Harriet Bullitt died in Leavenworth at the Sleeping Lady Resort on Saturday.
SEATTLE — Harriet Bullitt, Northwestern environmentalist, philanthropist and daughter of KING-TV founder Dorothy Bullitt, has died at 97.
Bullitt died in Leavenworth at the Sleeping Lady Resort, which she founded, on Saturday.
Bullitt founded Seattle Magazine, two radio stations, and briefly ran KING-TV. She also helped the Bullitt Foundation allocate more than $200 million to environmental causes.
Bullitt Foundation CEO and Earth Day co-founder Denis Hayes told KING 5 that as complete as Harriet is, her greatest legacy will be her impact on the environment.
“Everything from saving ancient forests in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska, trying to clean things up in Hanford and working hard on environmental health. A green building champion and to put her restlessness behind the Bullitt Center. She really wanted to build a sustainable world for her children and grandchildren, and for everyone’s children and grandchildren,” Hayes said.
Harriet’s mother, Dorothy, was a broadcasting pioneer in the North West. Dorothy found KING Broadcasting in the late 1940s.
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You can read Harriet’s biography provided by the Bullitt Foundation below:
Philanthropist. Editor. Streamer. Resort operator. Fencer. Zoologist. Flamenco dancer. Harriet Bullitt has worn many hats over her long life.
Well known for her leadership at the Bullitt Foundation – which was founded by her mother Dorothy and funded by Harriet with her sister Patsy and brother Stim – Harriet has left an indelible mark on the Pacific Northwest region she loves so much. Perhaps her father, Scott Bullitt, described her best: “She doesn’t shine in thoughtful glory, but has a real personality of her own.”
Harriet Overton Bullitt was born on September 10, 1924, at Seattle General Hospital, the first member of her family to be born in a hospital. His grandfather, CD Stimson, was the owner of Seattle’s largest sawmill, a major owner of the Metropolitan Building Corporation, which built the Fairmont Olympic Hotel as well as many other buildings in downtown Seattle, and was co-founder of The Highlands. When her father died in 1932, Dorothy not only had to raise three children, but also run the family business, Stimson Realty Company. At the time, it was not common for a woman to run a business.
During World War II, Harriet studied chemical engineering at the University of Washington. However, she encountered sexism there, and a professor told her to avoid the library as it distracted male students. She dabbled in home economics, but after “missing some French toast” she moved east to Bennington College to complete her education. She eventually earned a zoology degree from UW, but not until 1965.
At Bennington, Harriet met and married William Brewster, a handsome Dartmouth graduate. Dorothy gave the couple land outside of Leavenworth, WA as a wedding gift. While living in Boston with Bill and their two children, Wenda and Scott, Harriet won the New England Women’s Fencing Championship.
Later, the couple moved to Gainesville, Florida to work at the University of Florida. Working as a protein chemist, Harriet extracted venom from poisonous snakes to produce antivenom.
In 1962, Harriet divorced Bill and moved back to Seattle with her children. She married three other times, including her current husband Alex Voronin, whom she met at a flamenco dance party.
In Seattle, Dorothy had become interested in broadcasting, founding King Broadcasting in 1947. In her day, King held the first television broadcast license west of the Mississippi River and north of San Francisco.
Uninterested in broadcasting, Harriet started a newsletter in 1966 to celebrate the area’s natural beauty. first called Pacific Research, with subscribers from the Pacific Science Center, the Audubon Society, mycological organizations, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the newsletter would become Pacific Northwest Magazine (now Seattle Magazine), with more than 80,000 subscribers. In this role, she first released a new cartoonist, Gary Larson, and a photographer, Art Wolfe. She also published articles by Ken Kesey and Ivan Doig, who were new writers on the scene.
In 1984, Harriet put down her fencing sabers and started flamenco dancing. At the time, she was living on a barge in Lake Union known as Water Music, which was pulled by her Nordic tug, Whirl Wind. Both ships were equipped with suspended floors for dancing. A sticker on the houseboat read: “there is no abyss like showing the abyss.”
When Dorothy Bullitt died in 1989, Harriet and Patsy found themselves at the helm of King Broadcasting. Stim ran Harbor Properties at the time. In August 1990, Harriet and Patsy called a press event at the Stimson-Green mansion on First Hill to announce the sale of King Broadcasting. At the same time, they announced that the funds would help bring the Bullitt Foundation’s endowment to around $85 million. While the Foundation had been around since the 1960s, supporting groups such as the Oregon Rivers Council, The Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, new resources have increased its endowment more than 20-fold. To date, the Foundation has donated over $300 million to environmental causes in the Pacific Northwest.
The Bullitt family has had a long connection to Leavenworth, with a 300-acre property known as Coppernotch on the east side of Icicle Creek built by Dorothy in 1931. During World War II Dorothy had housed her Japanese employees, Fred and Alice Ohata there to save them from being forced into detention camps.
Harriet loved the area, which led her to develop Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort on an adjacent property along Icicle Creek in 1995. Originally known as “Na-sik-elt” or Narrow Bottom Canyon by the tribes Yakama and P’squosa who lived there before. it became the site of Camp Icicle of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Camp Field of the Roman Catholic Church. Harriet engaged architect Johnpaul Jones to help her design the complex in harmony with the surrounding environment. In 2001, the American Institute of Architects recognized it as one of the top ten green projects in the country.
Harriet established the Icicle Fund in 1998 to support arts, environment, and cultural and natural history in North Central Washington. To date, it has distributed over $40 million to over 100 regional organizations. In 2019, Harriet transferred ownership of Sleeping Lady to the Icicle Fund, which will operate it in perpetuity.
Harriet lives in her home on the Sleeping Lady property, with her husband Alex and Icelandic shepherd Roki.