Hunts Point's Quiet Wealth -- Census Says `Comfortable' Place To Live Is The State's Richest Town

HUNTS POINT - The gilded script in a book displayed in the pale green room overlooking blue water says it all: "Freedom from Want."

Ronald and Hermia Llewellyn have experienced that freedom in their Hunts Point home, where they have lived for 24 years - or, as Ronald Llewellyn says, "Not very long."

He is 80, the retired owner of a glue factory, padding around on running shoes as he shows off his garden and talks about the town history he's helping to write. She is slightly younger, vivacious, just back from the garden club, and wearing heels.

They are a part of what makes Hunts Point stand out, not only geographically speaking, into Lake Washington, but also demographically.

The town northwest of Bellevue is the wealthiest in the region, the state and possibly the West, according to figures from the 1990 U.S. Census.

In 1980, when the previous U.S. Census was done, it had the second-highest per capita income in the nation, after tiny Hewlett Bay Park Village, in Nassau County, N.Y.

And although the 1990 national rankings have not yet been done, Hunts Point has only gotten richer, with folks far wealthier than the Llewellyns.

But don't worry about them.

"We're very comfortable here," Ronald Llewellyn says. "I say I'm an embarrassment to the neighbors because I don't have a Rolls Royce. That's not true, of course. Nobody cares."

A very relaxed sort of place, Hunts Point, where the average household income in 1989 was $173,145, compared to $41,040 for Seattle and $46,269 for King County, according to the 1990 census.

Where developer David Sabey lives cheek by jowl amid 100-foot driveways, tennis courts, floatplanes and helipads with communications baron and Seattle SuperSonics owner Barry Ackerley, former Microsoft vice president Scott Oki, several Nordstroms, the sand and gravel Reeds, and saxophonist Kenny G, whose mellow notes sometimes float free for neighbors in the summer air.

The only town in the region where the families with no workers had higher family incomes than families with one or two workers.

"Run that by me again?" asked Mayor Erselle Eade.

Those 18 nonworking families averaged annual incomes of $232,595 - almost 60 percent more than families with one worker, and 40 percent more than families with two workers.

Not your typical retirees, in many ways. The man taking three years to build a huge home next to the Llewellyns, for instance, is retired. "He's about 47," Llewellyn said. "Scott Oki - he's retired. He's only 29."

The 59 families with one worker averaged $146,383. When another family member worked as well, as they did in 57 families, the second income increased the average only about $20,000, to $166,932. In the 21 families with three or more workers, the average income was $362,502, compared to $66,915 for such Seattle families.

Of 513 residents, the Census counted 502 Caucasians. (There were 10 Asians and one Native American.) The greatest proportion of residents said their ancestors were English, German or Scandinavian. Two said Lithuanian.

Then there were the four Hunts Point residents claiming incomes of less than $5,000.

"I don't know who that would be," Eade said.

"Either it was someone pulling the census man's leg," offered Llewellyn, "or they were talking to the gardener."

Then his wife remembered that at least one family she knew had a disabled relative living in a guest cottage.

Gardeners are well-rooted in Hunts Point, where old cedars and evergreens stretch toward the sky, and flowering plants and bushes crowd each other for space. Along the most exclusive part of town, Hunts Point Road, densely foliated, curving driveways block most houses from view.

Craig McCaw, McCaw Cellular Communications's chairman and top executive executed stock options in 1989 that brought him $53.7 million, making him that year's most highly paid executive of publicly held companies in the nation. He said through a representative that the reason he chooses to live on Hunts Point is because it's close to work, on the water and "rural."

One former resident is legendary for having had two full-time gardeners. Many families are now down to a part-time man. When the Llewellyns are asked if they'll always live on Hunts Point, Hermia Llewellyn answers that it depends on their gardener. "As long as we have Jesus!" she says.


Dotted now by 206 houses on 205 acres - less than one-third of a square mile - the little spit of land was originally favored by Sammamish Indians for hunting and fishing, and flora and fauna are still obviously treasured.

"We have lots of cedar trees that are 400 years old," says Eade. "It's a lovely, lovely place we're trying to preserve. We have a hard time with people coming from out of the area, they want to tear down all the trees and put in landscaping."

But that's nothing new. Hunts Point got its name in 1888, when Leigh Hunt bought it, planning to denude it so his view of Seattle from his Yarrow Point home would be improved. Hunt got his comeuppance, according to Llewellyn: He soon went broke.

The first houses built there, around the turn of the century, were cottages - summer homes for landlocked Seattleites, many of them doctors and professional people, who took a ferry or rowed to Seattle. By 1910, electricity and mail service was established, and the summer people added furnaces and plumbing.

Although some of the older cottages remain, others have fallen to the tear-down syndrome, being leveled and replaced by grander, more imposing structures.

The biggest house is 13,000-plus square feet, said Mayor Eade.

"It belongs to Sabey," she said. "He also put up a huge fence and gate that we don't allow. It looks out of place. I don't know how that got through."

Sabey's mansion inspired the town council to set size limits. But even without the house, prices are stratospheric. Of eight Hunts Point homes listed for sale recently with the Multiple Listing Service, the cheapest was $1.5 million. The most expensive was $7.75 million.

"I don't know where they get the money," said Mayor Eade, who moved to town 23 years ago with her husband, a plastic surgeon. "I don't know how they do it. We could not afford to buy here now."

Real estate broker Graham Young has a listing for $2.1 million. "For that you get 78 feet of waterfront facing east, with a deep, protected moorage," he said. "The house is basically a tear down. It's about 30 years old. It's an absolute dump. It looks like `Animal House.' "

The owner lives in New Jersey and has been renting the house for many years, Young said. "His wife's, like, an Italian countess," said Young. "When she saw the condition of the house, she swore at me in Italian."


Most Hunts Point residents are more civil, however. "Originally I thought maybe we'd be treated like less than the gardener and the maid," said Joe Race, police chief of Medina, with which Hunts Point contracts for police services. "Like, `Could you take my trash out on trash day?' "

But it's not at all like that. "Even Kenny G says, `Call me Kenny,' " Race said.

Crime isn't much of a problem in Hunts Point. "What we get a lot of is false alarms," Race said. "Either family error or the maid or someone showing up to work got the wrong number."

In 1991, house alarms erroneously called police 97 times. Police wrote 100 speeding tickets, gave 128 speeding warnings and wrote 73 parking tickets. There were five reports of malicious mischief - things like cutting through fences at tennis courts.

Wilton remembers a string of burglaries 30 years ago "which turned out to be one cleaning lady's boyfriend." Last year there were just two burglaries. "One was construction stuff," Race said. In the other, a stereo and TV were taken.

"This is a very, very safe community," Race said. "Domestic violence was zippo. We had seven runaway kids. We got them all back. I tried to think of some funny stories about Hunts Point, and I couldn't think of anything. These are very serious people."

They do attend parties, however. The town traditionally has a clean-up day - held this year on a warm Sunday in May - in which residents pitch in to spruce up bushes and trees along the main road. Afterward, one of the newer residents hosts a cocktail party, for which people dress.

Yet Hermia Llewellyn remembers when women of Hunts Point - engaged in charitable work for the poor people of Bellevue - were a tighter-knit group. The husbands were friendlier, too, and life was somehow richer.

"They were charming, charming people," she said of one old family. "Mrs. Ruggles would have the young mothers in and teach them to bake bread."