The spectacular home, built in 1900, became a boardinghouse after its first resident, a wealthy businessman, fell 100 feet to his death from a bridge in 1915.

Share story

THE ADDRESS, handwritten across the photograph of this mansion on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Columbia Street on Seattle’s First Hill, is wrong. It mistakenly describes its location as “727- 9th Ave.”

The corner is held now by a roundabout to the front door of the nearly new Skyline Retirement Community at 725 Ninth Ave. But when this photo was taken, in 1937 — in fact, for all the building’s existence, from 1900 to 1966 — the address was 721 Ninth Ave.

A sign above the second-floor porch reads, “The Sunset Board Room.”

The boardinghouse’s manager was the progressive Emma A. Hausman. Above the portrait of her that appeared in The Seattle Times on March 3, 1918, Hausman was described as “one of the most prominent club women in the city.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

The Sunset’s classified ads in The Times often were personalized with Hausman’s name, like this one on June 2, 1917: “Mrs. Hausman has one large room, suitable for man and wife, two businessmen or young ladies. First class in every particular 721 9th Ave.”

Actually, Hausman had many more rooms to rent in the Sunset. According to the 1937 tax record, this neoclassical mansion featured 27 rooms, including seven on the first floor and eight on the second, all with 9-foot ceilings. There were seven more in the attic and five in the daylight basement.

The Times reported that its first owners, the Archibald Graham family, moved in on April 6, 1901. The Times for Dec. 22, 1900, counted the Grahams’ new home among the “handsome new residences of substantial quality completed within the year.” It cost $15,000, the same price that Times publisher A.J. Blethen paid for his manor-sized home on Queen Anne Hill’s Highland Drive, also in 1900.

Graham was a charmed opportunist who moved to Seattle with his growing family in 1891 as a 39-year-old speculator from West Virginia. Jewelry was his last enterprise, and many jewels were found neatly packaged in his pockets after he fell 100 feet to his death on May Day 1915, from the recently completed steel bridge over Ravenna Park. Police found no “foul play.” Graham’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 saying, “It was the involuntary act of a man overcome by the influences of high places.”

A year later, Graham’s family moved into the upscale Olympian Apartments at 1605 E. Madison. It was reported in The 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 boardinghouse for particular people.”

Emma Hausman and Jennie Graham knew each other from years of playing cards together. And so it seems the sale of the Graham mansion to Hausman might have had a sisterly side to it.