100 years later, Hutton Settlement still meeting children’s needs
The mission of the Hutton Settlement has not changed in the 100 years since Levi Hutton founded it, and neither have the buildings.
The settlement, which sits on 319 acres under the Arbor Crest bluff just north of Millwood, has provided a safe, stable home for 1,500 children in need since it was founded.
Hutton, who made his fortune in North Idaho silver mines, founded the organization for orphaned children. He was 6 years old when his parents died, and he and his six siblings were separated and sent to live with different aunts and uncles, said Jessica Laughery, Hutton’s director of community relations and communication.
It was those early memories that drove Hutton to found a home for orphaned children, Laughery said. The site includes four cottages and an administration building with an attached gym. Each cottage has its own kitchen, living room, bedrooms and other family spaces. Married couples serve as houseparents who live in the cottages and are responsible for everything from meals to driving the children to school activities.
Much of the settlement is as it was 100 years ago. The buildings were designed by architect Harold Whitehouse, who also designed the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on the South Hill. The story is that when Whitehouse asked Levi Hutton how much he wanted to spend, Hutton told him there was no limit.
“Levi told him he wanted the buildings to last 250 years,” she said. “Everything here is original. The tile of the roof is Italian slate. It really was the best materials and really well done.”
The Hutton Settlement is planning a series of events this year to celebrate its 100th anniversary. A Centennial Celebration is planned for April 25 and will include stories told by former residents. The settlement will sponsor a Looff Carrousel Community Day on May 4 and allow attendees to ride the Looff Carrousel for free.
There will be a L.W. Hutton Day dedication on July 19 that Laughery describes as a family reunion and community open house. A bronze statue of Hutton will be unveiled and other activities are still being planned for the day, including an alumni baseball game.
The Spokane Civic Theatre will present a “Hutton Settlement Play” based on the life of Levi Hutton from Oct. 24-27 and Nov. 1-3.
The Hutton Settlement is unique in that it does not accept government funding of any kind. Just over 60 percent of the settlement’s $2 million annual budget comes from 22 commercial properties it owns. The rest comes from grants, community donations, investment income and the annual Christmas tree sale. Only 10 percent of the annual budget is spent on administrative costs; the rest goes toward operations and programs.
In the early decades, the children coming to live at the Hutton Settlement were true orphans. Now many are what Laughery calls social orphans.
“Today, the situations are quite a bit different,” she said. “They may have parents living, but for whatever reason they can’t care for them.”
The parents might have drug problems, be in jail or be too ill to take care of their children. Laughery said they have just over 30 children at a time. Half come from the foster care system and half are private placements.
Many of the children are part of sibling groups. Keeping siblings together was one of Levi Hutton’s goals, and that mission continues today. Children who arrive at the Hutton Settlement must stay for at least nine months. It takes at least that long to form attachments and begin to work through whatever they are dealing with, Laughery said.
Many of the children end up staying for years, sometimes more than a decade and their entire childhood, she said.
The children all attend West Valley schools. The Hutton Settlement offers four clubs for them to be involved in – sustainable farming, culinary arts, woodworking and outdoor education. Teenagers can find jobs in nearby Millwood.
“There are campus jobs and kids can earn allowances,” Laughery said.
The settlement has a greenhouse, a garden and chickens. There are plans to add ducks and goats this year. The children grow and sell Christmas trees as a fundraiser.
West Valley High School sophomore Gavin McArthur has been living at Hutton Settlement with his older brother, Trevor, for nine years. They arrived when McArthur, now 16, was 7 years old.
“Life before that was a little bit difficult for my brother and I,” he said. “It’s been a really good experience here. They’ve got really great programs.”
McArthur’s mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had other issues that led to the brothers living with their father. They didn’t know he was mentally ill and a drug user until the police broke down their front door one day when McArthur was 5.
“At the time my brother and I had no idea what was going on,” he said.
The two bounced among eight foster homes in a year and a half before they arrived at Hutton. McArthur, who is a good student, credits the settlement for helping him become successful and overcoming anger issues he had when he was younger.
“They helped me get through a lot of social anxiety and depression,” he said. “I don’t really know where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for Hutton Settlement. I’ve grown up here. They’ve given me a place to call home, a place to call family.”
He likes the outdoor education program the settlement offers and sometimes finds himself using the 3 miles of hiking trails on the property.
“Most of the time I don’t even use them,” he said of the trails. “I just like wandering through the woods. I’ve always liked nature. It’s kind of an escape for me.”
He said he also likes the staff.
“The adults are definitely caring, otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen to be here,” he said. “Hutton Settlement is the best home for children who are in need. They’re there for you.”