(click to enlarge photos)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.