May Arkwright moved to the Coeur d’Alene mining district in 1883 and opened a boarding house where she met Levi “Al” Hutton, a railroad engineer. Several years later, the two married and continued their lives in the mining district, becoming very involved in labor struggles. While Levi was more concerned about mining issues, May was an outspoken political activist who became a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement. May successfully secured the vote for women in Idaho in 1896.
In 1897 the couple invested in the Hercules Mine and in 1901, their investment paid off – the mine struck one of the world’s largest and most lucrative veins of silver and lead ore ever found. The Hutton’s 3/32nd interest made them overnight millionaires.
In 1906 the Hutton’s had John K. Dow and Clarence Hubbell build a 4-story building in Spokane. In anticipation of her new home in the Hutton Building, May Hutton announced the property’s fourth floor penthouse would have nine elegant rooms which “will be in the nature of apartments and will be as luxuriantly furnished as any that can be found west of the Rocky Mountains. No cost will be spared.” A year later, in 1907, the couple moved into the penthouse on the top floor.
May continued her political activism after moving to Spokane, which caught the attention of many influential people in the area. Her passion and enthusiasm helped to secure the vote for women in the state of Washington, and she became the first woman in Spokane to register to vote. The effort that May put into the women’s suffrage movement gained her national attention and she is credited as one of the most influential women to spearhead the women’s suffrage movement in Washington.
The Huttons moved to a different home on Spokane’s South Hill in 1914, but May Hutton died a year later in 1915. During the eight years she lived in Spokane, it was said that May gave over $450,000 to charity. Levi Hutton, who was orphaned at six years old, pursued his dream of building a home for orphaned children after his wife’s premature death. In 1919, the Hutton Settlement was established. For nine years, Levi Hutton cared for the children that called the Hutton Settlement home. But in 1928, Levi passed away, leaving behind a rich and full Hutton legacy. It was said that Levi, like May, “left the world better than [when] he found it.”
The Hutton building remained in the family’s estate until 1969. In 1989, the building underwent major renovations and today it houses offices and local retail stores in downtown Spokane. The Hutton Settlement has been a model for orphanages all over the country.