Seattle Now & Then: ‘The Sunset Board Room’

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Completed in 1900, the Graham mansion on First Hill at the southwest corner of 9th Avenue and Columbia Street is getting some roof repairs in this 1937 photo looking south across Columbia Street. It was razed in the 1966 for a parking lot by its last owner and neighbor, the Catholic archdiocese.
THEN: Completed in 1900, the Graham mansion on First Hill at the southwest corner of 9th Avenue and Columbia Street is getting some roof repairs in this 1937 photo looking south across Columbia Street. It was razed in the 1966 for a parking lot by its last owner and neighbor, the Catholic archdiocese.
NOW: Posing here in the pink, Antonette and Robert Ruppin, long-time florists for the Bon Marche department store, are the oldest residents of the First Hill block that was once home for the Sunset Board Room (seen in the “then”) and the Capri Apartments at the northeast and southeast corners, respectively. The newlyweds left the Capri in the late 1950s but recently returned to the block to take occupancy on the 19th floor of Skyline, the new nonprofit that describes itself as “Seattle’s only Life Care retirement community.”
NOW: Posing here in the pink, Antonette and Robert Ruppin, long-time florists for the Bon Marche department store, are the oldest residents of the First Hill block that was once home for the Sunset Board Room (seen in the “then”) and the Capri Apartments at the northeast and southeast corners, respectively. The newlyweds left the Capri in the late 1950s but recently returned to the block to take occupancy on the 19th floor of Skyline, the new nonprofit that describes itself as “Seattle’s only Life Care retirement community.”

Two mildly eccentric signs can be found on this photograph of the southwest corner of 9th Avenue and Columbia Street on Seattle’s First Hill.  Hand-written on the grass, the more obvious sign is mistakenly captioned “727 – 9th Ave.”  The corner is held now by a roundabout to the front door of the nearly new Skyline Retirement Community at 725 9th Avenue. The “then” is another of the many thousands of tax photos taken during the Great Depression for the King County Assessor’s office by skilled photographers working for the federal Works Progress Administration. The WPA was one of the many  “alphabet soup” agencies created by President Roosevelt and his progressive cabinet to make both public works and work: works such this photographic inventory of every structure in the county, and work – with pay checks – for many including the photographers.  This archive is still used by county assessors and homeowners, as well as historians. 

We may always wonder if the humor of this sign was intended.
We may always wonder if the humor of this sign was intended.

The second sign is harder to find.  It is nailed to the side of this mansion that somewhat resembles a Greek Temple.   The sign appears above the second floor porch near the iron ladder, which served as a fire escape.  Reading “The Sunset Board Room,” this second sign was, we expect, wrapped in wit by the Sunset’s manager, the progressive Emma A. Hausman.  Above her portrait that appeared in The Times for March 3, 1918, Hausman was described as “one of the most prominent club women in the city.” Also in 1918 she

From The Seattle Times for March 3, 1918.
From The Seattle Times for March 3, 1918.
The Seattle Times, June 30, 1918.
The Seattle Times, June 30, 1918.
From The Times, May 15, 1921
From The Times, May 15, 1921
Clip from The Times for February 22, 1935.
Clip from The Times for February 22, 1935.
A Times clipping from March 3, 1935.
A Times clipping from March 3, 1935.

was chosen to direct the work of the local Democratic Club, and a year earlier she had been elected chairman of The Women’s Civic Improvement Club’s Auxiliary to the Seattle Red Cross.  The Sunset’s classified ads in The Times were often personalized with Hausman’s name, as for the second of June, 1917:  “Mrs. Hausman has one large room, suitable for man and wife, 2 business men or young ladies.  First class in every particular 721 9th Ave.”  Through its about sixty-six years on this corner the big home was listed at 721. 

721-9th-tax-card

A not matching and yet similar Greek Revival was built across Columbia Street, on its northwest corner with 9th Avenue, suggesting that the two big homes may have been developed together.
A not matching and yet similar Greek Revival was built across Columbia Street, on its northwest corner with 9th Avenue, suggesting that the two big homes may have been developed together.

Actually, manager Hausman had many more rooms than one to rent in the Sunset. According to the 1937 tax record, this neo-classical mansion included twenty-seven rooms: seven on the first floor and eight on the second, all with nine-foot ceilings.  And there were seven more rooms in the attic and five more in the daylight basement. The Times reports that its first owners, the Archibald Blackburn Graham family, moved in on April 6, 1901.  The Seattle Times for December 22, 1900, counted the Graham’s new home among the “handsome new residences of substantial quality completed within the year.”  It cost $15,000, the same price that The Times publisher A. J. Blethen paid for his also manor-sized new home on Queen Anne Hill’s Highland Drive, also in 1900.

A Times listing of some of the grander new residences built in Seattle in 1900. The list includes the Graham home. It is fourth up from the bottom.
A Times listing of some of the grander new residences built in Seattle in 1900. The list includes the Graham home. It is fourth up from the bottom.

Archibald Graham was an arch-capitalist, described in pioneer historian Clarence Bagley’s “History of Seattle” (1916) as “a man of resourceful business ability who recognized the difficulties, the possibilities and the opportunities of a situation.”  Graham was a charmed opportunist, whose lucrative successes included, to name a

Graham's Novelty Mill on Harbor Ave. in West Seattle.
Graham’s Novelty Mill on Harbor Ave. in West Seattle.

few, flour milling (including the Novelty Mill in West Seattle), mining, lumber, and printing.  Graham also developed new neighborhoods in Seattle, the booming and beckoning West Coast city that the 39-year-old speculator moved to from West Virginia with his

Graham's University Addition promoted with a Times classified for January 17, 1909.
Graham’s University Addition promoted with a Times classified for January 17, 1909.
A detail pulled from an early 20th-Century Baist Real Estate map showing
A detail pulled from an early 20th-Century Baist Real Estate map showing the Graham University Addition  between E. 50th and 55th Streets. 
From The Times for April 6, 1901, the Grahams move in.
From The Times for April 6, 1901, the Grahams move in.
Making good use of the big home,
Making good use of the big home, Miss Juliette, the Graham daughter, gives a dance,

x-st-1-16-1906-adver-h-_s-web

Times clip from Nov. 20, 1912.
Times clip from Nov. 20, 1912.

growing family in 1891.  Jewelry was his last enterprise, and many jewels were found neatly packaged in his pockets after he fell one hundred feet to his death on May Day 1915, from the recently completed steel bridge over Ravenna Park.  The police found no “foul play.” No doubt hoping to deflect suicide speculations, Archibald’s puzzled friends noted to a Times reporter that he had left his home happy that morning and had “no financial troubles.” What made him leap, they concluded, was some combination of acute insomnia and recurring agoraphobia. One friend was quoted “It was the involuntary act of a man overcome by the influences of high places.”

The Times delicate approach to the causes behind Graham's fall (or leap) attempting to write around the delicate specter of suicide. CLICK FILE TO ENLARGE
The Times artful  approach to the causes behind Graham’s fall (or leap) attempting to write around the delicate specter of suicide. CLICK FILE TO ENLARGE
From May 3, 1915.
From May 3, 1915.
May 29, 1916, The Times
May 29, 1916, The Times

A year later Graham’s family moved from their First Hill mansion into the upscale Olympian Apartments at 1605 E. Madison. It is reported in The Seattle Times of July 30, 1916, “Mrs. Emma Hausman has taken Mrs. Graham’s residence on the corner of 9th and Columbia and will open … a first-class boarding house for particular people.” Emma Hausman and Jennie Graham knew each other from years of playing cards together.  And so it seems that the sale of the Graham mansion to Emma Hausman may have had a sisterly side to it.

The Seattle Times report on how Wobblie Propaganda winds up on the Graham big home in 1919, the year of "The Red Scare."
The Seattle Times report on how Wobbly Propaganda winds up in the Graham big home in 1919, the year of “The Red Scare” and search warrants.   [CLICK TO ENLARGE for READING]
With Emma Hausman in charge, the big home at 721 Ninth Ave. became a retreat for progressive political interests including picnics.
With Emma Hausman in charge, the big home at 721 Ninth Ave. became a retreat for progressive political interests including picnics.  A Seattle Times clip from June 13, 1920.
Civic Club holds annual luncheon at Emma Hausman's big home. A Times clip from May 26, 1926
Civic Club holds annual luncheon at Emma Hausman’s big home. A Times clip from May 26, 1926
A Sunset Boarding classified from 1937.
A Sunset Boarding classified from 1937.
A wrecking house sale at the Graham/Hausman home, promoted in a Times clip for Nov. 9, 1966.
A wrecking house sale at the Graham/Hausman home, promoted in a Times clip for Nov. 9, 1966.
One of Ravenna Park's timber trestles.
One of Ravenna Park’s timber trestles.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, lads?  Natch, beginning with 30-plus past features from the neighborhood gathered and placed by Ron Edge.  We call the Edge Links.

THEN: A circa 1923 view looks south on Eighth Avenue over Pike Street, at bottom left.

A-Broadway-Row-THEN-MR

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: At the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Boren Avenue, two of the more ordinary housing stock on First Hill in the 1890s. (Courtesy MOHAI)

THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)

THEN: Looking east on University Street towards Ninth Avenue, ca. 1925, with the Normandie Apartments on the left.

childhaven-then-lr

THEN: Harborview Hospital takes the horizon in this 1940 recording. That year, a hospital report noted that "the backwash of the depression" had overwhelmed the hospital's outpatient service for "the country's indigents who must return periodically for treatment." Built in 1931 to treat 100 cases a day, in 1939 the hospital "tries bravely to accommodate 700 to 800 visits a day."

THEN: The Sprague Hotel at 706 Yesler Way was one of many large structures –hotels, apartments and duplexes, built on First Hill to accommodate the housing needs of the city’s manic years of grown between its Great Fire in 1889 and the First World War. Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey

tsutakawa-1967-then

THEN: The city's regrading forces reached Sixth Avenue and Marion Street in 1914. A municipal photographer recorded this view on June 24. Soon after, the two structures left high here were lowered to the street. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: This Seattle Housing Authority photograph was recorded from the top of the Marine Hospital (now Pacific Tower) on the north head of Beacon Hill. It looks north to First Hill during the Authority’s clearing of its southern slope for the building of the Yesler Terrace Public Housing. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

THEN: On his visit to the Smith Tower around 1960, Wade Stevenson recorded the western slope of First Hill showing Harborview Hospital and part of Yesler Terrace at the top between 7th and 9th Avenue but still little development in the two blocks between 7th and 5th Avenues. Soon the Seattle Freeway would create a concrete ditch between 7th and 6th (the curving Avenue that runs left-to-right through the middle of the subject.) Much of the wild and spring fed landscape between 6th and 5th near the bottom of the revealing subject was cleared for parking. (Photo by Wade Stevenson, courtesy of Noel Holley)

THEN: Sometime around 1890, George Moore, one of Seattle’s most prolific early photographers, recorded this portrait of the home of the architect (and Daniel Boone descendent) William E. Boone. In the recently published second edition of Shaping Seattle Architecture, the book’s editor, UW Professor of Architecture Jeffry Karl Ochsner, sketches William E. Boone’s life and career. Ochsner adds, “Boone was virtually the only pre-1889 Fire Seattle architect who continued to practice at a significant level through the 1890s and into the twentieth-century.” (Courtesy MOHAI)

THEN: Of the three largest Seattle roofs – the Alki Point Natatorium, a grandstand section of the U.W.’s Denny Field, and the St. James Cathedral dome - that crashed under the weight of the “Northwest Blizzard” in February 1916, the last was the grandest and probably loudest. It fell “with a crashing roar that was heard many blocks distant.” (Courtesy Catholic Archdiocese.)

THEN: A half-century after they reached the top of First Hill, electric streets cars and cable cars prepare to leave it. (Courtesy, The Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Looking west on Madison Street from Seventh Avenue circa 1909. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)

https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/zindorf-apts-714-7th-ave-mf1.jpg?w=925&h=1162

THEN: Looking northwest to Seattle General Hospital at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Marion Street, circa 1909. (Courtesy of Michael Maslan)

THEN: Constructed in 1890 as the Seattle Fire Department’s first headquarters, these substantial four floors (counting the daylight basement) survived until replaced by Interstate Five in the 1960s. (photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN: Through its now long life as a local landmark, the Sorrento Hotel, at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Terry Avenue, has been variously referred to as Seattle’s “Honeymoon Hotel,” its “Most Romantic Hotel,” a “remnant of Seattle’s original cocktail culture,” and now, more often, “Seattle’s original boutique hotel.” (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: An early view of Virginia Mason Hospital, which opened in the fall of 1920 at the northwest corner of Terry Avenue and Spring Street. In 1980 for its anniversary, the clinic-hospital could make the proud statement that it had “spanned sixty years and four city blocks.” Courtesy Lawton Gowey

THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)

BOREN-&-University-Denny-&-Ainsworth-Homes-THEN-mr

THEN: Built in the early twentieth century at the northeast corner of Jefferson Street and Boren Avenue, Bertha and Frank Gardner’s residence was large but not a mansion, as were many big homes on First Hill. (Courtesy Washington State Museum, Tacoma)

THEN:

THEN: Built in 1887, the Minor-Collins Home at the northeast corner of Minor Avenue and Cherry Street was one of the grandest and longest surviving pioneer mansions on First Hill. (Courtesy Historic Seattle)

https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/mrs-anderson-then-mr1.jpg?w=925&h=649

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SKYLINES

Seattle from West Seattle's Hamilton Park, April 10, 1969.
Seattle from West Seattle’s Hamilton Park, April 10, 1969.
Seattle skyline photographed and captioned by the Seattle Times photographer Roy Scully in 1977.
Seattle skyline photographed and captioned by the Seattle Times photographer Roy Scully in 1977.
A ca. 1929 snap of the waterfront, the lower business District and the profanity hill part of First Hill. The twin towers of St. James on the upper-left will easily lead you to the Kitty-corner block now home to Skyline.
A ca. 1929 snap of the waterfront, the lower business District and the profanity hill part of First Hill. The twin towers of St. James on the upper-left will easily lead you to the Kitty-corner block now home to Skyline.
Looking south from Rich Berner's 16th floor apartment at Skyline to Harborview on the upper-left and Trinity Episcopal Church, at the center. The white masking or guarding that is part of the sanctuaries restoration makes it look, from this distance, something like a Hindu temple. The church's tower with the steps in the scaffolding wrapping it, adds to this allusion.
Looking south from Rich Berner’s 16th floor apartment at Skyline to Harborview on the upper-left and Trinity Episcopal Church, at the center. The white masking or guarding that is part of the sanctuary’s restoration makes it look, from this distance, something like a Hindu temple. The church’s tower with the steps in the scaffolding wrapping it, adds to this allusion.
The future Skyline block is upper-right in this 1893 Sanborn detail. The upper-right corner of that block is the future site for the Graham home.
The future Skyline block is upper-right in this 1893 Sanborn detail. The upper-right corner of that block is the future site for the Graham home.
Another 1937 tax photo, this time supported or in counterpoint with a Google-Earth detail, both looking northeast from 8th Avenue and Cherry Street through the future Skyline Block.
Another 1937 tax photo, this time supported or in counterpoint with a Google-Earth detail, both looking northeast from 8th Avenue and Cherry Street through the future Skyline Block.
Looking northeast from a mid-line location on the Skyline Block and the west end of the parking lot that replaced the Graham mansion in the mid-1960s.
Looking northeast from a mid-line location on the Skyline Block and the west end of the parking lot that replaced the Graham mansion in the mid-1960s.
808 8th Avenue, another 1937 tax photo.
808 8th Avenue, another mutilated 1937 tax photo.
Looking down - from something - on the Skyline block. Note the northeast corner upper-left, the parking lots where once stood the mansion or subject of the day.
Looking down – from something – on the Skyline block. Note the northeast corner upper-left, the parking lots where once stood the mansion or subject of the day.
The skyline looking north from the smaller of the two Skyline towers.
The skyline looking north from the smaller of the two Skyline towers.
Looking north on 9th Avenue from mid-block between Cherry and Columbia Streets to the Graham/Hausman's bigger neighbor kitty-Korner to the northeast across the Columbia Street and Ninth Avenue intersection. The cathedral was dedicated in 1907.
Looking north on 9th Avenue from mid-block between Cherry and Columbia Streets to the Graham/Hausman’s bigger neighbor kitty-corner to the northeast across the Columbia Street and Ninth Avenue intersection. The cathedral was dedicated in 1907.

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