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Pacific Northwest | September 5, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineSeptember 5, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

Family Entertainment
Photo
COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
The Ranke home, at the southeast corner of Terry Avenue and Madison Street, was once one of the great mansions of First Hill. Built in 1890-91, it was razed in 1957 for an extension of the Columbus Hospital. The home and hospital site is owned by the Cabrini Sisters and is being prepared by the Low Income Housing Institute for a mixed-use development that will feature, for the most part, low-income housing.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
When new in 1891, Dora and Otto Ranke's First Hill home was appropriately baronial for a family of six and one of Seattle's most prosperous pioneer contractors. The mansion was lavishly appointed with carved hardwoods, painted tiles and stained glass.

Also inside were the family's famous traditions of performance and fun. The Rankes were married in Germany and emigrated together. Dora was a dancer and Otto a tenor. Together they supported and performed in the local productions of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas. The couple also helped found the Seattle Juvenile Opera Co., giving it rehearsal space in their home and instructions from an imported coach.

Perhaps the most surprising moment of Ranke family theater was the informal one noted by Margaret Pitcairn Strachan in her 1944-45 Seattle Times series on Seattle mansions. After Dora confounded Otto by declining to accompany him to a masquerade ball at Yesler's Hall, she sneaked down in a baby costume with baby mask and baby bottle. Dora danced with many men and sat on the laps of many more — including her husband's, although he did not know it was she — offering them a drink. At the naming of winners for costumes, Otto, who was one of the judges, "was chagrined to find he had awarded a prize to his wife."

Most of the Rankes' playful life was centered in one of their earlier homes at Fifth Avenue and Pike Street. Otto had little time to enjoy their last home, though. He died in 1892. The family stayed on until 1901 when the house was sold to Moritz Thomsen. The last occupants were student nurses training at Columbus Hospital, which had been converted from what was originally the Perry Apartments, the large structure seen here directly behind the Ranke mansion.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.



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