schools, and playgrounds and convenient to the University of Washington. The search took several years, but in March 1954, the Four and Twenty Board acquired a wooded 8.25-acre site in Lake City for a modern facility specifically designed for Ryther’s activities.


A successful fundraising campaign yielded $250,000 for construction. In 1956, the Mother Ryther Home Corporation, which still owned the Stone Way building, transferred ownership to Ryther Child Care Center. The sale of that building paid the remainder of the construction and landscaping costs. Rather than one large structure, the new campus had several buildings with children living in relatively small, family-like groups as Mother Ryther had started in the 1880s and dreamed of for the future. The administration/treatment building and two dormitories opened in June 1957. In 1961, the Four and Twenty Board agreed to fund an on-site school building, which opened in 1962. The self-contained education program is still staffed by the Seattle Public Schools Special Education Department today. Behind these low-rise buildings was a large play area. The dormitories underwent major renovations in 1979-80. By 1975, children admitted to the center were increasingly disturbed and harder to manage. The twenty-bed dormitories were no longer therapeutically effective. This realization led to a decision to reduce the number of children in each residence from twenty to an ideal size of eight to ten, requiring new buildings and additional staffing. To meet this goal, a major fundraising effort began in 1980 to raise $2,500,000 to build four new living units. These four new cottages opened in 1982. 




Services at the new campus included both residential and outpatient therapy, as at the Stone Way Building, with the addition of the on-site school. However, both services and facilities evolved significantly and rapidly as needs and funding sources changed. One notable change was the more intensive family-like setting replacing the dormitory-style residential care. Another change was the increased amount of outpatient treatment, for individuals, groups, and families. State funding had considerable influence on services and facilities. Between 1966 and 1982, Ryther operated small-scale off-site residences with live-in staff for teens, providing a transition from the campus residential setting to independent living. However, these were closed in 1982 due to funding cuts. Available funding also led to an expansion of specialized services, such as the opening in 1983 of an alcohol and substance abuse program. That program provided twelve teen boys at a time with inpatient treatment for an average of 45 days and six months of outpatient follow-up. The age range also changed over time. In 1965, increased referrals of young children led to the opening of an all-day nursery school for 3-5-year-olds. An outpatient day treatment program for pre-schoolers began in 1983.


More recently, another agency, Child Haven, operated a nursery school in the west building, which was remodeled for this purpose. This program is no longer operating and in 2014 the building was remodeled again for outpatient and office uses. In 2013, more than 3,000 children and families were served through Ryther’s wide range of programs at three locations in the Seattle area. The main campus in Northeast Seattle offers both residential and outpatient care in several programs: sub-acute residential care, mental health outpatient services, neurodiverse services, and family support services. Ryther North (Mukilteo) is an office setting that provides outpatient child and family counseling; psychiatric and psychological care; and chemical dependency outpatient assessments and treatment for teens. 




The 8.25 acre Ryther campus is located at 2400 NE 95th Street in a residential neighborhood just east of Lake City Way NE. It covers blocks 72 and 73 of the Maple Leaf Addition to Green Lake Circle. It has a total of nine structures surrounding a large play area, with parking lots on the south and east sides and a deep wooded ravine along the northern edge. The three original buildings that were built between 1956-58 are along the south side of the property. The school (1962) is located north of these, on the east side. The four 1982 cottages and the play structure are along the rear of the property, facing the large grassy play area.


The three 1956-58 buildings are similar in appearance, with shallow gabled roofs, deep eaves with extended rafters, wide cedar siding and brick veneer cladding The Center Building (1956) was designed as the administration building, as it is today. It has 14,982 square feet on two floors plus a 3,610 square foot basement. The plan is basically L-shaped, and originally accommodated a lobby area, 24 offices, and a 3-room staff apartment. Although some changes in configurations and uses have occurred, it is still used for administrative services and staff offices. Cladding is red brick with wide cedar siding and wood paneling. Windows are primarily aluminum sliding sash.

The East Unit and the West Unit, both built in 1956, are mirror images of each other. They were originally used as 22-bed dormitories. They have a rough T-shaped plan, with living and dining areas in the front and bedrooms, staff and service rooms at the end and along the rear corridor. They originally had a total of 24 rooms on the main floor and 7 in the basement. The interior walls are plasterboard with birch trim.


These buildings face north toward the grassy area at the center of the campus. The center of each building has a tall wide gable with tall windows extending to the eaves; below these are six-light older aluminum sash. The roof, supported by square wood posts, extends out to shelter a wide concrete patio. One wing is set back from the center section and has a shallow-pitched side gable roof. Cladding on the front (north elevation is wide cedar siding below the windows with wood paneling above. The windows have a combination of older aluminum sash and vinyl sliding sash. On the other side of the center section a brick-clad bay projects out; the roof here projects out to shelter the walkway, supported by metal posts. The ends of the buildings are also clad with brick. Each building has an exterior stairway descending to the basement. The East and West Units ceased being used as residential buildings in 1982 when the new cottages were completed. Since that time the West Building has had a variety of uses and the interior has been significantly remodeled. It has been used for meeting rooms and for individual and group outpatient therapy. Most recently, it housed a therapeutic pre-school program. The East Building was also used for individual and group therapy, as well as staff offices and the school annex. This building also houses a kitchen, laundry and maintenance facilities for the entire campus.


The school (1962) has eight classrooms on two floors. It is sited on a hillside at the northeast section of the campus. Because of its hillside location, it appears to have only a single-story building but has a full lower level on the rear. It has remained in school use and has not been significantly altered. It has a side gable roof and brick and cedar siding. The west elevation, facing the campus, has one-over-one vinyl window sash. The two-story east elevation has continuous bands of sliding vinyl windows on each story.


The four cottages built in 1982 are distinctly different in appearance from the original buildings, with a more residential character. The four cottages each house 12 children. Three cottages currently accommodate 6-13 olds and one houses 11 boys, aged 13-17, in substance abuse treatment. They are generally similar, with a T-shaped plan with a large living/dining/kitchen area in the front and a bedroom wing to the rear, with more bedrooms on the lower level. The buildings have cross-gable roofs with deep eaves and extended rafters. Each has a wide interior chimney. Board-and-batten siding, stick work and peeled logs giving a rustic appearance. The large windows have dark aluminum sliding sash or picture windows. Some of the buildings have side or rear decks on the ravine. 

The Architects: John Paul Jones and Leonard W. Bindon

Ryther’s first campus buildings and the 1962 school building were designed by the architectural partnership of Jones and Bindon, which operated from 1947 until Jones’ retirement in 1956. The cottages added in 1982 were designed by the successor firm of Wright, Gildow, Hartman, Teegarden Architects and Planners (WGHT). John Paul Jones (1892-1982), born in Ohio, attended Denison University and the University of Pennsylvania but never received a degree. He was employed by several Midwest architects before moving to Seattle in 1919 to work for the noted firm of Bebb & Gould. Recognized for his skills as a draftsman and designer, Jones became a junior partner of the firm in 1926. After Gould’s death in 1939, Jones became a full partner and the firm was renamed Bebb & Jones (1939-1947). After World War II, Jones became the consulting architect and planner for the University of Washington and had a significant impact on many campus designs. After Bebb’s retirement in 1947, Leonard Bindon became a partner, and the firm was re-named in Jones & Bindon.


Jones retired from the firm in 1956, but continued a small individual practice, designing small homes and apartment buildings. He died in Bellevue in November of 1982. Londoner Leonard W. Bindon (1899-1980) migrated to the United States with his family, becoming a citizen in 1925. He studied architecture at the University of Washington but did not graduate. His initial architectural experience was with New York firms before returning to Seattle to work for architect Robert C. Reamer from 1924 to 1929. About 1935, Bindon established his own practice in Bellingham and quickly became the most notable architect in that city, with works including the Bellingham City Hall (1939), the Music Building at Western Washington College (later Western Washington University), and several large Art Deco/Streamline Modern style homes. Bindon served as an architect in the U.S. Army during World War II, with designs including several warehouses at the Auburn Army Depot.


He later joined the prominent Seattle firm of Bebb and Jones and became a partner after Bebb’s retirement in 1947, when the name was changed to Jones & Bindon. After Jones’ retirement in 1956, the firm continued as Bindon & Wright, with John LeBaron Wright. Their commissions included the Seattle City Light Building (1957) and acting as a local architect with the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill for the Norton Building (1959). They also designed several libraries, including the Central Library in Seattle (1960), another Suzzallo Library addition (1963) and the library at Pacific Lutheran University (1966). Bindon retired in the late 1960s or early 1970s and passed away in Seattle in 1980. Architect Elton C. Gildow joined the firm of Bindon & Wright as a partner in the mid-to-late 1960s to form Bindon Wright & Partners. Other partners soon joined the firm, including George Hartman and Clark Teegarden. The firm changed its name to Wright, Gildow, Hartman, Teegarden Architects and Planners (WGHT).  


Several biographical accounts of Mother Ryther’s life and work were written, both during her lifetime and since her death in 1934. Most of these accounts are based on Unto the Least, written by Cora G. Chase in 1972. Ms. Chase was the daughter of Ella Ryther Chase, Ollie, and Noble Ryther’s daughter. While parts of the book are highly romanticized, it includes interviews with people who lived in the various facilities as children. 


  • Bragg, L. E. More than Petticoats: Remarkable Washington Women

  • Helena MT: Falcon Publishing, Inc., 1998

  • Chase, Cora, Unto the Least, Seattle: The Shorey Book Store, 1971

  • King County Tax Assessor Records, 1937 – 2014

  • Jones and Bindon, Architectural Plans, Ryther Child Center, 1956

  • Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl. “John Parkinson,” in Shaping Seattle Architecture, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994 

  • Polk’s Seattle Directories 

  • Johnson, Lillian J., “Ryther Child Center,” c. 1940

  • Ryther Chronicle, unpublished manuscript, 1988

  • “Ryther, Mother Olive, (1849-1934)” 

  • HistoryLink File #546, accessed January 14, 2014 

  • “Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers opens in Dunlap on November 21, 1889.”, HistoryLink File #3128, accessed April 20, 2004 

  • Veith, Thomas, History of the Central Area, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, 2009 

  • Newspaper and Magazine Articles

  • Crane, Ralph, “Bad Boy’s Story,” Life, May 12, 1947: 107-114 

  • Johnson, Lillian J, “The Ryther Story,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 6, 1966 

  • Strachan, Mary Pitcairn, “Early-Day Mansions: No. 31-Rezin W. Pontius. Seattle Times, 1945 

  • Warren, Eugene, Sunset Magazine, September 1920 

  • “$100,000 Needed for Ryther Home,” Seattle Daily Times, January 3, 1919, p. 14 

  • “Allan Ryther,” obituary, Seattle Times, June 18. 1959, p. 46.Seattle Daily Times, May 18, 1904 

  • “Autos Will Transfer Big Family to Its New Homes, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 10, 1920" 

  • Mother Ryther Celebrates Birthday, Active at Seventy-nine Years of Age,” Wallingford Journal March 22, 1928

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