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Now & Then
From Mansion To Maison

The recently completed IDX Tower now covers the moving footprint of the Stacy Mansion that was first built on Third Avenue in 1885 and later moved 90 degrees to face Marion Street, where for 35 years it was the home of La Maison Blanc Restaurant. The Rathskellar bar was built below it at the sidewalk. The Rathskellar featured costumed Bohemian barmaids serving — during the Great Depression — 25-cent lunches.

spacer Photo PAUL DORPAT
Real-estate pioneer Martin Van Buren Stacy bought Seattle land with his inherited wealth. He also built two mansion-sized homes. Here we see the first of these at 308 Marion St. in 1959, its last full year. Werner Lenggenhager took this photograph when the home was the brilliantly white La Maison Blanc restaurant.

When Martin and Elizabeth Stacy built it in 1885 for a fortune — $50,000 — their French Third Empire-styled mansion was one of Seattle's three grandest homes. Henry and Sara Yesler, and Jim and Agnes McNaught owned the others. While those couples generally got along, Martin and Elizabeth did not. In her 1944-45 weekly Seattle Times series on city mansions, Margaret Pitcairn Strachan said "everyone admits she wore the pants of the family . . . He'd talk and joke and swear a lot — until she showed up." This may explain why the couple stayed in the home for only a little while before relocating to the second mansion on First Hill. Even then, Martin was more likely to stay in a hotel or club than at home, which later became the University Club on Madison Street.

The Stacy home on Marion was briefly quarters for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, then was converted into a sumptuous boarding house. But it was the next incarnation that people most likely would remember. In the mid-1920s Charles Joseph Ernest Blanc turned the mansion into what many considered to be Seattle's best restaurant.

In her 1937 guide "Northwest Novelties," Elisabeth Webb Herrick writes, "For the adventurous eater, the menu holds fatal lures. Green turtle steaks, reindeer meat, frogs' legs, escargots, eels . . . Oh you can have a wonderful time here with a $5 bill. Just the two of you." La Maison Blanc kept dishing out delicacies until fire scorched the interior in 1960. Within two months it was torn down.

Paul Dorpat has published several books on early Seattle.

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