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Now & Then
Mining Manor

The Milnor Roberts home, shown here from the rear, was built in 1903 at 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 45th Street, diagonally across from the University of Washington campus, where Roberts was a popular professor. In 1969 the site was developed with a new wing to the Pacific National Bank — now Wells Fargo — completing the bank's block between University Way and 15th. spacer Photo

Milnor Roberts was but 24 years old when the University of Washington hired the Stanford graduate to develop a College of Mines. The school soon named him its dean. When he retired in 1947, university regents also named the building after him. By then he was already described in the Encyclopedia Americana and had won the American Institute of Mining's highest award, membership in its Legion of Honor.

Beyond his professional achievements, Roberts established himself as a personality, one that is reflected in his home at the northwest corner of 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 45th Street. Milnor lived here with his younger sister Milnora for longer than he was a professor. Together they created a cultural retreat not only for themselves but for students and faculty, too. For instance, each Christmas the professor would climb the roof in a Santa Claus suit to greet faculty members and their children as they arrived for the annual Christmas Day party. For the 1916 party, the last one, Milnor and Milnora crowded 186 kids into their big home and entertained them all with carols, presents, popcorn and apples.

A chorus of frogs serenaded Milnora and Milnor from a marsh directly below the home. This music dried up with the 1913 construction of the terra-cotta University State Bank shown in the "now" scene.

Both Milnora and Milnor were faithful supporters of local art, music and athletics. On campus Milnor built the first covered bleachers, designed the rowing team's coaching barge and its shell house, and in 1912 developed the school's golf course on the South Campus.

Milnor Roberts left his files, clippings, photographs and much more with the UW archives — a trove of information ripe for plumbing.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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