Both born in Germany in the early 1840s, Otto Ranke and Dora Duval, met, married early and soon immigrated first to Chicago, ca.1862, and then on to Seattle by 1881. The couple raised four children while Otto, a skilled contractor, also raised many of the then boomtown Seattle’s more imposing structures, including the Yesler-Leary Building and the Boston Block. (The former in Pioneer Place was destroyed by the city’s Great Fire of 1889, and the latter survived it, barely.)
Otto was known for his singing, and Dora for her dancing. Together with their children and other local talents they produced theatre and light opera, often here in their big home on the northwest corner of Pike Street and Fifth Avenue. With the help of a theatre coach imported from the East, the couple staged Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Patience at the Frye Opera House on Dec. 30, 1888. The place was nearly packed to witness the performance by the Seattle Juvenile Opera Company. Surely many of its members had parents in the audience.
The record of the posing Ranke family – or part of it – at the top, dates from ca. 1884. Another look at the home – down from Denny Hill – in 1885 shows it nearly doubled. By one report that enlarged pioneer clapboard had 11 rooms. In 1889 the prospering Rankes joined the by then smart move of Seattle’s “better-offs” to First Hill. They purchased there the southeast corner of Madison Street and Terry Avenue, and built a truly baronial mansion ornamented with carved panels, Oriental rugs, stained glass, and oil paintings for all the halls and eleven bedrooms.
Otto did not live long enough to enjoy the family’s new mansion for the musicales and theatrics he almost certainly had planned for it. He died of a “throat ailment” in 1892. Dora lived on until 1919 – and well off. In 1907 her vacation to Europe included a one-year stay in Paris. (This may be the first time I have truly felt envy for one of my subjects.) The four-story Ranke building that replaced this home on Pike included a venue large enough for masquerade balls. Long accompanied there by the city’s popular and long-lived Wagner’s First Regiment Orchestra, the balls at Ranke’s hall became a local tradition. The brick Ranke Building was razed in 1927 for a “higher and best use” of the corner.
FOUR More TIMES classifieds Heralding ENTERTAINMENTS at the RANKE in the First Cold Days of the 20th CENTURY
Anything to add, Mistah Dorpat? Certainly Sur Sherrard! A few shots and subjects from nearby along Pike Street, and a visit (again) to the nearly royal Ranke Manse on First Hill. Here first is the 33rd installment of the often leaned-on Time series from 1944-45, EARLY-DAY MANSIONS by Margaret Pitcairn Strachan. Some of the stories will be familiar to you from my and other’s borrowing, but please do double-click here to see Strachan’s work.
(above) Looking west on Pike from had the home been preserved in the front lawn (remembering that Pike was widened) of the Ranke’s 1884 home.