Before it was the place for Russian diplomats to live and host receptions, the mansion on East Madison Street in Seattle was a sign of an immigrant’s business success — but only for a short while.
During an earlier Seattle boom, an English immigrant named Samuel Hyde made enough money to build a pillared brick mansion on East Madison Street.
His home, with stained-glass windows, Siberian oak paneling and a ceiling mural painted in Europe, was completed in 1910, and it has endured as an elegant landmark of a bygone era.
“He had the first chauffeur-driven limousine in Seattle,” recalls Galen Hogenson, Hyde’s grandson. “He was humble and charming. A small man with a deep bass voice and this beautiful English accent.”
Hogenson’s strong memories of his grandfather were stirred anew this week when the old Hyde home emerged as a symbol of the soured diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia. Since 1994, the Hyde property has been used as a Russian consular residence. But the Trump administration ordered the Russian diplomats to vacate the premises, and on Wednesday, State Department security staff moved in to drill out the locks on the gate and conduct an inspection.
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The future of the house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is uncertain. The U.S. government owns the land, and the Russians own the building, according to a State Department official.
Hogenson only visited the East Madison property once, during an open house held long after his grandfather and grandmother, Rachel Hyde, had moved out.
Hogenson, who is 95 and lives in Burlington, still recalls the stories of their heyday, when they had a house staff of six and a ballroom that could host an orchestra.
But his grandparents did not stay there long.
A brief Seattle Times newspaper report from May 28, 2016, reports that the house was sold by Hyde just six years after it was completed. He vacated the mansion to focus his attention on investments he had made in the coal industry, according to the report.
In the years that followed, Hyde’s business ventures struggled as he lived in Centralia and then moved back to Seattle, according to Hogenson.
The coal he produced was used for heating, and faced tough competition from fuel oil that then was gaining favor, according to Hogenson.
Hyde also had a liquor business, but as Prohibition took hold, he lost that, too.
“That just absolutely wiped him out,” Hogenson said.
Hyde died in May 1944, his passing noted in a short Seattle Times obituary that made no mention of his construction of the East Madison mansion.
By then, Hogenson was serving as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II when the Soviet Union and America joined the fight against Germany, and that alliance saved his life.
In 1945, while flying a mission over Germany, his B-17 was shot and crash-landed. After days of dodging Nazi forces, Hogenson and other crew were able to meet up with the Russian Army, and he lived with them for four months before finally making it back to England.
In the decades that followed, the Cold War would grip U.S. and Soviet relations, and the old Hyde mansion on East Madison would go through numerous owners. Meanwhile, Hogenson fashioned a career in sales with J.C. Penney, working for the company in Seattle, New York and Brussels before his retirement.
Then in 1992, amid a major thaw in U.S.-Russia relations in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new consulate was approved for Seattle. By December 1993, The Seattle Times reported that the Russian government would acquire the Madison Park mansion as the consulate residence.
“We searched Seattle from the bottom to the attic” to find suitable housing, Eugene Smirnov, then the Russian consul, told the newspaper.
Many receptions have been held at the mansion. In the early years, these gatherings were often frequented by people from the Washington business community as well as politicians.
“This was during a time when trade relations with the new Russian Federation were pretty hot, and there was a lot going on,” recalls Derek Norberg, president of the Seattle-based Council for U.S.-Russia Relations.
More recently, the consulate invitees included a greater representation from the Russian émigré community in the Seattle area, Norberg said.
For years, the Russian consuls in Seattle did not live in the mansion, according to Carol Vipperman, former head of the Foundation for Russian-American Economic Cooperation. But over time, the living quarters were renovated, and the last Russian consul did reside there, she said.
The next chapter of the Hyde mansion’s history appears to depend on the future of relations between the United States and Russia. Aside from State Department security staff, it could remain unoccupied for months, or even years.
“We believe that one day it will be returned to us,” Nikolay Pukalov, head of the consular division of the Russian Embassy, said in an interview earlier this week. “Our flag is above this property, and it will remain there.”
Hogenson hopes the mansion does not become a hostage to diplomacy. He would like for the mansion to eventually host a family, with plenty of children.
He has a grandson, Samuel Hyde Hogenson, who has never set foot on the property. If protocols somehow permit, he says, a brief tour would be welcome.