Broadway mansions — and the funeral home among them — distinguished a neighborhood of distinction, for a while

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THIS ROW OF strapping residences on Broadway stands near the summit of the long ridge that locals first referred to as “the first hill.” By the time these roosts were constructed in the early 20th century, the “the” was increasingly dropped, but not the “first.” Broadway, along with Denny Way and Yesler Way, was so named to mark it as a border for the Central Business District. And it was platted broadly, too: 80 feet wide rather than the 60 feet common for other streets and avenues on the hill.

The size of the five big residences in this 1937 tax photo is a tribute to the late-19th-century ambition of First Hill to distinguish itself as Seattle’s exclusive neighborhood of mansions. Usually raised above big double lots, these are exceptions, as each occupies just a single lot. With the turn of the century, any exclusivity in this neighborhood was soon overwhelmed by Seattle’s muscular growth and its needs for workers’ housing “within walking distance” or quick trolley rides to their jobs. Apartments and institutions such as schools, hospitals and churches crowded First Hill in the early 1900s, so its luxuriance was more in human stories than family wealth.

At this Marion Street end of the block (we have kept the tax record’s address, 832 Broadway, scribbled on the photo), a “family dwelling” with eight rooms was built by Jennie and Frederick Hope in 1900. After her husband’s early demise, she continued to live in the home until her death in 1938. Jennie Hope liked to host all-French parties, with no English speaking allowed. She also hosted a salon in her living room for Seattle’s Progressive Thought Club. The Times reported that for the gathering on Jan. 23, 1910, the Rev. J.D.O. Powers, a Unitarian minister, addressed the club on “The Purpose of Life.” On March 12, 1912, the club’s question was equally big: “Why Are We On Earth?” (Regrettably, in neither instance did this newspaper publish any of the club’s answers.) Jennie Hope also liked to take extensive trips, long enough to offer a few of her rooms for subletting during her absence.

Although it cannot easily be deciphered, even in the original, there is a sign — neon, I believe — attached to the roof of the porch at 824 Broadway, south of the Hope home, just left of the maple tree. The sign reads, “F.V. Rasmusson Funeral Home.” The mortuary was easily the most-reported and -promoted of addresses on this east side of the 800 block. In 1942, John Kalin, its new owner-mortician, spread his hegemony by first purchasing the larger residence north of his and then the Hope home a few years after Jennie’s death. Kalin advertised his funeral home as Catholic, and his final paid listing in The Times was a “last rosary” for Marcelino Ubaldo Lyco, a World War II veteran. The service was held in the John Kalin Chapel on Nov. 22, 1965. A requiem Mass was to follow the next day at St. Mary’s, and finally a burial at Washelli Cemetery.